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Interview with Simon Cowell of "The X Factor" on
FBC PUBLICITY: Simon Cowell The X Factor Call
September 13, 2011/5:30 p.m. EDT
Moderator Welcome to the Simon Cowell The X Factor Call. At this time
all telephone participants will be in a listen-only mode. In just a few
minutes there will be an opportunity for your questions. As a reminder,
the conference is being recorded
I would now like to turn the conference over to our host, Ms. Jill
Hudson from Fox Publicity.
J. Hudson Thank you so much for joining us today for the conference call
with Simon Cowell. As a reminder, weíre here to talk about The X Factor,
which premiers on Wednesday, September 21st, at 8:00 p.m. ET and PT on
Fox. We kindly request that no personal questions are asked during this
At this time Iíll turn the call over to Simon, and weíll be ready to
start with the first question.
S. Cowell My first question to you, Jill, is why do you have a Canadian
accent all of a sudden? Iím serious; youíre not Canadian.
J. Hudson I am not Canadian.
S. Cowell No, but that was Canadian. Anyway, just wanted to say to
everybody thank you for coming on the call. I look forward to your
questions, and weíll find out from Jill later why she has a strange
Moderator It has been requested that you limit your questions to one
question. If you have follow-up questions you can get back into the
queue. We go first to the line of Lindsay Parker with Yahoo!
L. Parker I know that Iíve seen on Twitter and stuff that some former
American Idol contestants have auditioned for the show, and my thought
is, my question is how do you think of that, is that something youíd
consider having people who have been on other reality shows on the show?
And will we have any people like funny people, like the Jedward's and
Wagner's, on this season of the U.S. version?
S. Cowell Yes. I mean Iím glad you asked that, and I think it comes back
to our point about having as few rules as possible; I mean that was the
whole idea in the show in the first place. And we did expect some people
who weíve seen before on Idol to come along, so I didnít really have a
problem with that. None of them did particularly well. It was quite nice
to hear them a second time.
And with regards, for people who donít know who Wagner is or Jedward,
they were what I consider kind of joke contestants who got through to
the final of the X Factor in the U.K. because one particular judge liked
them. It comes down to the individual judgeís decisions, because in the
later stages of the show you make decisions whoís going to make the
finals depending on what category youíre given. And already there have
been one or two questionable decisions by a couple of the judges, but
thatís down to them.
Moderator A question from the line of Ray Richmond with the Deadline
R. Richmond Hey, wondering do you think American Idol is going to
finally win the reality competition program Emmy this Sunday; I know
this isnít an X Factor question. And why if you think it will and why
not if you think it wonít? And if it does would you find it any way
ironic and/or threatening?
S. Cowell Well I find it very amusing that after all these years that
the year I wasnít on it it would win the Emmy, and I think that would
make me laugh so it probably will.
With regard to threatening, no, I donít see it as threatening; I think
it would be more ironic. But I think Iím going to say if it does win
this year itís for all the years we did before, so whatever happens Iím
going to claim the victory, I promise you, and replicate the Emmy and
just put my name on it.
Moderator A question from the line of Steve Gidlow with Life and Style
S. Gidlow I just wondered if you could tease us with some of the
standout contestants so far; has anyone really, really impressed you?
S. Cowell All the interesting onesóI wonít say all the interesting ones,
we have promoed a few. Weíve held back a lot for the first show and what
weíre going to show tomorrow night in terms of what I would call
different types of contestants to what youíve seen before; very, very
different backstories, the kind of stories I donít think other shows
would put on but we are. And I think youíll hopefully enjoy it as much
as I enjoyed making it when you watch it back. Itís quite edgy, itís
very raw, itís real life, but itís a talent show, so the ones we thought
were talented we put on the show, but they are different to what youíve
Moderator We go to Richard Huff with the New York Daily News.
R. Huff How are you feeling at this point; are you excited, scared, what
are you thinking?
S. Cowell Do you know Iím feeling excited now. I mean there are always
nerves before a launch, but itís good nerves. We always do this every
time we make a show; we will edit the show, guaranteed, finish editing
it hours before transmission because weíll be making changes. But my
friends and the people who have seen the show theyíve got excited about
it, and Iím hoping that obviously America feels the same way, too. But
no, Iím really starting to have a good time now. And Iím looking forward
to tomorrow, because Iíve always wanted to do this, which is to have
kind of like a, not a film premier, a TV premier in a cinema. Itís
Moderator We go to Michael Slezak with TVLine.
M. Slezak I wanted to know a lot of times on singing competitions like
Idol and The Voice weíve seen people get really excited about sort of
radical reinventions of songs, like Adam Lambert doing ďRing of FireĒ
with guitar or Chris Allen reinventing ďHeartlessĒ. Are you going to be
pushing contestants to do that?
S. Cowell Who was the last guy you mentioned?
M. Slezak Chris Allen reinventing ďHeartlessĒ or Adam Lambert doing
ďRing of FireĒ on guitar.
S. Cowell Oh sorry. Yes.
M. Slezak Are you going to push contestants out of their comfort zones,
are you going to push them to be radically rearranging songs, or are you
thinking more straightforward interpretations?
S. Cowell Oh 100% we want as many unique versions as possible, otherwise
you just turn it into a karaoke competition. So within about three weeks
into the show youíre going to start hearing contestants way outside
their comfort zone and hearing versions of songs you havenít heard
before. Part of the reason for doing that, as I said, is that you donít
want it to be like a bad sound alike, and secondly weíre going to sell
downloads on iTunes so you have to come up with unique versions. And
thatís part of the test of the contestants within the show, who can come
up with the most unique version of the song; otherwise itís just boring.
Moderator We go to Rodney Ho with Atlanta Journal Constitution.
R. Ho Youíve been doing this challenge show so long, youíve heard so
many of the same songs over and over again, are there certain songs that
you outright banned from the competition that you just said no way, I
donít want to ever hear that song again?
S. Cowell Yes. ďI Believe I Could FlyĒ is pretty high up there, ďAt
LastĒ I think Iím now allergic to that song, and everybody seems to
think ďUnchained MelodyĒ is my favorite song of all time. I think
somebody said that as a joke, because itís not, and I canít hear that
anymore. And Jason Mraz that hit he had a few years ago I cannot listen
to that anymore, I mean as soon as they start-- Oh, and Iíll tell you
one, ďOrdinary PeopleĒ by John Legend.
R. Ho Really?
S. Cowell Yes, because they always try and sing it like that version and
itís never as good, and I have to stop it now after about five seconds.
S. Cowell If we had longer I have a few more, but we doó
R. Ho Oh sure, yes, if you want to list a few more feel free.
S. Cowell No, itís fine.
Moderator We go next to the line of Joey Guerra with Houston Chronicle.
J. Guerra I wanted to ask you about I guess potentially with the Ö plan
Ö with Paula; was it Ö that old feeling again or is there anything
different or new that you Ö?
S. Cowell Well what was interesting is that Paula can be a bit wacky at
times, but Nicole actually wasnít far behind in a fantastically
self-centered way, which she wasnít aware of, which I found really
amusing. There was another part of the auditions where every city we
went to, and again Nicole wasnít aware of this, she changed her accent;
when she was in New York she had this kind of Brooklyn thing going on
and then when she went to Dallas she became this southern belle. I mean
she just changes every city you go into.
And with Paula the great thing about working with her is within about
five minutes of filming sheís not aware that the cameras are on anymore
and sheíll fight with you over something, over something sometimes
important, often not. And thatís what I like about her; she is prepared
to argue. So itís like getting an old dog back from the rescue pound;
itís kind of grateful to see you and the relationship is back in tact.
Moderator We go to Sean Daily with Xfinity.
S. Daily If I were to ask you what it would take to make The X Factor
work Iím sure you would tell me a great amount of talent and good
singing. But since this is a television program and weíre here to
entertain people as well how important are the backstories that the
contestants are going to share to the success of making this a
successful television show?
S. Cowell Personally I think theyíre crucial, because I get to meet the
contestants for the first time when they audition and we have no
background information on them at all, which I donít want to know. And
if theyíre interesting to me when Iím asking them questions then I think
theyíre going to be interesting to people who watch the show.
Normally when I ask them whatís the most interesting thing thatís
happened in your life and they start droning on about singing at the age
of three or four Iím honestly not interested. I expect all of them to
say that they wanted to be a singer; thatís obvious. I really am
interested in their backstories; if they got divorced why did they get
divorced, if theyíre married are they happy being married, if theyíve
left college how do their parents feel about them leaving college to
pursue a music career. So really obviously number one on the list is
talent, but number two is you really, really have to be an interesting
person and have a very good backstory.
Moderator A question from the line of Tenley Woodman with the Boston
T. Woodman I was wondering that now that you have Paula back if you had
any interest in bringing Randy Jackson in for a little bit of an
American Idol original line up reunion?
S. Cowell Well I miss Randy, because he really is a good friend. Maybe
weíll just get him a couple of front row seats every week and he can
just do his dog-barking thing. No, but seriously though, I really do
miss him, but heís happy on Idol. I think L.A., who we brought in, has
been genuinely a revelation, because heís one of the most competitive
people Iíve ever worked with in my life, so it was a different challenge
for me. So Iím going to miss Randy as a person, but we hang out all the
time. Iím probably going to meet up with him this week for dinner, so
itís all good.
Moderator A question from the line of John Gonzalez with Grand Rapids
J. Gonzalez Simon, what do you think it will be like for the American
public and what will make them connect with this show?
S. Cowell Well I think it goes back to the point someone made earlier on
about the backstories: how interesting are the contestants, can you be
bothered to invest time in them, are they good, is it different from
what youíve heard before. And I was very aware of that when we made the
show because of the obvious comparisons to other shows out there, and I
always said to people I think when you watch the show youíre going to
understand that thereís more than a subtle difference between the two.
So itís a combination of it has to be raw, you have to allow the viewers
to see things they havenít seen before, you have to like or hate the
contestants, and they have to be brilliant every week. And if you donít
have any of that people will switch off--I would switch off if it didnít
Moderator We have a question from the line of Annie Barrett with
A. Barrett I was wondering how, just from like a production standpoint,
how is doing the American version of the show been different so far from
your stance doing the British version?
S. Cowell Well itís a good question, because when we first did this it
was kind of weird for me because we do these auditions in front of
crowds 4,000 people, 5,000 people, 6,000 people in arenas, and of course
nobody had seen the show before. And in a strange way it made it more
interesting, because the audience didnít know what to expect. I could
feel that they were kind of excited and a bit edgy, and then they got it
I would say the American audiences are more vocal, that when they like
someone they let you know, and they certainly let you know when they
disagree with you. There were a few occasions where we had to, otherwise
I think I may have got seriously injured, bring back some contestants we
said no to because the audience wanted them through, because we did say
to them youíre sort of like the fifth judge here. So it was fun and
everywhere we went the crowds were good. Better in the evenings, because
you could feel a lot of them were drunk so they were louder, and I like
that. I might do that for the live shows, just make everybody drink
before they come in.
Moderator We go to the line of Andrea Morabito with Broadcasting &
A. Morabito Can you tell me what is the most important thing that youíve
learned during your time as a judge on American Idol that youíve now
been applying for launching The X Factor Ö?
S. Cowell Well you have to say what you think, basically, otherwise
anyone could do this job; I mean everyone has an opinion, you like
somebody, you donít like somebody. Not many people are prepared to
actually say I think what other people are thinking at home, and I
genuinely donít have a problem with that. And the more time I spent in
America the best compliment you could have is when people come up to you
and say, ďYou do say what Iím thinking.Ē So I felt comfortable doing
that when I moved from Idol onto The X Factor. It doesnít always make
you comfortable when you watch it back, but it definitely makes the show
more honest I think.
Moderator We have a question from the line of Tom Jicha with Sun
Sentinel South Florida.
T. Jicha One of the things that was going to be unique, at least I think
to American audience, was the mentoring process and now thereís some of
The Voice jumped in and did something similar to that.
S. Cowell Yes.
T. Jicha What are your feelings about that?
S. Cowell Well they didnít do it as well as us, if Iím being honest with
you, and you will genuinely see the difference, I think, on this show. I
kind of expected them to do something like that, but thatís the nature
of the game when you make reality shows. But it is a necessary part of
the format that you really do mentor these contestants. And look, itís
not just what you do during the show; anyone can mentor. The point is
can you mentor someone through the show and actually create a star. So
youíre going to have to judge X Factor on what we do compared to what
they did on The Voice.
As Iím talking to you, this week an artist I mentored on X Factor last
year in the U.K., they didnít win, they came third, but theyíre going to
have the biggest selling single this year and the biggest selling album;
theyíre a band called One Direction. So thatís what I call proper
mentoring where youíre preparing somebody for the real world.
T. Jicha How early will the mentoring start?
S. Cowell It starts the second youíre given your category, when you find
out who you have; you have the young guys, you have the young girls, you
have the over 30 year olds, and you have the groups, and depending on
what category you have you work with them all the way through until the
end of the show.
Moderator A question from the line of Lori Rackl with Chicago Sun Times.
L. Rackl Cheryl Cole was shown briefly at the judgeís table in the
trailer. Iím just wondering how youíre going to handle that situation;
is she going to be edited out completely, is it going to be addressed at
S. Cowell No. No. Sheís in episode one. Sheís in the first hour. So in
terms of how we address it I think we just pretty much tell it as it
was; she was on the show and then she got replaced by Nicole. So on the
first half of the show next week itís Cheryl and then the second half
itís Nicole. Hello?
Moderator We go next to the line of Kristyn Clark with Pop Culture
K. Clark So I know youíve mentioned several times about hating shows and
things that are predictable. In what ways will The X Factor be
S. Cowell Gosh, well itís just the fact, I suppose, that when you make a
reality show good things happen and bad things happen. I think one of
the things we showed in that eight-minute promo was me having a sort of
a childish meltdown because I hated what everybody was doing on this
particular day. But we do actually show the process, but itís not always
happy, sunny days when you make these shows, that things go wrong, bad
things happen backstage, people have major tantrums, including the
judges and the contestants, they go mad at you and that you have to show
all that. You have to show the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Moderator A question from the line of Reg Seeton with the
R. Seeton Can you talk about some of the challenges you had to overcome
in bringing the show to America in order to make it work effectively as
compared to Britain?
S. Cowell Well I think the first challenge was, if Iím being honest with
you, I think the network initially would have been happier that we all
stayed on Idol for the rest of our lives and there wouldnít be another
show. The problem with that was is that the show was becoming more and
more popular around the world and inevitably somebody would have come
along and done something really, really close to this show. And once we
explained this to Fox they accepted the fact that itís going to have to
go on the air. And I mean they didnít have to be sort of dragged and
screaming to it in the end, but these are expensive shows to produce but
because we had a really good couple of years the last two years in the
U.K. I think it sort of speeded the process up and then they got really
And then the other challenges, of course, are trying to make your mind
up who should be judging it, who should be hosting it; lots of things
went wrong along the way. And that goes back to the previous caller, bad
things happen when you make reality shows and it does become very
public, but you just have to deal with it.
Moderator We go to Daedrian McNaughton with Premier Guide Media.
D. McNaughton You had a childish meltdown really, Simon? How did that
S. Cowell Well it was during one of the boot camp shows, and I think we
had about a hundred contestants, like a hundred and ten or something,
and they had an overnight challenge with a list of songs to just
literally on piano or guitar do a kind of a stripped down version. And
for some reason a load of programmers were brought in that night, and
they all started coming up with weird what they thought were creative
versions of these songs. I mean they sounded absolutely dreadful and
were getting worse and worse and worse, and everybody sounded rubbish
and we had a live audience in and they knew it was rubbish. It was just
one of those very, very uncomfortable days. And the whole thing was
filmed, and then the producers thought it would be amusing to include it
in the show. And I actually, when I watched it back, although it was a
bit embarrassing I thought yes, why not keep it in.
D. McNaughton Were you crying?
S. Cowell Crying. No. But there was a lot of crying. I think the
following day it was like I remember thinking itís kind of 11/3
Nicole/Paula on the crying stakes; Paula was quite a long ways behind
Nicole amazingly, and then literally on the final two days called it all
back and then theyíre even stevens.
Moderator A question from the line of Andrew Ryan with Globe and Mail.
A. Ryan Given the current climate of the music industry and the fact
that there are so many talent shows on TV now do you think a show like
The X Factor can produce like a megastar, like a Lady Gaga or a Justin
Bieber, right out of the gate?
S. Cowell A hundred percent yes. And like I was saying earlier on, what
Iíve seen with the show in the last couple of years in the U.K. with the
kind of artists weíve attracted the artists coming through are not just
competing, they are murdering the opposition in the U.K. at the moment.
And we hope to do the same thing with the show here; that was always the
sole reason for making a show like this, can you find a different kind
of artist who doesnít just work within a competition show, because weíre
always going to have a winner, but actually can compete with the big
artists out there around the world. And thatís what you hope is going to
happen, and I will die trying until the end to do that.
Moderator I believe we have time for one last question. That is from the
line of Rachel Stein, and Ms. Stein if you can state your organization
and then your question.
R. Stein From Television Without Pity.
S. Cowell All right, Rachel, last question; this has got to be a really,
really good one.
R. Stein I think itís pretty good. Itís actually touching upon a couple
of the other things, Simon. Weíve seen on some of the other reality
talent competitions that the winning contestant doesnít always go on to
have the most successful music career and sometimes, say in the case of
Rubin Stoddard and Clay Aiken, like the runner up is actually way more
successful. Why do you think that is?
S. Cowell Well I think it goes back partly to what we were talking about
earlier on about the mentoring process, and it was a huge reason why in
the U.K. I left Idol and started X Factor, because I used to get
frustrated that we as people who work in the music business werenít
allowed to do anything with the contestants on a week-by-week basis and
they would make these awful decisions. And I do think that if you have
the right artist and they have the right person working with them you
can start to demonstrate on the show each week the kind of record youíd
be releasing after you hopefully won the competition.
And thatís why I think some of these contestants havenít done well,
because they win because of popularity, not because of having a unique
talent theyíve demonstrated on a week-by-week basis. And thatís why you
have to update the process; you have to do something different and you
have to take risks. So weíll wait and see and see what happens.
R. Stein Thatís wonderful. We look forward to it.
S. Cowell Yes. Thank you very much indeed, and thank everybody for
taking the time to be on the call today. Hello?
Moderator Yes. And back to our speakers for any closing remarks.
S. Cowell Jill.
J. Hudson Thank you so much for joining us today. We really appreciate
it. Want to make sure that everyoneís aware that there is an
eight-minute presentation reel available for viewing on the Fox
Screening Room and all photos for The X Factor are available at
Thank you so much. Thank you, Simon.
S. Cowell Good-bye, Jill. Weíll talk later.
J. Hudson Okay. Good-bye.
S. Cowell Good-bye, sweetheart.
Moderator Ladies and gentlemen, this will conclude our conference call
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