'Top Gear's' Master of Destruction: Talking Season 3 with Adam Ferrara
September 4th, 2012 10:30am EDT
While his co-host Rutledge Wood is the show's morale officer, Top Gear's Adam Ferrara is something else. No, really, he is. It's Adam who is likely to destroy your car, make you hurt yourself laughing, and yet you'd still trust him to watch your house when you go on vacation. The native New Yorker is the show's biggest personality, with a quip for each situation and an ability to laugh at everything too...even if (especially if) he caused it.
Adam recently took a break between filming periods for Top Gear's third season to chat with me about what's ahead, his charity work, and whether or not his nickname of "The Wrecker" is applicable when the cameras aren't rolling.
What's the coolest part of being Top Gear's resident wisecracker? "The cars," he said. "The cars we get to drive, the places we get to go with them, the things we get to do."
So far in season three, that's included Adam finally being in the front seat of a police car (so he says), trying and failing to go hunting in a "jumbo shrimp" of a Fiat, and unsuccessfully attempting to talk up the greatness of the Cadillac Allante. As any Top Gear fan can tell you, the show asks quite a bit of its hosts.
Yet therein lies Adam's genius: he's unafraid to make every segment on the show just a little bit more interesting. Tasked with winning a popularity contest during the "Small Cars" episode, he was wily enough to put "Honk three times for Jesus" on the back of the Fiat. He's also come up with the best advertising slogan ever: "Drive a Cadillac, because we're all gonna die." And that's just in the first three episodes of this season.
There's plenty more craziness where that came from: asked if there's anything that has particularly surprised him during the filming of season three, Adam has a whole list.
"There's a bunch of stuff," he told me. "[That] I could actually slide a tractor. I was surprised how bad dead alligators smell [which he learned in "Small Cars"]. I was surprised I lasted as long as I did with the tear gas [challenge in "Police Cars"]. I was surprised I couldn't eat donuts in that police car. I'm surprised how hot it gets in the Moab Desert. I knew it got hot, but I didn't think it got like Mercury hot. I was surprised Rutledge survived that."
What's been the most fun? "I took a Ferrari under the 405 freeway. We took rent-a-cars through the desert. That was fun," he said. "We had a lot of fun in the cop cars. We got take a bunch of Crown Vics and drive them into a field and smash them into each other."
That last part happens to be Adam's strong suit. He's listed as "The Wrecker" in the Top Gear opening credits, a nickname which stems from an incident in which he jumped a Cadillac during the first season - a moment so memorable the episode was actually titled "Flying Coupe DeVille." But the moniker is something that's unique to the show, not Adam's everyday driving habits.
"When I jumped the Caddy, that's where that came from," he explained, and in typical Adam fashion, he brushes off a now-classic moment in American Top Gear history like it's nothing: "They said go as fast as you can, and I did."
Yet for Adam, maybe it is just another day at the office. When one looks back on some of Top Gear US's best moments, many of them involve him and his ability to take things just a bit farther than his colleagues. In season two, he was able to roll a car in the video game Forza Motorsport 4, which was not supposed to be possible.
He went on to build a stretch limo that he affectionately named "The Popemobile" in order to escort Cloris Leachman to the Emmy Awards - and that challenge ended in him getting lost and being given the middle finger by an Emmy nominee.
Then there's the incident in "The $500 Challenge" where, tasked with breaking into Tanner Foust's Mercedes, Adam did what we were all thinking and, rather than bother with the usual coat-hanger-in-the-door method, just smashed in a rear window with the crowbar in the trunk of his taxi. While each of the Top Gear hosts has their charm, it's Adam who is hands-down the most devious of them all.
How much damage does he think they've caused this season? "I don't think we've reached our deductible," he said cheerfully, but he did mention that the Adam Ferrara Destruction Counter will be put to use at some point.
He's not all about breaking things, however. Adam is the Top Gear host who speaks for all of us at home: unlike Rutledge and Tanner, he's the one who doesn't have some level of involvement in the professional automotive world. He's just a guy from New York who drives like it and knows not to take the FDR. And like Rutledge, he thinks Top Gear is stepping out of its predecessor's long shadow.
"Our show's getting its own identity now," he explained. "We're getting more of what our show is. It's not a carbon copy, and some people are going to like that and some won't."
Like his colleagues, Adam has a "day job" outside of the show. You likely know him from his acting career, which includes playing Chief "Needles" Nelson on FX's critically-acclaimed Rescue Me, Detective Tommy Manetti on ABC's short-lived The Job, and Sergeant Howard in the Kevin James comedy Paul Blart: Mall Cop. He also happens to be, in my opinion, the funniest stand-up comedian currently working today.
It's hard to pick where to start when discussing his stand-up material, which is not only hilarious, it also happens to make a heck of a lot of sense. Maybe it's the bit on terrorist rhetoric. "I don't get it," he says. "Terrorists convince thousands of people to kill themselves in the name of God. I can't convince two of my friends to help me move." Or the one about his parents' voice mail, which you can check out below.
Yet Adam is always that funny, and more importantly always that genuine. What you see on stage or on Top Gear isn't an act or a persona, but who he also is when the cameras aren't rolling. Having known him personally for some time now, I'm not entirely sure that he knows just how great of a person he really is.
When he's not traveling the country wrecking cars, he is incredibly involved in a variety of good causes, particularly with 9/11-related charities. He's headed to San Diego in February to headline a benefit evening for the 9/11 Patch Project. If you don't know what that is, here's the story directly from the folks themselves:
Approximately one month after the tragic events of 9/11, Brett Hill, a South Pasadena firefighter/paramedic, met with a neighboring LAFD friend who had just returned from working alongside FDNY firefighters at Ground Zero. Hill asked his friend what moved him the most during his deployment in lower Manhattan.
His friend replied, "As we were getting ready to leave, we were shaking the hands of the FDNY firefighters we had worked with for two weeks. One firefighter grabbed my hand tightly, looked me straight in the eyes and said 'Please don't forget us.'"
Those four words led Hill to begin a project that would work to get a 9/11 tribute patch on the uniform sleeves of all firefighters across the country to help honor and remember the heroes of 9/11. Net proceeds of the sale of the patches would go on to benefit the families of the firefighters who lost their lives on 9/11.
The 9/11 Patch Project now helps to raise funds for a variety of related charities, and Adam has worked with them on numerous occasions to do so. For more information on the February event, be sure to click over here or call (206) 437-8010; if you're not in the San Diego area, you can also get involved by visiting the organization's website.
"Anytime I get to help the firefighters, I will," Adam told me of his charity work. "I'm real lucky to be in a position to help."
Adam also cares immensely about his fans, and has an incredibly strong relationship with them. He joins the fans each Tuesday for live-tweets during each Top Gear episode, responds to them on Twitter and Facebook, and via his website. He's always got time for meet and greet sessions after each of his stand-up performances.
And unlike many in his position, that relationship isn't one-way. He's not just answering questions, but interacting with the fans, taking an interest in what they have to say and what's happening with them. Never mind that he's going back and forth between Top Gear tapings and stand-up dates, and somehow trying to have an actual life in there somewhere; he makes as much time for the people around him as he can.
Again, that's something I can personally vouch for: Adam made a point of keeping in touch with me after I visited the Top Gear set in December, and he's been one of my biggest supporters since. When I asked him for advice on a difficult decision, he didn't just give me his opinion; he took the time to call me and he and his wife talked me through it - and then the next time I saw him, he asked me how it had worked out for me. But that's the caring, personable guy that he is. As much as I love his work on-screen, moreso I admire Adam as one of the best people I've ever known. The world needs more people like Adam Ferrara in it.
Character-wise, anyway. There may not be anyone out there as fearless (or some might say reckless) as Adam is. When I ask him if there's anything on Top Gear he wouldn't do, he replies, "We have not come across it yet." Chances are, we'd have to try pretty hard to find it...or a car he can't wreck.
Top Gear USA continues its third season tonight at 9 PM ET/PT on History. If you're watching, be sure to join Adam, myself and other Top Gear fans for a live-tweet during the episode.
You can follow Adam Ferrara on Twitter (@AdamFerrara) and visit his official website. For more from Brittany Frederick, visit my Starpulse writer page and follow me on Twitter (@tvbrittanyf).
(c)2012 Brittany Frederick/Digital Airwaves. Appears at Starpulse with permission. All rights reserved. No reproduction permitted.
Photo Credits: History