“I’ve been training all my life for this,” says X Factor host Steve Jones. The dashing Welshman makes his U.S. debut this Wednesday when the show premieres, and it’s been a long road getting there. Two years to be exact, during which time he turned down other TV gigs in his native England on the off chance that X Factor creator and head judge Simon Cowell would call him for duty. When did his phone finally ring? Two days before the Los Angeles auditions. Says Jones: “It got a little hairy towards the end, but it paid off thankfully.”
Or has it? America will come to know Jones and his wry sense of humor soon enough, but The Hollywood Reporter has your pre-show primer with six things you should know about the 34-year-old charmer.
He’s only been mistaken for a Sex Pistol once.
“It happened at the NME awards in London. A guy from a band called Hard-Fi was told he was co-presenting an award with Steve Jones and he was, like, ‘Fantastic, I’ll do it!’ He turned up and said, ‘So when’s Steve Jones arriving?’ And I was like, ‘He’s here, bitch!’ He was, like, ‘I thought it was the guy from Sex Pistols,’ and I was, like, ‘Deal with it, it’s me!’ ”
He hasn’t studied Ryan Seacrest nor does he have Seacrest-like mogul aspirations.
“Ryan is very smooth, sharp and doesn’t get flustered. He’s a great host — very solid and likable… But I’ve never analyzed hosts, to be honest. I didn’t even watch the last series of British X Factor because I wanted to do what I want to do. Doesn’t mean I didn’t respect these guys, but I needed to be me… I don’t have much business acumen. I think I’m better in front of the camera than behind it and I’m happy being creative and hosting. Obviously I’d like to put my own ideas onto the American TV landscape but at the moment, it’s all about X Factor and focused on that 100 percent.”
He never saw his own Welsh-ish accent as a liability, even in light of Cheryl Cole’s exit.
“Fox wasn’t concerned, Simon wasn’t concerned, I wasn’t concerned. This is not my first rodeo, as they say. I’ve been back and forth to America for years. Working at networks like E!, no one has had a problem with my accent ever…. Living in London for 10 years kind of Anglicized me. It’s important if you’re on a nationwide TV show, that people in Scotland, Ireland, England understand what you say. You can’t risk them saying, ‘What the hell is this guy talking about?’ ”
The initial two-host concept didn’t bother him one bit.
“When they said, ‘Would you like to host American X Factor?’ I said, ‘Yeah! I’d do it with a co-host, with 3 hosts, next to a donkey, I just want to host that show!’ And when he said with Nicole Scherzinger, I was doubly sold. We’ve become really good friends. Logistically, it would have been tough to continue with two hosts. There’s a lot going on backstage, you’ve got, like, 30 family members, and the auditioner and the two hosts. Don’t get me wrong, if me and Nicole continued, we would have ironed out any possible problems. It would have worked in the end but I think it’s a solo mission, definitely. It’s almost too much for one person.”
He’s currently “gorging on American TV and loving it.”
“It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia — I so want to be on that show. I love all those guys. And if they don’t want me on the show, I’ll just come along and clean up after them. I’ll drive them to the set. I’ll do anything they need done. All the comedies, I’m obsessed with… like Curb Your Enthusiasm, and Seinfeld. From the moment we’re born, we’re listening to American music, watching American sitcoms, watching dramas, growing up on Dallas and Falcon Crest. Fingers crossed, and Cat Deely‘s proven it works. that British presenters can come across to America because we know all your cultural references.”
His favorite band: Rage Against the Machine, which made their 2009 Christmas No. 1 in the UK — a coup after five years of X Factor winners topping the charts — both ironic and bittersweet.
“I went from glitter and Duran Duran to Oasis, who exploded in 1993 and put the bollocks back into rock n roll. I loved Liam [Gallagher] and Oasis was one of the first concerts I’ve went to see. Then Rage Against the Machine and Nirvana came along, and I felt that was for me. I remember seeing Rage on a show called The Word. I was 13, maybe 14 at the time and the lyrics resonated with me — I was quite an angry, angsty youth. The next day, I made this 35-mile journey and bought the Rage Against the Machine and Nirvana albums and got heavily into that. I would give my right arm for Zack [de la Rocha] to write another Rage Against the Machine album… As for the Christmas No. 1, the irony was not lost on me, but it was all a bit of fun wasn’t it?”