Secrets Behind 'American Idol's' Incredible Comeback

 Art Streiber

For the first time, and in dramatic detail, the players recount in the new Hollywood Reporter the crisis at hand after Simon Cowell quit, who was on their first shortlist of judges and the meetings that led to this season’s Dream Team.


DARNELL We hired them without having them sit together, and we didn't know how they would be dynamically, which is probably the most important thing when it comes to these shows. So I asked Ryan to invite them to dinner the night before we made our big announcement.

SEACREST It was the four of us -- no agents, no spouses, nobody else -- and top secret. Cecile and I had talked about having us get together and shoot the breeze, just talk freely and openly about the show in the past and the future and what we can all bring to it. And within the first 12 minutes of us sitting in my living room, we could all tell that this was going to be fun.

JACKSON We got on like a house on fire. Ryan and I looked at each other and knew it was definitely going to work. Then some of the execs dropped by later, and they were like, "Wow, it's like old pals week."

SEACREST Randy's telling stories about the Journey days, and Steven is telling stories about … well, he's got so many great stories. And he asked questions.

JACKSON I said: "Look, you can say whatever you want. You always have to call it as you see it and stand behind whatever you say. If you love something to death, love something to death. I don't care who says what -- do you, always." It's exactly the same advice we give the kids. I think we were really blessed, finding two legends -- and Jennifer was an avid fan of the show -- who could jump into this. They were able and really felt the nurturing passion that a show like this requires. 

SEACREST Steven tells Jennifer that he just watched The Back-up Plan and thought she was brilliant in it. Jennifer says, "Is that the reason you want to sit beside me on Idol? The Back-up Plan?" And we all laughed. The next day we announced it.

DARNELL The news that Jennifer and Steven were joining the show had basically leaked, and we debated whether we should announce it officially. We decided to do it at the Forum in September because leaks don't mean anything until you hear that it's official. And the crowd was out of their minds when Jennifer and Steven came out. It was exciting. It felt like a new beginning. We all sat on a panel and spoke to the press, and they were already charming together. The boys were protective over Jennifer. It was lovely.

FULLER There are a lot of preconceived thoughts about Steven and Jennifer. They're known as these icons -- but not people. Jennifer was always loved, but is she a diva? I think she was quite polarizing prior to Idol, but as we got to know her, we got to see the sensitive, funny, compassionate, smart side. Then it's, like, "Hey, she's kind of cool."

FROT-COUTAZ Chemistry builds over time in working together, but we knew both would bring very different things to it. And that's what matters, ultimately, is to have different kinds of characters and points of views. Plus, they're both passionate people. Was it a gamble? Of course it was. Everything is.

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