7 Questions with… The Grand Tour’s James May: ‘Lockdown with Clarkson or Hammond - Could I go in a cell on my own in the dark?’

The Grand Tour boys are back with an Amazon Prime Video special, A Massive Hunt. James May talks about filming in Madagascar and what’s next for the show.

By Alex Fletcher Published: 4 December 2020 - 12.48pm

One year on from their perilous adventure across the South China Sea, Mr Wilman and Amazon have packed The Grand Tour presenters off for a treasure hunt in Madagascar.

The Grand Tour presents A Massive Hunt finds Clarkson, Hammond and May living out their childhood pirate fantasies - well, Richard’s anyway - as they go searching for hidden treasure believed to be buried somewhere on the jaw-droppingly beautiful island.

However, there is just one small problem for the chaps. The roads in Madagascar are not designed for comfort, or in fact, travel of any kind.

Fans can look forward to one of the show’s most brutal and gruelling adventures ever as the boys head off in highly inappropriate vehicles. Perhaps worst equipped of all for the rivers of mud and excrement is James May in his Caterham.

We caught up with James to find out about the special and The Grand Tour’s future...

1. James, what was the toughest part of A Massive Hunt?

A mud-splattered James May in his Caterham in Madagascar Prime Video

For me personally? Driving through a massive lake of s**t. The road was incredibly challenging and I was incredibly hot in my car. But despite all of that, I did enjoy it. I think it did me good and it stopped me being complacent.

2. And what was your highlight?

Making it to the end. That was a bit of a surprise. The beauty of Madagascar. It’s just a beautiful place. It’s wonderful, the weather is nice and the people are very friendly.

I think as well, the gratification of my Dick Dastardly Caterham working, I know it’s slightly mundane, but there’s a real warm feeling when you have an idea and it turns out to be a good one.

3. Your last special was on boats. Are you interested in moving away from cars again?

A mud-splattered James May laughing in his Caterham in Madagascar Prime Video

I want to try other things. I’ve always wanted to do one on bicycles. But I think we have to remember that although we’re not strictly a car show anymore - we’ve turned into an adventure/sitcom/pantomime - but people do like to see us in cars. 

You have to be careful not to go past your remit. Whether we like it or not, people like us with cars. I don’t think we should go and do mountaineering or gardening together. The three of us together is cars and that’s just the way it is.

4. If you had to go into lockdown with either Jeremy or Richard, who would you pick?

Clarkson, Hammond and May on the beach in Madagascar filming The Grand Tour Prime Video

That’s a cruel question. Do I have the option to go in a cell on my own in the dark? 

Who would be the most useful to me in lockdown? Neither of them can cook. They both get annoying very quickly. Richard would drink all the gin, but Clarkson would drink all the wine.

I’m going to choose Richard Hammond, simply on the basis that he plays the double bass a bit so we could have a very, very long jam session and possibly even learn how to make music. That is the only reason. I really don’t want to.

5. What is the future of The Grand Tour with Covid preventing you filming abroad?

Clarkson, Hammond and May larking around on The Grand Tour in Madagascar Prime Video

We’ve already filmed one for next year up in Scotland. I would hope we could do another one next year, but its slightly out of our control. But I’m fairly confident we may get two released in 2021. Someone suggested to me that we just skip 2020 and just start again next year. Have a second crack at it. That was Richard Hammond’s daughter’s idea and I quite liked it. That way we can say we had three Grand Tour specials in 2020.

6. Are plans for a Russia special cancelled?

The Russia special is simply postponed, until we don’t know when. It’s too unpredictable to predict. We’ve done lots of preparation for it. It’s a bit like a big jigsaw puzzle. We will get it out again at some point and finish it off. To be honest, because it takes a long time to do all the logistics and planning for these things, it’s just impossible right now. Because someone could do all that planning and then seven months later when we start filming, all the restrictions and air corridors might have changed.

“The pandemic doesn’t stop you making great television. It just makes you rethink how you do it”
- James May

In the short term we might have to reduce our travel ambitions and we’ll have a better chance of doing it. Better to film in the UK and deliver regularly than promise the earth and not deliver anything. The Grand Tour may become a little more domestic. But it will still be us three which is the important thing. And cars.

The pandemic doesn’t stop you making great television. It just makes you rethink how you do it. And in the process of rethinking it can be quite useful because otherwise you get complacent and set in your ways. It makes you use your imagination. It’s not good news for the world, but it won’t stop The Grand Tour and it may even improve us. Imagine that.

7. You have been filming together for 17 years. What is your secret?

Amazon poster for The Grand Tour presents A Massive Hunt with the three presenters posing

I don’t know. It’s a mystery to me. Maybe it’s because we’re very different people at heart. Maybe it’s because the pictures are really nice on The Grand Tour. Maybe people are just really into the cars and not us. I don’t know. 

I’ve tried to answer it before, but I can’t explain it. If I saw us three standing together for a photograph or on TV, I would naturally just think "no".

The Grand Tour presents A Massive Hunt is available now on Prime Video.

Watch The Grand Tour seasons 1-3 and specials on Prime Video now.