The Graham Norton Show returns to BBC America this Friday at 11/10c for its 26th – yes, really! – season. You can check out the trailer here. Before you watch Graham chatting with guests including Dame Helen Mirren and Jack Whitehall, here are a few things you might not know about the lovable “host with the most.”
1. Graham Norton isn’t actually his real name.
He was born Graham William Walker, but took his great-grandmother’s maiden name, Norton, for professional purposes when he joined the British actors’ union, Equity. Another actor had already registered with Equity as Graham Walker!
2. When he was 20, he lived for a year in a hippy commune in San Francisco.
“At the end of the year I thought San Francisco was quite small. I just got a bit bored. I feel like I’ve lived here for a year and that’s enough,” he recalled on RuPaul‘s podcast a few years ago. “Then I went to London and joined drama school.”
3. During his drama school years, he survived a vicious mugging in north-west London.
“I nearly died, but in a way being mugged liberated me,” Graham told London’s Evening Standard in 2004. “Before, being cast in the best role in drama school was all that mattered. After that, well, it all seemed a bit silly really.”
4. He first achieved success on the stand-up comedy circuit.
His drag act, “Mother Teresa of Calcutta,” became a big hit at the Edinburgh Festival and led to Graham receiving TV offers. “Mother Teresa was certainly pivotal to my success. I chose her because she studied English in Dublin,” Graham told the Hindustan Times in 2012, adding that his version of the famous missionary was notable for having “an Irish accent.”
5. Before he hosted his first chat show, Graham played Father Noel Furlong in several episodes of cult British sitcom Father Ted.
Father Noel is a very, ahem, energetic priest who the show’s lead characters, Father Ted (Dermot Morgan) and Father Dougal (Ardal O’Hanlon), don’t exactly love spending time with. Check out a supercut below.
6. Before The Graham Norton Show launched in 2007, he hosted some rather more risqué chat shows on Comedy Central and U.K. network Channel 4.
When asked recently if he misses the “smuttiness” of his previous shows, Norton said “I don’t,” telling The Guardian: “I think it’s unseemly for someone of a certain age to be doing all of that. I still find it funny, but not as funny as I did.”
7. He auditioned for a role in Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings movies.
He read for the part of Samwise Gamgee, which eventually went to Sean Astin. Graham has blamed his failure to get the part on “availability, schedule” and his own poor audition!
8. He has his own range of wines and gins!
Graham’s Prosecco even won a prize at last year’s Melbourne International Wine Competition.
9. He made his West End stage debut in the 2008 London revival of La Cage Aux Folles.
Graham played Albin, the aging star of a Saint Tropez nightclub who performs in drag as “Zaza.” When Graham completed his run, John Barrowman took over from him as Albin.
10. His dream guests for The Graham Norton Show are a couple of young Royals.
“If I was looking after Harry and Meghan right now, I’d say, ‘Do that,'” Graham recently told the Huffington Post. Hmmm… do you think it could happen?
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