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In visit to Boston, Jimmy Fallon discusses ‘Tonight Show’ gig

Jimmy Fallon (left) with anchors Kim Khazei and Adam Williams at the  WHDH-TV studio to tape promos.

NBC Universal

Jimmy Fallon (left) with anchors Kim Khazei and Adam Williams at the WHDH-TV studio to tape promos.

Yes, that was Jimmy Fallon strumming a guitar near Faneuil Hall Marketplace Friday. But no, he wasn’t
busking. Fallon was in Boston to shoot a few promos for “The Tonight Show,” which he’s taking over from Jay Leno in February. Looking a little bleary, but in a good mood, the former “Saturday Night Live” cast member — and current “Late Night” host — taped a few spots with WHDH-TV anchors Kim Khazei and Adam Williams, and then sat down with us in a conference room surrounded by posters for canceled NBC shows. “Wow, none of these shows are still on,” he said. Here are a few other excerpts of our conversation.

Q. Are you feeling any pressure about hosting “The Tonight Show”?

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A. A little bit. I mean, it’s a job. I’ll be doing what I’m doing now. But it’s a much larger audience. More eyeballs. But I’ve got support from the network and support from Jay.

Q. He’s heard your impression of him and still supports you?

A. Oh yeah, we talk on the phone all the time, and he knows I do an impression of him. Jay’s been really good. Actually, really, really good. When I first started “Late Night,” I said, “Hey, just so we start this on the right foot, I don’t want your job. I’m not out to steal something from you.” . . . When things started to turn, and someone thought there was going to be a change, he totally supported me and said, “I think he’s perfect. I think Jimmy works hard and deserves this.”

Q. “Late Night” is on later so you have freedom to be a little loosey-goosey. Now, you’ll have the corporate overlords watching. Can you still do the same show at 11:30 p.m.?

A. I think so. Or as much as we want. I mean, I’m not going to change who I am or what I do. It’s just an hour earlier. There are some sketches and games that are a little immature that we won’t bring with us, unfortunately.

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Q. An example?

A. Models and buckets, where we dump buckets of food on audience members. There are some cringe-worthy sketches we won’t bring with us, but we’ll keep doing the monologues and . . .

Q. The music?

A. Definitely, the music.

Q. What about . . .

A. The Roots?

Q. Yeah. What about the Roots?

A. The Roots are coming. They’re in. The deal’s signed.

Q. And that’s important to you?

A. Absolutely. I need the Roots. Weirdly enough, I didn’t know them as friends going in, I just knew them as talent. And now it’s five years later and almost 1,000 shows, and we’re family.

Q. And Justin Timberlake? He’s also coming?

A. The first week. He’ll be there. It’s almost hard not to do a show with him. He wants to do every single show. He’s exhausting. He’s too talented for me.

Q. I don’t understand why, but some people think you’re from Boston. You’re not.

A. No, but I absolutely love it. I met my wife here. I shot a movie called “Fever Pitch,” and I don’t want to take credit for it, but I was there when the Red Sox won the World Series. I had a lot, maybe, to do with it.

Q. But you’re a Yankees fan.

A. Yes. . . . I can’t go to a Red Sox/Yankees game. My loyalty is split because, gosh, I love the Red Sox. No one will understand but it’s almost like I was traded to the Red Sox for one season. And that season they won the World Series, and then I got traded back to the Yankees. It happens.

Q. Do you pay attention to up-and-down ratings?

A. No, I don’t. I don’t care much. It’s so predictable. If there’s a problem someone will tell me. . . . I’m doing the best show I can. I’m doing the best show on TV. I think our show is awesome, I really do. I would watch my show. I work hard. I get in there in the morning, I stay until late at night working hard. . . . I have the best musical bookings you can get. . . . I’m so proud of the show and I’m totally confident in our show, and that’s why ratings don’t matter to me.

Q. Well, good luck to you.

A. I love Boston so much I can’t even tell you how excited I am to be here.

Q. You’re going to say that in Cincinnati, too.

A. I won’t. My wife was so excited I was coming to Boston first. . . . Along with New York and London, it’s my favorite city. It is.

Mark Shanahan can be reached at shanahan@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @MarkAShanahan. Meredith Goldstein can be reached at mgoldstein@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @MeredithGoldste.

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