James Corden ‘starstruck’ by Jez Butterworth and ‘couldn’t pass up’ job together

James Corden said he will “always consider it an absolute privilege” to be a part of something Jez Butterworth has written – “however it gets received”.

Mammals is a six-part comedy drama written by the two-time Olivier and Tony Award-winning playwright Butterworth about the complexities of marriage.

Actor and comedian Corden, 44, said he read the script in “what felt like four minutes” before deciding it was “everything I’ve ever wanted to do”.

Speaking about his character Jamie Buckingham, who is a married English chef, Corden said: “He’s complex. He’s complicated. He’s flawed. He’s like all of us really. I really care deeply for him.

“It’s funny, he’s the second Jamie I’ve ever played and both Jamie’s are probably the closest characters to myself I’ve ever played.”

Corden explained how he “fell in love” with playwright Butterworth when they first met in 2019.

The Olivier Awards 2018 – London
Jez Butterworth (Isabel Infantes/PA)

“I’m an extraordinarily big fan of Jez’s work. I’ve been lucky enough to see almost all of his plays and they have had a profound effect on me,” he said.

“I don’t really get starstruck by many people, but Jez might be the only person that I’ve ever gone up to and gone, ‘Hello, I’m James. It’s just an absolute honour to meet you’ and we got chatting.

“I kind of fell in love with him, with his soul, spirit, his energy, and everything.

“I just love Jez as a man and as a writer and from the minute I read it I just knew who he (Jamie) was. I knew it all and I thought, I have to do this…I just have to make this work.

“I just love performing so much. I adore it…and so when an opportunity like this comes up, I just couldn’t pass it up.

“However it gets received, there’s nothing we can really do about that. I’ll just always consider it an absolute privilege to be part of something that Jez has written.”

James Corden
James Corden playing Jamie Buckingham in Mammals (Amazon Prime/PA)

The Late Late Show host explained the difficulties of presenting a chat show while balancing a busy acting schedule.

“I did this film The Prom a few years ago and that was really hard. I got given 12 shows off, which equates to about 16 or 18 days or whatever, to shoot, and then after that I was doing a show Monday, Tuesday, two shows Wednesday and then Thursday, Friday, Saturday on The Prom, and I did that for about six weeks.

“That was really hard, but I sort of feel a bit reticent complaining about it because I’m aware that it’s ridiculous that you would host a late-night talk show and be in a film with Meryl Streep.

“And then be the lead in a Jez Butterworth dramedy on Amazon. I’m aware that it should be difficult.

Mammals (Amazon Prime/PA)

“I didn’t realize it would be quite as challenging as it had been because coronavirus didn’t exist when I signed up, we were all so naive.

“Look, everything’s a challenge, but you want the challenge of it.”

Two-time Oscar nominated actress Sally Hawkins, who plays Corden’s on-screen sister Lue in the series, said she hoped people are reminded of what a “phenomenal actor” he is.

She said: “Knowing James for over 20 years we have already established a strong connection already. He is special kind of actor and mind.

“He can do all things seemingly effortless although I know full well it is incredibly difficult to have a foot in both worlds… ie in terms of his well known personae as a talk show host… yet he has a deep sensitivity and understanding.

Sally Hawkins
Sally Hawkins as Lue in Mammals (Amazon Prime/PA)

“He must have to split his brain and yet of course he copes exceptionally well. I don’t think he takes things too seriously or himself.

“He is incredibly smart, an incredibly sensitive type of being. And it’s wonderful that some people will be seeing the creative actor genius side for the first time here with Mammals.”

She added that you “need” people like James and Jez around who “ground” you.

“They’re solid, rooted to the earth, and that comes out in the writing. They are sort of similar actually, and really interesting, but I just love James very much. He’s a great friend and incredibly loyal. He forgives my madness,” she added.

The series, directed by Stephanie Laing, also stars Merlin actor Colin Morgan as Corden’s on-screen brother-in-law and Greek American actress Melia Kreiling, who plays Corden’s wife.

Butterworth, who created the play Jerusalem, explained the creative process behind the Amazon Prime series.

“I did what I always do, which is I put it in a drawer and got it out a lot later, five years later. Because I like to know if something’s going to be good in five years’ time.

“It’s a way of time proofing things — to not write the thing that seems like a great idea that week, put it into production and discover five years later you’ve wasted your time.

“I do that with plays and I like to do it with any idea that I generate,” he said.

Mammals launches worldwide on November 11 on Prime Video.