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Randy Jackson on 'Idol's' Adam Lambert, Chris Daughtry: 'I Thought They Could Win'

The newly appointed workshop head discussed his boot camp in the Feb. 18 episode, theme twists and how he would work with Simon Cowell again.

Randy Jackson American Idol PR - P 2014
Michael Becker/FOX
Randy Jackson

American Idol viewers will welcome back three familiar faces next Tuesday, as the show will debut its first-ever "boot camp" episodes with Randy Jackson, Adam Lambert and Chris Daughtry.

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Speaking with reporters on a conference call Thursday, Jackson said that the idea is something he had wanted to do for a while -- and alumni Lambert and Daughtry were his first choices to helm the concept. The longtime Idol mainstay said the workshop, as well as other new changes, will help the show, which needed what he called "a refresh."

"I wanted to have them there," he said. "They were actually in the trenches as people we were judging … and they can tell it from a completely different side. The two of them are so different, but they are also so equally, really, really talented. Both of their seasons, I thought both of them would win."

Jackson said his 35-year career as an artist, record producer and manager (among many other trades) will come into play as a mentor, and he thought the presence of the former contestants would be a great indicator for the season's hopefuls that even if bright talents don't win their respective seasons, they can still have noteworthy music careers.

Also, their appearances are a testament to Idol's track record of discovering talent, unlike other singing shows, he said. "[Idol is] the only show that can say we have successful contestants from this format. … I don't know if any of those other shows will be on 13 seasons."

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So what can viewers expect when the workshop airs on Feb. 18? "We talk about everything in this workshop because I really wanted to break it down for the kids," Jackson said. "When the judges say this, are you hearing what they are saying? Are you retaining 20 percent? Thirty percent? What are you listening to? Because you have cameras in your face, you have 500 people in the audience and you got all the chatter from social media, you got friends and family, you got millions of people watching on TV. We really broke it down and went through everything that we could."

Jackson said he is enjoying his role as mentor after having been a judge since the show first began. He doesn't miss it at all: "When I walked away from it, I was really done with it. … I felt like I had said and done everything I needed and wanted to do as a judge."

He also promised that there will be a "twist" on the show's upcoming theme weeks. "The themes are not as narrow as they used to be," he said. "I think you will like where we are going with the themes this season."

Jackson said he is also proud of the direction of the show this year, which includes the first contestant in Idol history, MK Nobilette, to say on camera that she is "obviously gay."

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“I'm really proud of her and I'm really happy for her," he said. "We should have come a lot farther and a lot faster, but you know, it is what it is. We have never said 'you can't do this' or 'you can't do that.' It's never [been about who] you are, what you do, what you choose and where you are from. It's really about the talent."

He added: "She's mad cool, so I'm really happy … she was able to say that."

While he spoke highly of the current panel -- Harry Connick Jr., Jennifer Lopez and Keith Urban -- and their "natural, great, chemistry," he also expressed good wishes to former judge Simon Cowell, whose stateside version of X Factor was recently canceled. "I'm sure he's plotting his U.S. return as we speak," he said, lightheartedly. "He's a real creator. Never count him out."

And would he ever consider judging a show in Cowell's native U.K.? "Of course," he said. "I love it over there. It would have to be with Cowell, though."

Twitter: @MicheleAmabile