The day James Corden chased after me (non romantically)


Because James Corden has got really big in the last day or so – having done Carpool Karaoke with Michelle Obama – I thought I’d tell my own shameless story of James Corden. Because I love name-dropping. And James Corden.

Actually, that’s a lie. He’s not my cup of tea. Often I lie in bed at night and think: “How did you do that, James Corden? How did you make everyone love you in the US? And everywhere?” Carpool Karaoke does not tickle me. But probably goes down well with the Americans, no offence, because Americans love assured English men (see: Simon Cowell, John Oliver).

Anyway, you’re probably thinking: get on with it, girl.

Let me take you back to 2006, when I was 17 and at my most pretentious level ever. At 17, I thought I was going to be a famous actress – the Penelope Cruz of Kent, I dreamed – before I realised I wasn’t good at pretending to be someone else.

I did drama at school and loved it. Not least because my class got taken on loads of trips to see plays that probably cost our parents a million pounds. Once I even saw Darcy Bussell doing a pirouette on a school outing and thought: “Oh my days. Is this even a GCSE?”

On one sunny afternoon – because it has to be sunny when you go to Southbank – my teachers took us on a tour of The National Theatre.

In 2006, The History Boys was on – starring James Corden, Dominic Cooper, Stephen Campbell Moore. This, if you didn’t know, became quite a big deal in TheatreLand. It was written by Alan Bennett and it’s a decent play (and since then, film) if a little pleased with itself.

On this amazing tour of The National Theatre, we got to watch The History Boys (Corden, particularly) rehearse a scene about blow jobs. I can’t remember what happens in this scene, but it was a bit rude.

Afterwards I was so excited that I ran into The National Theatre shop and bought myself the script of The History Boys to read on the coach back (no Pokemon Go in those days, kids).

As I came of the shop, I suddenly saw The History Boys in the foyer. Corden, Cooper and Campbell Moore.

No one even knows who Campbell Moore is now, but let me tell you: in 2006 he set my pants on fire. I remember staring at him loads, and he stared back. At the time I thought, “wow, maybe he loves me.” But in retrospect maybe he was thinking: “please don’t kill me”.

Feeling plucky, I went over to The History Boys and told them how I had enjoyed watching their rehearsal and had even bought the play. I think they liked the attention, because none of them was that famous at this point. They probably felt like The Beatles.

I told them that I’d seen the scene about blow jobs and enjoyed it. I meant this totally innocently. James Corden replied: “Maybe you should practice it with your friend.” He meant this totally innocently too, and – being of an innocent mind – I thought, “what a lovely suggestion, young man.”

I walked off, feeling extremely happy to have met them.

Then as I was leaving The National Theatre, I heard a voice behind me:
“WAIIIIIIT!” It cried. “Wait!” James Corden was racing towards me, out of breathe and running through the people in the exit. He looked ever so embarrassed. “I’m so sorry,” he said. “I didn’t mean to offend you.”

I had no idea what he was talking about, but then I realised. Over and over again he apologised. I said not to worry at all, and he seemed relieved, and went off again to be with The History Boys.

Little did I know in that moment how huge Corden would become over the next few years, going from more theatre to become America’s sweetheart. It does baffle me a bit because I find his type of comedy a bit too overbearing. 

But then I do often remember this moment in The National Theatre, and – though it was brief – it always makes me feel quite fondly about him. I do think it takes a gent to make such effort to ensure you didn’t offend someone.

People say that famous stars have to be careful in the way that they treat fans, but it’s also on the way up that you have to be mindful of your interactions. Because people do remember experiences. And I will never forget James Corden, for being so considerate of my adolescent feelings. (And also rather good in The History Boys rehearsal).