Entertainment & Arts

Matt LeBlanc to be Top Gear co-presenter

Matt LeBlanc with Chris Evans and 'The Stig'
Image caption Matt LeBlanc pictured with Chris Evans and masked racing driver 'The Stig'

Former Friends star Matt LeBlanc is to be one of the new presenters of Top Gear when the motoring programme returns to BBC Two in May.

The US actor will be the show's first non-British host in its 39-year history.

"Matt's a lifelong fellow petrolhead and I'm thrilled he's joining Top Gear," said Chris Evans of his new on-screen colleague.

Additional Top Gear cast members will be confirmed shortly, the BBC said.

"As a car nut and a massive fan of Top Gear, I'm honoured and excited to be a part of this iconic show's new chapter," said LeBlanc. "What a thrill!"

Joey's motoring experience not taken into account

The 48-year-old is best known for his role as Joey Tribbiani in Friends and has more recently been seen, as himself, in BBC Two sitcom Episodes.

Media captionLeBlanc appeared on Top Gear in 2012 as the "Star in a Reasonably Priced Car"

"Acting out our craziest car notions on screen is a dream job and I know we'll both be debating some epic road trip ideas," continued Evans in a statement.

"We can't wait to share what we've been up to on screen later this year."

LeBlanc has twice appeared on Top Gear on its popular "star in a reasonably priced car" segment and holds the record for the fastest ever celebrity lap.

Alan Tyler, the BBC's acting controller for entertainment commissioning, called LeBlanc "a class act and a brilliant signing".

Evans was named as Top Gear's new host last year after the BBC opted not to renew Jeremy Clarkson's contract in the wake of his much-publicised "fracas" with a Top Gear producer.

Clarkson subsequently signed up with streaming service Amazon Prime to present a new motoring show with Richard Hammond and James May, his former Top Gear co-presenters.

Tabloid editor turned broadcaster Piers Morgan is among those to have welcomed LeBlanc's appointment, calling him "a brilliant choice [with] huge global recognition" on Twitter.

LeBlanc himself hinted at his new role on Wednesday, telling his Twitter followers he had "very cool news coming in the next day or so".

Last year the actor presented Top Gear: The Races, a stand-alone spin-off made for BBC Store, the corporation's digital download service.

According to the BBC, he will join production on the new series of Top Gear "immediately".

Image caption LeBlanc has appeared in Episodes alongside Tamsin Greig (left) and Stephen Mangan

Stephen Mangan, LeBlanc's co-star on Episodes, responded to the news by suggesting he is "The Stig" in the picture released with the BBC's press release.

"Still annoyed they made me wear that helmet," the British actor joked on Twitter.

Last year LeBlanc revealed he had "one more season of Episodes to shoot.... starting in April".

The actor won a Golden Globe in 2013 for his role in the sitcom, a co-production with Showtime, in which he plays an exaggerated version of himself for comic effect.

Steve Berry, who co-presented Top Gear in the 1990s, told BBC News that LeBlanc was "an odd choice", despite having "international recognition".

"It does seem odd that the BBC will use an actor in a factual entertainment show," he said, suggesting that the strength of the show's most recent line-up lay in the fact that they were "all experienced motoring journalists".

"When Jeremy Clarkson gives you an opinion you can respect it," he went on. "When an actor says that line, does it have that authority?"

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