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CNN Live Event/Special

Athens Welcoming 2023 With Parties, Fireworks; Paris To Set Off Fireworks Along The Champs-Elysees; Ukrainian Baker Shares Bread & Hope Heading Into New Year; College Football National Championship Set For January 9; Pyrotechnic Planning: How The London Fireworks Show Is Made; London To Ring In The New Year With Big Fireworks Display; "White Lotus" Star Theo James Talks To CNN; NYC Preps For Its Biggest Party Of The Year. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired December 31, 2022 - 17:00   ET



LYNDA KINKADE, CNN HOST: To the New Year for the next hour in Lagos, Paris and London. And over the next three hours, we will have a star studded special for you. Take a look at what's to come.


KINKADE (voice-over): You're watching CNN New Year's Eve Live, featuring appearances from White Lotus star Theo James.



KINKADE (voice-over): Oscar winning actress and author, Geena Davis.


KINKADE (voice-over): The cast and crew of the Neil Diamond Broadway show A Beautiful Noise.

Eurovision winners Kalush Orchestra. And special performances by RnB Sensation Craig David.

CRAIG DAVID, RNB SENSATION: Happy, happy New Year.

KINKADE (voice-over): And pop star, Ellie Goulding.


KINKADE: Well, let's go now to Christina Macfarlane in London where she's watching the festivities and of course, gearing up for 2023. Of course, London returning to its pre-COVID glory.

CHRISTINA MACFARLANE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it's good to be with you, Lynda. Welcome to London. We are just about to welcome in 2023 across much of Europe, Africa and the Middle East, from Finland to South Africa, countries are in the last few moments of the old year. And tonight, Ukraine is set to hit midnight after a year that has brought war to the country that has forever changed the world. And in Greece, Athens is celebrating with fireworks over some of the world's most revered ancient monuments. The clock's also about to strike 12 in Johannesburg, Cairo, Jerusalem and Beirut.

Well, Elinda Labropoulou joins me now to show us how the Greek capital is ringing in the New Year. Elinda, just minutes to go there. Tell us what the scenes like.

ELINDA LABROPOULOU, CNN JOURNALIST: It's just all going crazy here. People are singing, they're dancing, they're waiting. There's a live show going on. We're going to have a countdown in a minute. And before the count down, there's one traditional song in Greece which talks about the passage of time, of how we move from one year to the next.

And I expect that very soon we will be listening to this song. It's a song everybody knows. It's what all Greek sings just before this turning of the year. It's a song of remembering the good times and the bad times and leaving the path behind as we move into the New Year.

I can hear that the Athens mayor is now on stage. She's going to be here for the change of the year. And after that, Athens has promised a huge street party. So the entire city center will come together. There are lots of live venues, lots of things going on until the early morning hours.

It's a big tradition here for people to stay up all night to watch the first sunrise of the year and to very often just celebrate by having breakfast with friends. And what happens is hotels put out this lavish breakfast for people to get together and toast to the New Year.


But we're getting ready for the countdown here in Athens. You can hear the crowds around me and the countdown. This is it. Happy New Year from Athens, everyone. Happy New Year.


MACFARLANE: OK. As long as I can hear them. OK. I can barely hear anything. Right (INAUDIBLE).


(Speaking Foreign Language)


MACFARLANE: You have been watching a glittering, dazzling firework display there over the rooftops of Athens as it becomes one of the first capitals to ring in the New Year in Europe. Without further ado, let's go back to Elinda Labropoulou, who is in the midst of it. Elinda, we're hearing a couple of Christmas songs there to celebrate the moment. What is the atmosphere like? How are people reacting around you? [17:05:03]

LABROPOULOU: It's really wonderful. And right in the heart of Athens, the absolute center. And people who don't even know each other, they're all hugging, they're exchanging wishes for the New Year.

Tourists from all over the world, people have come in just for these celebrations. It's a very emotional time in many ways, because this is something that hasn't happened for several years now because of COVID and restrictions. And so it feels like a return to an abnormality, a passage to a better time.

And of course, this is all happening in the shadow of the Acropolis, a strong reminder of millennia of history, of millennia of years, new years that have changed in this very city, and a real sense of place that only cities like Athens can really inspiring people. And this is something that's very visible, very much felt in the square, all around me.

The streets are really, really patched with people. Everywhere I look, there's people everywhere and they're all promising to go on until the early morning hours, where Athens is going to turn into one large street party.

MACFARLANE: As you say, Elinda, there can be no better setting in the shadow of the Acropolis there. People partying on the streets. We know what 2022 has brought. Highs and lows. As you say, we are all coming out of the COVID pandemic. But looking ahead to 2023, what are the people of Greece most hoping to see?

LABROPOULOU: First of all, it's looking like it's going to be a wonderful year for tourism in Greece. Last year, there were record numbers of arrivals and the forecast for 2023 are already looking extremely good. And this is something that obviously people here are very proud about.

You know, they're happy to share the country with visitors, to share the beauty of Greece. This is something everybody is looking forward to. And of course, it's more that return to normality, you know, things that they have missed and now they're hoping that they'll be able to do again in the post-COVID era.

MACFARLANE: Elinda, it has been fantastic to ring in the New Year with you. Happy New Year, my friend. Thank you for joining us live and bringing us those spectacular fireworks.

Next to meet midnight, of course, is going to be Western Europe and Africa, celebrating in the next hours. The major cities, of course, Paris and Lagos among those entertaining or entering 2023.

And we have got our Melissa Bell live in Paris and Stephanie Busari in Lagos. Let's go to Stephanie first, though. Stephanie, tell us about the celebration that is getting ready there to count down to that New Year and the significance, I think, of that roundabout you were talking about behind you. STEPHANIE BUSARI, CNN SENIOR EDITOR, AFRICA: Welcome to Lagos. And this really is the city that never sleeps. So celebrations have not stopped since the start of December. There's a special name for it here, it's known as Detty December. And really, if you want a party every single day of the week, you can do that in this month and people have been doing that.

Nigerians who live abroad have been flocking back home to do just that. But this roundabout is quite special. This is where we're going to see in the New Year. This is a famous roundabout, the most famous one in the city, with this amazing display of lights which attract thousands of people daily.

It's been up since November and it's been part of the festivities. And this is where we're going to see a really massive display of fireworks. The sky behind me is going to be lit up and people are quite excited. Excitement is palpable here. Car horns are tooting and people are gathering, waiting for just -- in just under an hour for that countdown, Christina.

MACFARLANE: Well, I tell you what, a month of partying in the build up to New Year. So I think Nigeria sounds like the place to be. Lagos, the place to be tonight. Thanks very much for now.

And let's head to Melissa Bell for us who's live in Paris. And Melissa, I understand the theme of France's celebrations for this New Year is love, which I think is kind of what we expect from the French.

MELISSA BELL, CNN PARIS CORRESPONDENT: Exactly. What else could we possibly have here in the French capital? It is love and celebration that is theme tonight. It's the first time that we've had fireworks display here on the Champs-Elysees in more than two years. Let me show you what the avenue looks like right now.

There's just under an hour to go. Look at that. It's getting absolutely packed. They're dancing, they're singing down there. And it's led by the Arc de Triomphe there, that in just under an hour, we're going to have more than 3,000 fireworks set off. And it should be quite spectacular or the more so because people have been looking forward to it. People haven't been able to do it for so long.


It is half a million people that are expected here on the Champs- Elysees tonight. Not just all the tourists who've come to Paris, because this was their dream. They wanted to be in the French capital for years eve, but a lot of French people as well. I'm joined by Ludo (ph). Hi. Tell us why you've come here at the Champs-Elysees tonight.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know, we are really happy tonight because after two years of COVID, we are celebrating in one of the most beautiful avenue in the world. So we are really excited with my friends and my wife and we are here in, I think in one of the most beautiful places in the world. You have (INAUDIBLE) and two (INAUDIBLE), so we are enjoying the celebration.

BELL: That's not (INAUDIBLE).


BELL: And of course, because people haven't been able to do it in so long, they're all the more excited to be out here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, that's true. We lived a strange period during the last two years and so now we are experiencing the real life, let's say so because we are -- we were in a strange period last two years. So the celebration is better.

BELL: Thank you so much.


BELL: And it is not just the French who are out here on us, but as I said, an awful lot of tourists who come to Paris. They tell us down there in the street because they wanted to be in what they considered the most romantic city in the world to see that fireworks display and bring in 2023.

The last time there were a whole bunch of people in the Champs-Elysees there was, of course, a couple of weeks ago when France world lost in the World Cup. Of course, the mood very different that night. Tonight, it is just joy and celebration, as you say, Lynda, love and celebration that are being celebrated here in Paris tonight.

MACFARLANE: Melissa, I know Paris, France, like the rest of us, have, you know, ridden the highs and lows of the past year, the COVID pandemic. Obviously, the war in Ukraine has impacted every country, really around the world. It's been felt very heavily in Europe with the energy crisis.

I know that President Macron gave his New Year's Eve address, what, an hour ago. Did you happen to hear it? Were there any messages of hope looking ahead to 2023?

BELL: That's right. And in fact, he spoke about exactly that. He spoke about the energy crisis, he spoke about the difficulties ahead. Of course, Western Europe heavily impacted France as well. Times are hard and that was really central to his message.

But also, the need to hold tight, the need to stand by Ukraine. That was a big part of his message. That was something France intended to do in the hope that 2023 will bring not just celebration and love, but also peace. That's something that he said he was hoping for, even as he encouraged the French to celebrate what might be ahead and not look too hard on what we've just lived through.

MACFARLANE: Yes, it'll be a message shared across Europe. Melissa, thank you for now.

Paris looking as glamorous and glittering as you are tonight. We'll check back in with you at the top of the hour as Paris and France indeed ring in the New Year. Thank you. And in the U.S., we are closing in on the last big sporting event of 2022. We'll preview that and more. What to look ahead at in 2023 and what it has in store for us in the world of sports. That's coming up.

Plus, loss, bloodshed and devastation. But shining through it all, hope. We will go live to Kyiv as Ukraine says goodbye to a crushing year.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hello to everyone. We are. Kalush Orchestra.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking Foreign Language)

MACFARLANE: Welcome back to our special coverage of New Year's Eve Live. I'm Christina Macfarlane in London. We watched together as 2023 arrived in Athens just minutes ago. Perhaps nowhere on the planet is looking to a fresh start though this year, however, more than Ukraine beginning 2023 at war.

In his message to a country a short time ago, its President Volodymyr Zelenskyy wished for victory in the year ahead and for the return of all that has been taken from Ukraine. I will have much more on that for the moment, but for now, let's hand it back to our Lynda, who's in the studio in Atlanta (ph). Lynda?

KINKADE: Thanks so much, Christina. We will check in with you again very soon.

Well, I want to stay on Ukraine now. And our Ben Wedeman is in the capital Kyiv and joins us now live. Ben, Happy New Year to you. Of course, our hearts are with the people of Ukraine. They have had one of the toughest years. But I think everyone around the world has been so impressed with their resilience throughout this year. How are they marking the ends of 2022 as they look ahead to 2023?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, any Ukrainians who are hoping that this, the last year, last day of 2022 was going to be a day of perhaps celebrations was disappointed. To 02:00 in the afternoon local time, Russian missiles slammed into the capital and one person was killed, 16 people were wounded.

It's been a 311 days of brutal war here, but it's quiet, nighttime curfew. There are no celebrations, but people are getting together with their families in homes. Quiet celebrations, fireworks are forbidden. But some people are starting to rediscover what really matters in life after almost a year of this war.


WEDEMAN (voice-over): The daily bread has a special meaning in this Bucha bakery, no machines here. Yaroslav (ph) kneads the dough by hand. Outside, Andri (ph) chops firewood for the oven at a time when waves of Russian strikes have crippled Ukraine's power grid. The old ways are proving to be handy. Yuri used to pass his days glued to a screen at his IT job, war has brought him back to what matters most.

YURI BOYKO, BAKER: What's happened right now in Ukraine it's affecting all the world and people becoming more conscious and more grateful for everything they have right now in their lives.

WEDEMAN (voice-over): Earlier this year, Bucha outside Kyiv suffered through a brutal Russian occupation and was the scene of what investigators say were war crimes.

Vyacheslav, a regular customer appreciates the bread and the spirit of those who make it.

VYACHESLAV, BUCHA RESIDENT: They are nice guys. Nice small business. I remember right after liberation of Bucha, they started baking bread and even providing this bread for free to those in need.

WEDEMAN (voice-over): They also provide bread and traditional pastries for those far from home and in harm's way.

(on-camera): Some of these loaves are destined for soldiers, a little something extra that will make their New Year's Eve that much more special.

(voice-over): Simple reminders of the holiday season hang over their work. The memories of recent nightmares are still fresh and the specter of more Russian attacks loom large. Celebrations will be muted.

In other parts of the world, people can count on comfort in waiting for nice fireworks, Yaroslav (ph) tells me. We're worried about fireworks from our neighbors.


Irina's (ph) wish for the New Year is simple. We hope it will be better, she says. We hope the war will end.

One cannot live on bread alone. Hope is also needed.


WEDEMAN: And hope is difficult in short supply these days. In fact, just a few minutes ago, we received reports that cruise missiles were heading towards southern Ukraine. Lynda?

KINKADE: Ben Wedeman, our thanks to you, and the team there in Kyiv. You have been doing a remarkable job this year, and we wish you all the best for the year ahead. Thanks so much.

Well, we're going to turn now to the world of sport. In 2022 still has one more big event in store. In a little more than two and a half hours, the U.S. college football known as the Peach Bowl gets underway. Ohio State against Georgia at the stadium right next door to us. Each team hoping for a chance at the title game.

After that, 2023 has a full slate of sports underway. The English Premier League, the U.S. National Football League boys of action slated for New Year's Day.

Well CNN's World Sport Patrick Snell is here to preview what is coming up, what has been. Happy New Year, Patrick.

PATRICK SNELL, CNN WORLD SPORT: Happy New Year. With my glasses or without them, what do you think?

KINKADE: Wow, I'm happy either way. You look very glam.

SNELL: Take them off. Yes.

KINKADE: So it has been an amazing year in sport. Of course, we've had some big retirements. We had the Queen of the Court, Serena Williams, hanging up her racket. We had football legend Tom Brady retiring and then unretiring. And of course, that FIFA final.


KINKADE: How to be.

SNELL: Final for the ages of the World Cup. I don't know where to start. So many highlights, Lynda, from the past year to reflect on.

Happy New Year to everyone. Blessings to everyone. Blessings uncontrollable to everyone. If I could just start with a few, I think, you know, I'd probably be here for the next 12 months, literally. Meaning when I say I don't know where to start. Here are my top three, actually, starting with the Messi magic we saw recently in the Gulf State nation.

At the age of 35, Messi finally lifting the World Cup trophy for the very first time in his fifth, and what he says, most likely now his last ever World Cup. We're all still catching our breath collectively from that final for the ages you mentioned. La Albiceleste beating the French with Kylian Mbappe after that dramatic penalty shootout.

Messi, then look at that image there, with the one trophy that he craved more than any other. Congrats to him. He gets it done finally. And how about England's Lionesses as well? My joy and pride from my Homelander, the Lionesses winning the European Championships back in July for their first ever major championship. Huge congrats to them in front of a record crowd of just over 87,000 on hand for that very special moment at the famed Wembley Stadium.

And from the world of tennis, as you mentioned, iconic greats such as Serena Williams and Roger Federer as well, calling time on their storied careers. But look at these images. Now the images of the greats, like Federer, Rafael Nadal that was at the Labor Cup there, Nadal had crossed these long-time rivals. But the emotion there, the fighting back of the tears, literally embracing each other after Federer's last ever competitive match, that was something really special.

That's going to resonate with me those images for a long time to come, Lynda. KINKADE: It really was a remarkable year. But looking ahead, and we don't have to look too far ahead, sports is with us every single day --


KINKADE: -- of the year. But of course, we do have the Australian Open coming up --


KINKADE: -- which I love.

SNELL: Yes, I know.

KINKADE: I used to go to every year.


KINKADE: We have the Cricket World Cup and of course, the college football games on right now. My husband --


KINKADE: -- is in heaven. This is his game over the year.

SNELL: We need to give a big shout out to Trav right now because he must be loving it at the moment here in the U.S. You're quite right. College football's national championship game, the grand finale, that one kicking off on January the 9th. Both semifinals taking place on Saturday over here in the states.

Right now, in fact, this hour, Michigan battling it out with Texas Christian University. That's in the Fiesta Bowl. And then right here in Atlanta next to CNN Center, we got the Georgia Bulldogs against Ohio State in the Peach Bowl. The top rank Bulldogs looking to become of the first university or school, as they say over here to win back- to-back titles in the playoff era. Go Dogs. Can I say that?

KINKADE: Go Dogs. You can say that as long as I'm saying it.

SNELL: All right. So quick taps, pick for you for the year ahead. Novak Djokovic, as you mentioned, Lynda, at the Australian Open, he's a nine-time champ in Melbourne, but missed out earlier this year. Remember, obviously forced to leave the country on the eve of the tournament following his high-profile visa ban from that country there over his stance, of course, on COVID-19 vaccinations.

Now that he's back, he's already down under preparing for his favorite slam. He'll have his first attempt at trying to equal Naval's record of 22 men's majors, open starts mid-January. What else to go? We can't look ahead to next year, of course, without mentioning

April's Masters tournament. Last year, I was there, great privilege to be there to followed the courageous Tiger Woods. He was back in action after that horrific car crash in 2021.


Scottie Scheffler, by the way, going on to win his first ever major title and we now know that golfers from the controversial Saudi backed live Golf series will be competing there at Augusta National. So much to look forward to.

Also in 2023, we have the always, always exciting rider cart between Team Europe and United States. That one taking place in Italy. The U.S. will look to retain the cup and win the European soil for the first time since 1993. Huge year ahead.

As I mentioned, Lynda, we got the Women's World Cup as well, kicking off in July down under New Zealand, Australia, and, well, the USA actually trying to make it a historic three peat there. We shall see. So much going on. I told you.

KINKADE: So much going on. You are going to have a very busy --


KINKADE: -- 2023.

SNELL: Exactly.

KINKADE: Patrick Snell --

SNELL: Yes, congrats. Happy New Year.

KINKADE: -- as always. Happy New Year.

SNELL: All the best.

KINKADE: Good to have you with us.


KINKADE: And, yes, he's hoping for a wonderful year ahead.

SNELL: Absolutely. All the best.

KINKADE: Thanks so much.


KINKADE: Well, we are going to take a quick break. You are watching CNN's special coverage of New Year's Eve still to come.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ready, steady. Oh, I can't wait for the big show.


KINKADE: You'll get a glimpse of how event organizers put together one of the biggest parties in London. Don't go anywhere. You're watching CNN. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MACFARLANE: Welcome back to New Year's Eve Live here on CNN, and live in London with me, Christina Macfarlane. We just saw the skies above Athens, Greece light up as the city welcomes in 2023. And in addition to the fireworks, there's music and lots of partying, of course.

And in just about half an hour, we'll take you to Lagos and Paris for the New Year's celebrations happening there. And in just a few hours, of course, the U.K. where I am, will ring in the New Year with a spectacular firework. So near the London Eye, you can see it just over my shoulder here on the banks of the Thames, making sure, of course, it all goes off without a hitch requires no small feat of programming.

Anna Stewart has been going to find out how it all comes together. Take a look.


ANNA STEWART, CNN REPORTER (voice-over): To get a bang like this --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And that burst with the final hit.

STEWART (voice-over): -- you need to start here.

(on-camera): Wow.

DARRYL FLEMING, DIRECTOR, TITANIUM FIREWORKS: So this is the software that we use to design and choreograph the display.

STEWART (voice-over): Darryl Fleming has designed the fireworks for London's New Year's Eve for 13 years.

(on-camera): How do you decide what fireworks to put where?

FLEMING: So a lot of it is experience and knowledge of the product, but it's also down to the music.


We use the soundtrack to effectively dictate the choreography of the show.


ANNA STEWART, CNN REPORTER (voice-over): The plans for this year are top secrets.

(on-camera): What's the soundtrack for '23?

FLEMING: So there's quite a good eclectic mixture for --

STEWART (on-camera): You're going to tell me, are you?

FLEMING: I'm not going to tell you --

STEWART (on-camera): You're not going to tell me.

FLEMING: -- until night. It's -- we're going to save the surprise.

UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER (in unison): Three, two, one.

STEWART (on-camera): This is the first big firework display since the pandemic began.

FLEMING: Yes, this is definitely the first large show since the pandemic, so we're really looking forward to getting back out, really, and delivering a great show.

STEWART (voice-over): Most of the planning may be done on computer, but you still need to know your rocket from your Roman candle. Once the designs are done, each firework is quality checked, wired and given a number that corresponds to the computer simulation.

(on-camera): And then you close the thing, just in case.

(voice-over): These fireworks aren't being saved for New Year's Eve, though, they're all for me.

(on-camera): Darryl?

FLEMING: Hi there.

STEWART (on-camera): I have been so excited about this. I know it's just a batch (ph), but for me, it's just a little preview of what's to come.

FLEMING: Absolutely. So these will be some of the fireworks we'll be letting off. So we just turn on the panel. I'll turn on the arm key. So we got to do is press fire.

STEWART (on-camera): Ready, steady.

Oh, I can't wait for the big show.


STEWART (on-camera): That was amazing.

FLEMING: Excellent.

STEWART (voice-over): Ana Stewart, CNN, Cambridgeshire.


CHRISTINA MACFARLANE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I'm very pleased to say that I have the man of the moment, David Wakefield, standing alongside me. He is the musical director for the fireworks display that we are about to see here in London tonight. Are you feeling nervous, David?

DAVID WAKEFIELD, MUSICAL DIRECTOR, LONDON FIREWORKS SHOW: No, all my work's done a few days ago. We're all good. So I can just sit back and enjoy it. MACFARLANE: All right. OK. So tell me, what is your role, what does it involve and how has it come together for tonight?

WAKEFIELD: Sure. So my production company put on the slide. We're employed by the agency Identity that put the show on, and we are responsible for -- with the cut musical directors with another guy, for building all the musical soundtrack for the show, stitching all the bits and pieces together and representing the main theme of the show, which this year is called With Love from London.

MACFARLANE: With Love from London, that is theme this year. And this is, I believe, the fourth year that you have done this. There must be a pressure year on year for it to get better and better, right?

WAKEFIELD: Yes, absolutely. Everyone always wants it to be bigger and better, but every year, the theme changes and the narrative changes. This is the first year back with a live audience here, so it's very different. The last two years have been for television only, so it's been a bit of a different kind of narrative that we had to tell. Whereas this year is much more about being back here in front of the London Eye and just having a big party.

MACFARLANE: So you're one part of, I can use upon the wheel behind us that comes together for tonight. How do you coordinate with the other parts of the wheel to get this to where it needs to be? And how long does the process take?

WAKEFIELD: Well, it's a long process. We started back in kind of September, October time. And there's, as you can imagine, there's a very large team run by Identity, and there's a producer and a creative director and a big team there in each, you know, you all have your different departments. So there's the Pyro and lighting and, you know, all those different bits and pieces.

So, as you say, we're one part of that. But, you know, each of us is critical as each other, really. We all kind of work together to develop as we go.

MACFARLANE: How difficult is it to choose the music each year? I imagine, you know, over the process of many months, it must change as you go along.

WAKEFIELD: Yes. I think, you know, it's very much a process of developing the soundtrack over time. So we kind of start off with a long list of music that we would like and then it kind of gets narrowed down. Different song choices are chosen and we have to kind of very much think about the audience for this.

So it's not just the people here, it's the audience at home. And it's, you know, it's a show for everyone, so we try and have something for everybody, really.

MACFARLANE: And I imagine, obviously, it being a fireworks display, you don't have a chance to run through any of this in real time. So what are the sort of final preparations? How do you ensure that it comes together in the way you envisage? WAKEFIELD: Yes, sure. So we basically have like a computer generated storyboard, essentially, so it's the entire show, what you're going to see, but on a computer. So you see all the lights, you know, all the bits and pieces in there. And so our soundtrack is developed to that.

So by the time we get to this stage touch word, it's all just kind of locked in a case of just making sure everything works as it should, really.

MACFARLANE: Final question, where will you be watching tonight and, you know, how nervous are you going to be?

WAKEFIELD: Not nervous at all because my bits all done, but I'm really looking forward to -- I'm going to be just around the corner from you with my family, actually.

MACFARLANE: Amazing. Enjoy it. Thank you so much for joining us. We cannot wait to see it in just over an hour and a half time. David, great for you to be with us.

And still to come here tonight, we will talk to actor Theo James about the future, his parenthoods and being one of the hottest shows on TV. Stay tuned for that.


UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER (in unison): Happy New year from "Call Me Kat." We wish you a great 2023.




CRAIG DAVID, SINGER: Christina, Lynda and everyone at CNN, Happy, Happy New Year. I'm Craig David, and I'm wishing you and the team at CNN and all of your wonderful viewers a beautiful 2023.

LYNDA KINKADE, CNN HOST: Our thanks to Craig David. And you won't want to miss a special performance by Craig David from Tugging (ph) and Film Studios that is coming up next hour.

Well, this hour we are celebrating in the New Year in Athens, Kyiv and Romania. And we just saw the city of Brasov, Romania bring in 2023 in Grand Star with fireworks and celebrations. And in about 20 minutes or so, Lagos and Amsterdam will welcome in 2023.

Well, at this moment, about half a million people are strolling down the Champs-Elysees to ring in 2023 in Paris with fireworks swirling around the Eiffel Tower. We have plenty more live coverage in just a moment. But right now, the second season of the "White Lotus" has been one of the biggest hits of 2022.

The HBO Max dark comedy sparks endless discussion and speculation amongst its fans. And one of the stars of the show is Theo James, who plays Cameron Sullivan. I spoke to him about the show, about acting, his family and much more.


KINKADE: Theo James, Happy New Year.

THEO JAMES, ACTOR: Happy New Year. How are you?

KINKADE: I'm well. So, I have to say, I watch the "White Lotus", Emmy Award winning show. I love it. But I hate every character.


KINKADE: I hate every character. But it works, right? Even your character.

JAMES: I mean, especially my character. He's a scumbag. I was just watching a clip of him and I was kind of repulsed by my own self. Yes, I mean, that's what Mike does so well, is he creates unlikable characters. But this in a strange way, you have empathy for all of them or you understand them.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I've seen a lot of guys and I feel like, make all this money and they just start acting different.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My God. Are you kidding? That's fun.



KINKADE: There is nudity. There is sex scenes involving you. Do you get nervous?

JAMES: It's always a bit awkward, but not kind of nervous like you're about to go on stage, if you know what I mean, because, you know, you have to figure out the mechanics of it.

KINKADE: Do they close the set? Is it a smaller crew or is everyone there?

JAMES: No, they hand out popcorn and people coming. No, thankfully, they'll close the set and they make it small and, you know, as intimate as it needs to be.

KINKADE: This current season of "White Lotus" just sentenced Sicily. Pitch, a perfect location.


JAMES: It was great to be there. And also, you know, that's a bit of a theme of this -- the show, isn't it? It's about sex, sex or politics. And Italy is so rich for that, isn't it, historically and, you know, existentially.

KINKADE: I have three daughters. The youngest just turned two, Aniston. You have a baby girl?

JAMES: I do, yes. Two and a half. Yes.

KINKADE: Congratulations.

JAMES: Thank you. And you too.

KINKADE: How do you like the role of being a dad?

JAMES: I love it. I love it. You know, I think it enables you, hopefully, to become a better person, you know, but also to care deeply, much more about something outside yourself, you know, so it shifts you, as, you know, from having three kids, it shifts kind of in a cheesy way, your outlook on the world. Before kids, you can be quite self-centric and suddenly it changes and you realize that none of that really matters at all.

KINKADE: Will she get a sibling?

JAMES: Yes, I hope so. Yes.


JAMES: I don't know where we'll find a sibling. On the street maybe.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Two stages of training. The first is physical. Push your bodies to the breaking point.


KINKADE: Of course you did the "Divergent" film.


KINKADE: I read that you felt typecast after that. In what way?

JAMES: You know, those type of films are inherently what -- because they're based around is to, you know, be seen by the widest possible, you know, audience. And as a result, it can sometimes make the themes in it a bit less acute. So, as a result, it can be less fulfilling as an actor. And, yes, you kind of find yourself, you know, seen in a very specific way.

KINKADE: If a casting director came calling for the role of James Bond, where'd you take it?

JAMES: I don't think they'd take me. KINKADE: Why on earth not?

JAMES: I'm too Greek. That'd be called Bondopolis.

KINKADE: They tend to for a good-looking British guy who can do action film. Tick, tick, tick.

JAMES: I think, honestly, now is the time for it to go in a different direction. I think it needs diversity, it needs a change.

KINKADE: Do you have --

JAMES: Would you do? Would you be Bond?

KINKADE: Do you think there'd be a female James Bond one day?

JAMES: I like the idea of that, actually.

KINKADE: They work with UNHCR.


KINKADE: How did you get involved with UNHCR? What's your connection?

JAMES: My grandfather, who was Greek, he -- during the Second World War, as the Nazis came into Athens, he had to escape by a boat, you know, across the Aegean. And he had to take, basically, refugee status and go, you know, on foot and ended up being, you know, helped in Damascus. So it was the other way around.

You know, it was Europeans flooding out and seeking refuge in Syria. So I'm also interested in, you know, male mental health and young men, after they lose their homes, they have to travel, they lose identity and you get very high levels of anxiety and deep depression in, you know, men and women. But, you know, because I'm a young man, it's a way of kind of reaching across that divide a little bit, and I understand that.

KINKADE: So, 2023, what are your hopes for the year ahead?

JAMES: I'd love to have as much time with family one to one, you know, suddenly, as, you know, with kids, suddenly a year goes by and they have changed and grown up and evolved. But I don't want to miss any of that, you know, it's hard, isn't it, when you're away a lot.

KINKADE: And you've got some trips to Australia to see family in the coming months?

JAMES: Yes, yes. Very soon. Got a big family in ours. So this, you know, I come from a big family. There's five kids, and, you know, we're all going out to have a big kind of reunion. Yes.

KINKADE: Can we have a toast?

JAMES: Yes, please.

KINKADE: Happy New Year.

JAMES: Happy New Year. Cheers --

KINKADE: Happy New Year.

JAMES: -- to 2023 and to us.

KINKADE: And to good health.

JAMES: And to good health. Cheers.


KINKADE: Wonderful discussion with Theo James there. I am looking forward to the next episode, the next series of the "White Lotus." And I wish Theo James and his family in Australia a very happy New Year.

Well, still ahead, we will head to Lagos, where they are about to welcome in 2023. Stay with us.



MACFARLANE: Welcome back to CNN's special New Year's Eve Live coverage with me, Christina Macfarlane here in London. Earlier, we saw Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia, ring in 2023 with lively fireworks show. And in just over 10 minutes, the clock strikes midnight in Paris and Lagos, among other places, as they become the latest cities to welcome in the New Year.

And one of the biggest parties in the world is, of course, being held in Times Square, the heart of New York City. It's a tradition going back more than a hundred years. Revelers have filled the streets of midtown Manhattan since 1904, but the first ball drop didn't actually happen until 1907. This year, 1 million people are expected to descend upon Times Square to ring in the New Year.

And CNN's Richard Quest is one of them. And he is joining me now live from Times Square. And I hope, Richard, you are dressed -- no, you're not dressed as the Statue of Liberty this year. What a disappointment, Richard. What is the atmosphere there like, Richard, as you count down?

RICHARD QUEST, CNN BUSINESS, EDITOR-AT-LARGE: Good evening. I decided to add a touch of sartorial elegance, raise the standards a little bit as we prepare to ring in the New Year. We've got some hours to go here in Times Square. By the way, this is my 25th year being in Times Square on New Year's Eve, so a bit of history goes by.

Now the crowd are here, they're looking a little muted. That's because they've been here for hours and it's raining. Oh, for goodness' sake, you can do better than that. OK, I do promise you they will get louder as the music gets turned off.

But let me tell you exactly what Times Square in New Year's Eve is all about. At the top of that, where you can see those letters, in another 10 minutes or so, the ball will go up the pole and start flashing. And then for the next six hours, we will all be watching this, because one minute to midnight, the ball comes down the pole.

Now, you may well ask, what a very quaint tradition to have it going up and down and what's the point? It was all to do with the idea of creating a celebration on New Year's Eve and this was the place to do it. So the crowd is here.

By the way, getting wet with me is Walter. Good evening, Walter. It's a New Year's Eve, so this is my producer and my other producer. We have Josh and we have Chris. It's New Year's Eve, right? What have we got there? Hello. Where are you from?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm from Sterling Heights, Michigan.

QUEST: Michigan. What time did you get here?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I got here yesterday about 2:00.

QUEST: Please tell me you haven't been on the streets since 2:00 yesterday.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, I got to like the spot at 6:00 a.m.

QUEST: You've been in since 6:00 this morning. But there are people who have been here earlier. Here we go. Here -- you got here at 2:00 a.m.?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: 3:00 in the afternoon yesterday.

QUEST: 3:00 in the afternoon.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: 3:00 in the afternoon.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yesterday, yes. Yesterday.

QUEST: Why did you come in 3:00 in the afternoon?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because that's when my flight landed.

QUEST: Sorry?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My flight, that's when it landed.


QUEST: So you've been here since that time. Now, the question everybody always asks, of course, is the indelicate one, how they go to the bathroom and things like that.


QUEST: I'm sorry? UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You got to get yourself of adult diapers.



QUEST: You can see how this is going downhill fast, Christina. It's a combination of some strange practices. But who has been in Times Square before? Now -- you have? So you're twice.


QUEST: You live here?


QUEST: Once you have done, Christina, Times Square, you really don't want to be anywhere else. As I say, I've been doing it for 25 years and this is the only place to be. It is New Year's Eve central. Even though I know, Christina, you've got Paris and all those other places like London still to come.

MACFARLANE: Richard, quick question, quick question. You said you've been doing this for 25 years, many years, in New York. Do you not feel nostalgic, Richard, for missing out on New Year's here in London? I recall the time when you drove around and did a live show here on the top of a London bus. As an English man abroad, surely you would want to be here tonight.

QUEST: Yes. The problem with London is finding the place where New Year can be truly celebrated. So you can't hear Big Ben unless you're really on top of it, Trafalgar Square. So it always ends up with the wheel and the fireworks. But this place at midnight, as you will hear singing, New York, New York, when it's just -- it's amazing.

And the police, of course, keep a magnificent job of keeping us all safe. Thank you for doing that. Believe me, there's enough of them to make sure that we're all safe. The crowd does get excited. Let's just try one more time. Show a bit of New York excitement.

Well, Christina, if you've been here since 2:00 in the morning in the rain, you'd sound like that too.

MACFARLANE: Good for them, Richard, and very good for you to get the police officers on side. Good tip. I think I might try that one here in London. We're going to leave you for now.

Richard Quest there live for us in New York City. Let's switch, though, to the continent of Africa and bring in CNN's Senior Editor for Africa, Stephanie Busari, who's live for us in Lagos tonight. Stephanie, you were telling me earlier that no one in the world knows how to party like the Nigerians. And we are just minutes away now from New Year's. How's it looking?

STEPHANIE BUSARI, CNN SENIOR EDITOR, AFRICA: The excitement is building up here, Christina, and we're waiting for this massive fireworks display. I actually found someone who's been partying all month long, and you can hear the horn suiting behind me there. People are waiting excitedly for this countdown, but my guest here has been partying all throughout December. Can you tell us about it?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I've not been getting too much sleep, honestly, because it's been from one show to another party to another event, to another concert. So it's really been fantastic 30 December in Lagos.

BUSARI: You must be exhausted. How are you still here?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. Well, you know, the energy of the city is what you always go back to, you know? So that is what keeps me going. The energy of the city, basically.

BUSARI: Excellent. So, apart from getting sleep in 2023, what are you hopeful for?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, 2023, I'm hoping that I can read more books so I can live a bit more healthier. I can start a business and be in tune to financial opportunities around me.

BUSARI: Excellent. Thank you for joining us.

So there you go, people are -- seems like they will be sleeping through some of January, Christina, after all the partying they've done in December, but waiting for that countdown and a fireworks display. Back to you, Christina.

MACFARLANE: All right, well, we will wait to see the skies light up behind you in just a few minutes, Stephanie. We'll be celebrating in Lagos and Paris when it strikes midnight. But also coming up in the next hour, Geena Davis of Thelma & Louise reflects on her amazing career and what movies she wants to see in 2023.

Plus, you'll see my interview with the lead singer of Eurovision winners Kalush Orchestra. And stick around for a special performance from R&B singer Craig David of his hit single "DNA". You do not want to miss it.



MACFARLANE: Welcome back to CNN's New Year's Eve Live. I am Christina Macfarlane in London on the banks of the River Thames behind me, where thousands of people, you can't see them, I can, are lining up here, preparing to ring in the New Year.

KINKADE: -- at CNN's world headquarters in Atlanta, where we are counting down to 2023. Good to have you with us.

Well this hour, we will take you live to Lagos, Nigeria, Paris, France, where our CNN correspondents will bring in the New Year with all the lights, the confetti, the fireworks that you can imagine. But first, I want to return now to Christina in London as we count down. Christina, I'm certainly looking spectacular behind you. You are one of some hundred thousand people there on the banks of the Thames.

MACFARLANE: Yes, that's right, Lynda. The party has definitely started. You probably hear we've been dancing along to music for the past three hours. There's about, I don't know, couple of thousands, thousands, 50,000 people around me already tonight, as we count down to midnight, some of the world's biggest cities, not just here, but around the world, are about to ring in New Year.

We have Berlin, Rome, Madrid, Amsterdam, among those just moments away from 2023. And we're going to be going live to Paris and Lagos to see the celebrations there. And let's of course start in Lagos, Nigeria. Our Stephanie Busari is celebrating the New Year there as we count down.

Now Stephanie, I'm seeing 1 minute and 15 seconds on the clock. What have people been telling you tonight about their hopes and dreams for 2023?

BUSARI: Yes, I mean, people are really just hoping to put 2022 behind them. It's no secret that this was a tough year all around the world. The cost of living rose very dramatically in this part of the world. And many people are just hoping to put that behind them, to cut loose tonight, actually.

What some people are telling me, cut loose, celebrate, party hard, and then hope that 2023 will be a better year. And, of course, Nigeria is having crucial elections next year, in February. This -- well, in a few minutes, next year. And they're hoping that that election will bring the change that they desperately need.