James Corden; Freddie Highmore; Ellen DeGeneres
A new pop culture mystery is afoot. From “Who bit Beyoncé” to “Did Harry Styles spit on Chris Pine,” every so often a celeb drops a tantalizing bit of information that sets off a large-scale investigation. This time it’s Freddie Highmore in the broom closet at the mystery talk show that has us reaching for the nearest magnifying glass and deerstalker hat.
The Good Doctor star introduced this puzzle while appearing on Jimmy Kimmel Live!, praising the host for having a comfortable setup backstage and being a “decent human being,” unlike some hosts he could name (but declined to do so). Highmore then shared a story about being backstage at a talk show when producers noticed “the host at the end of the corridor and they were really, really scared.”
Apparently, this is a host who “doesn’t like seeing guests beforehand,” so the panicked producers’ solution was to shove Highmore into a nearby broom closet. There he remained for “about a minute” listening to the show staff chattering, “‘Are we clear? Are we good? Have they gone? Can we bring him out?’ Terrified.”
As for whether Highmore ever brought up the bizarre incident with the host, he admitted, “I’m not sure if they knew. I haven’t said to this person—I thought it was not a good moment to say, ‘Nice to see you. I was just put in a broom closet.’”
“My initial inclination was to let the host off the hook, but if everyone’s that scared, probably that host’s fault,” Kimmel said, as Highmore agreed, “There’s something going on.”
So now we must ask: Which talk show host was so terrifying, and so averse to meeting guests before filming, that their employees would shove a celebrity into a broom closet? Highmore is scrupulous about his use of gender-neutral pronouns, so there are no clues to be had there. The only other indicator is that Kimmel joked about it being Kathy Lee Gifford, to which Highmore smiled and said, “Close.”
What follows is a list of suspects in the Freddie Highmore Broom Closet Case. For our purposes as U.S. based publication and for the sake of narrowing the field, we’ll focus on American shows.
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Innocent by virtue of being told the story, and a “decent human being” according to the victim. (Kimmel even emailed with Highmore before his appearance, “which was very lovely,” per the actor.)
Regis Philbin and/or Kelly Ripa
Freddie Highmore on “Live with Regis and Kathie Lee” (2005)
Complicating matters in this investigation is the fact that Freddie Highmore has been acting since childhood, and has therefore been on a lot of talk shows. He didn’t specify a timeline, so this incident could have occurred when he was young. (It’s probably a lot easier to shove a kid into a broom closet than a grown man.) Kathie Lee Gifford appears to be innocent based on Highmore’s Kimmel comment, but what host would be a “close” guess to Gifford? Well, Regis Philbin was literally close to Gifford for many years as her Live co-host. Kelly Ripa could also be considered a “close” guess as Gifford’s replacement.
Based on Highmore’s body language in his first Live With Regis And Kelly appearance in 2005, he doesn’t appear to be a kid just recently shoved into a broom closet, though he was already an accomplished actor at this point. Both of these hosts are a possibility, though Ripa seems unlikely, as Highmore has gone on to appear on Live several more times in the years since and they seem to have a relaxed rapport. (While we’re here, let’s also rule out another Gifford co-host, Hoda Kotb, as this writer cannot find any evidence of Highmore on the Today Show.)
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This is the host that feels most likely to be the culprit to have inspired such terror that a staffer might shove a celebrity in a closet. Reports of a culture of fear cultivated at The Ellen DeGeneres Show have circulated for years now, and rumors that low-level staffers weren’t supposed to make eye contact with her don’t feel too dissimilar from refusing to meet guests beforehand.
Highmore also first appeared on Ellen as a kid, though as an adult he recalls her being “very welcoming,” and the host herself declares he was “in safe hands” as a 12-year-old guest, to which Highmore agrees. Is this a case of mere British politeness? Would the incident have occurred during his appearance as a child or an adult? Could DeGeneres’ many years on the air have eroded her patience for pre-show small talk by the time Highmore returned when he was 25, thus necessitating the broom closet shove?
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James Corden is a popular target for Internet ire and therefore will be a popular suspect for this investigation. Facts to support his being the talk show terror include previous testimony against him from others, as well as the fact that Highmore seems to have only been on the show one time. Do we detect some awkwardness in this clip? Could the horrible host have been one of Highmore’s own countrymen? Put Corden down as a definite possibility.
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According to IMDb research, Highmore appeared on Jimmy Fallon’s show twice, once on Late Night in 2013 and once on The Tonight Show in 2017. During his second appearance, Fallon even brings up a conversation they had during Highmore’s previous visit. It’s not a full exoneration given that the talk show terror might not have even known about their producers’ actions, but the friendly atmosphere disinclines one to believe that Fallon was responsible for the broom closet incident. Plus, Fallon is known for his obsequiousness to celebrities, and frequently films behind-the-scenes bits with his guests for social media, so he is very unlikely to have an “avoid at all costs” rule on his set, even an unofficial one.
Highmore has also appeared on Seth Meyers’ show, per IMDb, though there doesn’t seem to be a clip on YouTube. Given Meyers’ general demeanor and way with guests—this is a man who will get fall-down drunk with a celebrity for the bit—we will rule him as unlikely as well.
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Conan O’Brien, whom Highmore also seems to have visited just once, also seems like a very unlikely candidate given everything we know about him. Although if it was his producers who shoved Highmore in the closet it would somehow be much funnier and this writer would be forced to defend his actions from a comedic standpoint.
Freddie Highmore in The Martha Stewart Show (2008)
Here’s a dark horse candidate. At almost 16, Highmore appeared on The Martha Stewart Show to promote The Spiderwick Chronicles. There’s no way Martha Stewart knew what The Spiderwick Chronicles was, and given her stature, she definitely seems like someone who could get away with avoiding all her guests beforehand and then talking about whatever she wants on the show (she goes on a tangent about Johnny Depp in this clip that is only barely relevant). And, sorry to say, Highmore’s lanky frame is at its most vulnerable for being shoved in a closet. Is Stewart someone Highmore would consider “close” to a Kathie Lee Gifford figure? It’s a definite possibility!
Without confirmation from Highmore or one of the anonymous producers, we may never know who was the host at the end of the corridor. But please, feel free to place bets or leave tips on which host it might be in the comments.
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