‘American Idol’ Producer: Simon Cowell Had To Learn To Be Mean

Simon Cowell | YouTube

Fans of American Idol remember Simon Cowell as the mean-spirited judge who never held his tongue. In the years since he joined America’s Got Talent, Simon seems to have softened some. However, American Idol producer Mike Darnell said that Cowell had to work hard to act mean on that reality show.

Here is what the producer said about Cowell and why he isn’t as cold as people might have thought.

Simon Cowell had to learn to be mean on American Idol

Mike Darnell was the man who helped shepherd the reality TV genre on Fox in the 2000s. He was there when American Idol started and he remembered when the producers instructed Cowell on how to act toward the contestants on the show. The first thing they did was tell Simon to go tell someone they were out.

Simon Cowell | YouTube

Darnell said that it wasn’t easy on Simon, who seemed a little too harsh when he was sending someone home. During that time, the judges on reality competition shows seemed to be really nice and supportive in their critiques. However, Simon Cowell worked on Pop Idol in Britain from 2001 to 2003. It was there that he had to learn how to be mean and frank with the contestants. Darnell said he wanted American Idol to be different, and he wanted a “mean” judge on the show to bring in viewers.

“I knew we had to get Simon Cowell as he was the star of the show, but we needed something different in the U.S. — the mean judge, the frank judge,” Darnell said during a career retrospective session at Content London. “In all the other shows before him, everyone was polite and nice, and I knew that was going to be [our] thing.” He said that Cowell was game to try anything.

Simon Cowell & Gordon Ramsay are very different

Darnell, who is now the President of Unscripted Television at Warner Bros Discovery, said Cowell became “the character” that fans saw on American Idol. “Underneath he’s a different character. Watch Britain’s Got Talent or America’s Got Talent now and he’s a much softer version now.”

This explains why Simon Cowell seemed like a very different person on America’s Got Talent, where he is helpful and a lot kinder than he seemed on American Idol.

Simon Cowell | YouTube

However, Darnell said that there were other mean judges that didn’t have to work hard at all to become this person. While Simon was a very different person inside than he portrayed on TV, Darnell said that Gordon Ramsay didn’t fake. The producer said that Hell’s Kitchen has Ramsay being himself and it isn’t scripted at all.

Are you surprised that Simon Cowell had to learn to be mean on American Idol? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

Shawn Lealos
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