Hosting a talk show through the pandemic has been no easy task.

In a new ET Canada exclusive, Graham Norton talks about the new season of “The Graham Norton Show”, which premieres Oct. 2 with “Not Time to Die” stars Daniel Craig, Léa Seydoux, Rami Malek and Lashana Lynch, along with musical guest Ed Sheeran.

Daniel Craig – Photo: Matt Crossick/PA Wire
Daniel Craig – Photo: Matt Crossick/PA Wire

“At this point our plan is to have some audience – who knows how many – and the majority of guests in the studio rather than over Zoom,” the host says. “I think the couch probably won’t return unless we’ve got people in a bubble who could share one.”

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Remote interviews aren’t out of the question, though, as Norton says, “We will occasionally do Zoom if it’s a really big star or a friend of the show that we know will play with other guests, but we’re going to try and get back to as close to a normal show as we can.”

Léa Seydoux – Photo: Matt Crossick/PA Wire
Léa Seydoux – Photo: Matt Crossick/PA Wire

He also expresses his gratitude to the stars who appeared in-person over the last year, with one big name on his mind in particular.

By the end of the series, we’d had quite a few big stars in the flesh, culminating with Tom Cruise,’ he says. “And, you know, Tom Cruise didn’t need to do that show; he wasn’t really promoting anything. But he’s in our industry and we fuel his products and his products fuel what we do, and I think he was putting the message out there that it’s time to get back to business as usual.”

Norton adds, “Hats off to him, because it was a big statement for him and for the show and to other stars. They were probably thinking, ‘Oh God, Tom was back in the studio – we better go back now. It’s been fun wearing slippers, but now we’re going to have to leave the house.’”

Rami Malek – Photo: Matt Crossick/PA Wire
Rami Malek – Photo: Matt Crossick/PA Wire

The host also comments on all the gorgeous gowns that stars wore during their appearances on the show during the pandemic.

It’s like the stylists were finding all these gowns but had no events for the stars to wear them to,” he explains. “So the fact that there was going to be some lights and a camera, they went, ‘Right, we’ve got nowhere else for you to wear this amazing frock, so you’re wearing it on The Graham Norton Show.”

He also shares some of his dream guests for this season of the show.

The list is getting smaller and smaller because we’ve had an awful lot of great people. I know the series ‘Hacks’ hasn’t been on in Britain, but when it is I would love to have Jean Smart on, because what an amazing year for her to have ‘Mare of Easttown’ [she played Kate Winslet’s mother] and Hacks in the same year. It’s like showing off,” he says.

“And, we had Jennifer Coolidge on years ago [2007], but she is another one who’s on a real roll at the moment,” Norton adds. “She’s so good in ‘The White Lotus’. Of course I’d love to have any of the royals on, young or old. There’s a lot to talk about there!”

Lashana Lynch – Photo: Matt Crossick/PA Wire
Lashana Lynch – Photo: Matt Crossick/PA Wire

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The pandemic has also mellowed out a lot of celebrities, the host has noticed.

“The thing is, the last year has kind of made everyone nicer, because they’re so grateful. The musicians who come on are so happy to perform and everyone’s in a different mood,” he says. “This thing stars were allowed to feel churlish about – ‘God, I’ve got to go do this stupid show’ and ‘I’ve got to sell my film’ – they now seem to think, ‘Oh, great! I’m out of the house!’”

Ed Sheeran – Photo: Matt Crossick/PA Wire
Ed Sheeran – Photo: Matt Crossick/PA Wire

Looking back on his career leading up to this point, Norton comments, “I’m very aware that it could have been very different. I used to be an unemployed actor. I’m also very aware that it’s gone on much longer than most people’s careers. My first chat show was in 1998 so I do feel very fortunate. I don’t wake up every morning feeling blessed but, you know in those moments when I look back at how well things have gone, I do feel very grateful and fortunate.”

“The Graham Norton Show”, Season 29 premieres Saturday, October 2 at 11 pm ET/8 pm PT on BBC First in Canada.