Ryan Seacrest Talks Olympic Controversies, Michael Phelps Prep and 'Idol's' Mariah Carey (Q&A)

Ryan Seacrest interviewing Olympian Michael Phelps.
Ryan Seacrest interviewing Olympian Michael Phelps.
 Lawrence French/NBC

This story first appeared in the August 10 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

With a new NBCUniversal mega-deal inked in late April, the busiest man in Hollywood is fast becoming the busiest man in London. In addition to producing his daily radio show (he has a studio at his hotel) and E! News, Ryan Seacrest is contributing to NBC's Today and doing stories for NBC Sports, including an extensive sit-down with record-breaking swimmer Michael Phelps, in primetime. THR checked in with him July 31.

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The Hollywood Reporter: NBC has so far garnered some of the biggest ratings in sports history. Define the strategy.

Ryan Seacrest: There are thousands of people dedicated to NBC's success in London, and you can see it and feel it behind the scenes and in front of the camera every day. People are working so hard; it's incredible to witness.

THR: What's different about interviewing athletes as opposed to heavily media-trained Hollywood folks?

Seacrest: Olympic athletes are celebrities too, so there are similarities, though athletes are typically a lot taller. (Laughs.) We've been prepping for the Olympics for a while, as there's an enormous amount of knowledge and information to come up to speed on. We had three huge binders of info, countless meetings and briefings, and the folks at NBC Research are our friends.

THR: How do you feel about the criticism surrounding the tape delays?

Seacrest: As I've learned from all my years in television, you can't please everyone. I believe the huge ratings NBC has drawn for the Olympics speak for themselves. Obviously, the media landscape is shifting every day, and the network is doing its best to respond to the dynamic landscape.

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THR: What's your day like?

Seacrest: We're working with a number of NBC divisions here in London, and it's really a collaborative effort on how we balance my time on the various programs I'm committed to. Today, we did the radio show, then the Today show, then taped E! News, and then we did a track for a primetime Michael Phelps update piece. Now we are taping a lead and tag for the piece for primetime, and then we're going to stay and watch the Phelps race.

THR: And you still found time to do a radio segment on the swimmers' manicures ...

Seacrest: You like that? See, there’s a segment that we wouldn’t be doing in primetime. (Laughs.)

THR: Since you've been gone, American Idol hired Mariah Carey. How will she be different than her predecessor Jennifer Lopez? 

Seacrest: Well, they're very different individuals. I think that Mariah will fit right in. She knows the rhythms off this kind of thing. Jennifer had watched a lot of Idol; I'm not such how much Mariah has watched. Certainly, she's watched less of the show, which I think is fine. She's pretty open, and she doesn't sugarcoat much, at least in my experience with her.

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