"I'd say to anybody out there, 'Get Steve Carell to promise you something'," says Rove McManus, "because he will make it happen. He's a very sweet man who's true to his word. When he says to you, 'Hey, I want to do something with you', he will back that up – no matter how long it takes."
Indeed, McManus will make his debut as a game show host on prime time, network American television later this month – thanks to his friendship with Carell that began almost a decade ago in Australia.
"He was a guest on my show [Rove Live] in 2005," McManus says. "We kind of hit it off and every time he'd come back, it renewed the friendship a little bit.
"In 2007, we talked about maybe wanting to do something with the fact he'd started up his television production company."
The pair were already working on a TV project McManus refers to simply as "Project 1". The idea of him hosting an American version of a French game show (an Australian version called SlideShow aired last year), was appealing, but seemed unlikely.
"They said yes straight away – we didn't even shoot a pilot – and it's a guaranteed eight-episode run on network television in the States," he says. "It's a very exciting opportunity." Given his commitment to Riot, the mysterious "Project 1" will now go ahead without him.
McManus is no stranger to American television, having hosted his own cable show and made regular appearances on The Tonight Show. Being the face of a prime time network series, however, is a coup for the triple Gold Logie winner.
"When I first arrived in the States, the idea of someone with an accent was still very new to them," he says. "I think Simon Cowell was the only person with an accent on television, and he was obviously playing the evil British judge on American Idol. It's a bit different now; there are a lot of people with English and Australian accents doing very well. But for me to be actually hosting a show – and more importantly, not to be using an [American] accent – is really cool, and I'm glad the network doesn't think it's a huge risk."
Riot debuts on May 13 in the US, though no Australian network has confirmed if it will air the series.
McManus is speaking to Fairfax Media from the Ten Network's Melbourne studios, having flown in from Los Angeles over the weekend. This week, he will guest co-host on The Project – a show made by his own production company Roving Enterprises – with Peter Helliar and Carrie Bickmore.
Not only is he friends with the pair; they were both cast members of his successful Sunday night talk show on Ten.
"It was one of those things where I hadn't really thought about it when I said yes," he says. "I was just happy to be part of the show. Surprisingly, it hit me a bit later: 'That's right, it will be the three of us back together again.' So it's actually going to be really enjoyable and it's helped settle the nerves a little bit.
Now in its fifth year, The Project remains one of Ten's top-rating programs.
"I try to explain it to people overseas and they think of The Daily Show," McManus says. "But that's very comedy-driven whereas this actually does get the information out. It's trying to help you understand the news a bit better than a standard news presentation would. It's not talking down to you or expecting you to know all the information about a story ... and I'll be doing my very best to ruin it."
When the series launched as The 7PM Project in 2009, it jumped between hard news and comedy and was "much more segmented", McManus explains.
"You'd have someone do the entertainment section, then they'd disappear ... now there's a lot more synchronicity. The hope is that it feels a bit more engaging.
"I think it's in that sweet spot where you've worked really hard to become a familiar part of people's regular television viewing, but without being taken for granted or people feeling like they don't need to watch you that much."
You might think The Project would be a walk in the park for an experienced host such as McManus but he says it's different to his previous roles.
"One thing The Project does very well is switch from serious news to light-hearted in a heartbeat. It's not something I've had to do before. If I'm a bit panicky about it, I can just look either side and see two very familiar faces I really enjoy working with and feel a bit of support in the room."
This relaxed attitude of Australian performers, he believes, is behind their appeal to American audiences.
"In Australia, we're good fun, I think it's safe to say. We've got a laid-back nature that comes across in our comedy. That, for Americans, is new and shiny and hopefully something they will embrace and will mean good things for me," he said.
"Or I will be the world's worst ambassador. Either way, it will be remembered."
The Project airs 6.30pm weeknights on Channel Ten.