'The Grand Tour Presents: Lochdown' interview: The banter is 'on the level of ten years ago' (exclusive)

·Contributor
·5 min read
Jeremy Clarkson, James May and Richard Hammond return for The Grand Tour Presents: Lochdown (Amazon Prime Video)
Jeremy Clarkson, James May and Richard Hammond return for The Grand Tour Presents: Lochdown (Amazon Prime Video)

Producer Andy Wilman says The Grand Tour Presents: Lochdown — the upcoming two-part motoring show special — is one of best pieces of TV he's ever made with Jeremy Clarkson, James May and Richard Hammond

He tells Yahoo that the iconic trio of presenters upped their games in response to the challenges faced while shooting it during the coronavirus pandemic.

“This is smaller scale and once that happens, you dig deeper and the presenters inherently bring their own A-game," Wilman tells Yahoo. "They ramp it up more because you’ve got nothing more to work with. And they had not been together for so long, that the banter was on the level of ten years ago, there’s more of an innocence and a 'gang' thing to it.

Read more: James May says he is 'constantly waiting to be fired'

“We’re a little bit backs to the wall, and we’re out there making the best of it and there’s no pressure so out of that comes A-game, charm, innocence, and banter. We worked hard and that was the most joyous thing.”

Jeremy Clarkson, James May and Richard Hammond return for The Grand Tour Presents: Lochdown (Amazon Prime Video)
Jeremy Clarkson, James May and Richard Hammond return for The Grand Tour Presents: Lochdown (Amazon Prime Video)

The team behind The Grand Tour has built a worldwide phenomenon TV series based around the sexiest supercars, the coolest adventures and the most exotic locations.

With the pandemic raging last year, stunning trips to the Mekong River or the west coast of America were no longer an option.

But while lockdowns and travel restrictions might have curbed the tour element of their hit Amazon Prime series, the japes, pranks and schoolboy silliness that define the trio are just as grand as ever.

The driving pals visit different sides of Scotland for the new double bill special launching 30 July, taking forgotten classic American cars to unlikely settings such as the winding streets of Edinburgh to the stunning coastline of the Highlands and islands.

LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 02:   Andy Wilman and Ash Atalla attend the Amazon Prime Video Europe Autumn Party at 100 Wardour Street on October 2, 2018 in London, England.  (Photo by David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images for Amazon Prime )
Andy Wilman and Ash Atalla attend the Amazon Prime Video Europe Autumn Party, 2018 (David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images for Amazon Prime )

Andy Wilman said that, as beautiful as the Scots setting was, having a UK based show without the shiny backdrops and sun kissed vistas of foreign locations meant the comedy among the pals took centre-stage.

“Our remit with Amazon is that The Grand Tour has to go grand touring around the world so it’s got to be weird locations, as in exotic and far flung with cannibals and pirates and all that.

Read more: Clarkson's farming attempts have been 'an expensive failure'

“And obviously we can’t do that, so we said to Amazon, ‘we need to shoot or we’ll wither on the vine.’ And we could only film in the UK.

“But once that’s greenlit, where do you go? How do you keep up the quality control of the backdrop as we’re always known for our visuals.

Jeremy Clarkson, James May and Richard Hammond return for The Grand Tour Presents: Lochdown (Amazon Prime Video)
Jeremy Clarkson, James May and Richard Hammond return for The Grand Tour Presents: Lochdown (Amazon Prime Video)

“Scotland is the gift that keeps on giving, and even on the days when the weather was a bit ropey, there’s still this amazing backdrop you’ll see as soon as the rain stops.

“The Hebrides, you saw how beautiful they can be, they can take on anywhere in the world in the top 10 gorgeous things. It was amazing.”

He added: “We were all saying this was like ten years ago and were loving it.

“When you go to amazing grand scale locations like Madagascar or the Mekong River, [the locations] start to drive the story."

Andy Wilman was one of the key figures in transforming the original motoring magazine Top Gear into the world conquering magazine style show, famed for its laughs and craic.

When the team all left the BBC series in 2015 after star man Clarkson’s controversial exit, Amazon won the right to bring their unique motoring madness to a new screen.

The Grand Tour was born, eschewing a studio setting for a movable big top feast. The tent has gone, but the clowning remains, as the format has evolved into the grand feature length event fans know and love.

Read more: Clarkson apologises for huge queues at farm

Another evolution has seen producer Wilman becoming a character himself — even if not seen in person — as he texts orders to the trio detailing their challenges and trials.

Jeremy Clarkson, James May and Richard Hammond return for The Grand Tour Presents: Lochdown (Amazon Prime Video)
Jeremy Clarkson, James May and Richard Hammond return for The Grand Tour Presents: Lochdown (Amazon Prime Video)

He laughed: “It’s a great part of the job.

“It’s a continuation of our Top Gear men in white coats, but about 50 lawyers will say you can’t have a man in white coats with a golden envelope.

“We’d realised back in the early days of Top Gear that we’ve got a great strand of films if they are made to do things against their will.

“Viewers loved that and we carried that on with us.

Jeremy Clarkson, James May and Richard Hammond return for The Grand Tour Presents: Lochdown (Amazon Prime Video)
Jeremy Clarkson, James May and Richard Hammond return for The Grand Tour Presents: Lochdown (Amazon Prime Video)

“So when we need to push them in a position they don’t want to be in and need to set up a sort of playground, it’s me.”

And he does enjoy punishing his pals: “I’m loving it, absolutely loving it. I can be on the telly vicariously. I did it (appear) once. I was c***.”

Read more: Clarkson slates BBC News

The team also take on one of the most dangerous challenges yet: building a floating bridge to get their vehicles across a choppy bit of sea.

Jeremy Clarkson, James May and Richard Hammond return for The Grand Tour Presents: Lochdown (Amazon Prime Video)
Jeremy Clarkson, James May and Richard Hammond return for The Grand Tour Presents: Lochdown (Amazon Prime Video)

Andy said he had his worries for their chances if anything untoward was to happen.

“They had oxygen bottles with them in the car and we had told them you’ve got to take care of yourself until someone gets there to help. 

"Since they struggle to dress themselves, it’s quite an ask."

The Grand Tour Presents: Lochdown will launch Friday 30 July on Amazon Prime Video

WATCH: The Grand Tour stars discuss who could play them in a movie.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting