Though he now appears on American televisions every weeknight (and his viral videos fill our newsfeeds the next day), James Corden's pre-"Late Late Show" career remains a mystery to many of his U.S. fans. However, Corden has been a U.K. entertainment veteran for over two decades, going from roles in commercials to creating and starring in acclaimed BBC hits. In honor of Corden's first Stern Show appearance on Monday, here's a look at his pre-American rise to showbiz dominance.
"Martin Guerre" as Ensemble Member (1996)
Appropriately for the Tony host, James Corden's very first professional performing job was in a West End production of "Martin Guerre" when he was 18. However, Corden got fed up with being in the chorus and walked out. He tells the Telegraph, "You've got to have a ridiculous ego to be 17, on your first job, thinking, 'what's this - why am I just stood at the back?'" A keen eye can catch him among the chorus in this Royal Variety performance. (You can catch James at 01:35:37)
"TwentyFour/Seven" as Tonka (1997)
James Corden's first film was a 1997 black-and-white boxing dramedy produced by the BBC entitled "Twenty Four/Seven." Starring the late Bob Hoskins, "Twenty Four/Seven" featured Corden as the character of Tonka, in a very supporting role. Nevertheless, Corden still made the film's trailer! (Catch Corden at 1:55.)
"Tango Commercial" as Bullied Kid (1998)
A young Corden was cast in this commercial for Orange Tango, which was banned at the time for its depiction of bullying. Fortunately, like most things, it survives on the Internet.
"Boyz Unlimited" as Gareth Jones (1999)
Corden's first regular television role was on the BBC sitcom, "Boyz Unlimited," in which he played the character of Gareth Jones. The show, created by future "Little Britain"-mastermind Matt Lucas, was a parody of boy bands, which in 1999, were all the rage. Though the series only lasted a season, it retained a cult following.
"Fat Friends" as Jamie Rymer (2000-2005)
This drama about the modern overweight experience could likely be considered Corden's first breakthrough role, as it ran for four series on the BBC between 2000 and 2005. The series centers around four members of a weight loss club all navigating the absurdity, laughter, and occasional pain of image management. Corden's character Jamie experiences some particularly dark plot lines, including being bullied into attempted suicide, and meeting a girl on the internet who is killed, leaving Jamie to raise the child she had with a jealous, abusive ex-husband out for revenge. A far cry from Carpool Karaoke!
"Gavin & Stacey" as Neil "Smithy" Smith (2007-2010)
Corden continued his heavy presence on the BBC with "Gavin & Stacey," a sitcom that he co-created, co-wrote, and co-starred in with "Fat Friends" co-star Ruth Jones. "Gavin & Stacey" entered around a long-distance relationship between the two title characters whose closest friends were played by Corden and Jones. During its run, the show won several BAFTAs and a National Television Award.
"The Wrong Mans" as Phil Bourne (2013)
Corden's American transition began with "The Wrong Mans," created with fellow "Gavin & Stacey" alum Matthew Baynton. Originally a two-part BBC comedy-thriller miniseries, "The Wrong Mans" was co-produced and distributed by Hulu, who broke it into four parts. "The Wrong Mans" was a critical and ratings success, winning a Royal Television Society award and several BAFTA nominations.
Catch James Corden hosting the 70th Annual Tony Awards, June 12th on CBS.