You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Lionel Richie Is the ‘Adult in the Room’ on ‘American Idol’

The execs at ABC didn’t lie awake all night long worrying whether Lionel Richie would be a worthy addition to the “American Idol” judges’ panel.

“Whether you’re eight or 88, you feel as if he has been a part of your life,” says Rob Mills, SVP of alternative series, specials and late night. “He is on the Mount Rushmore of iconic hitmakers. So when you put that on TV, there absolutely is a sense of warmth and recognition that you couldn’t get with anyone else.”

Mills even suggests that Richie’s appearance on the show will make up for the memoir he hasn’t written: “Lionel has so much knowledge that he is imparting. This is his televised version of his autobiography. He wants to make sure the next generation of Idols are the keepers of the flame.”

But where’s the drama in this docudrama? In the early stages of production of the “American Idol” reboot, a potential scandal — of sorts — emerged, when a TMZ report alleged that there wasn’t nearly enough animosity among the new judges. That wasn’t totally unexpected, as no one imagines Lionel Richie suddenly going full Simon Cowell on his fellow jurists.

“I don’t think we have to fight,” says the singer. “As far as the shock and awe of ‘I don’t like you, I hate you’ — eh, you probably won’t get that.” Which is not to say that everyone’s on the same personality page. “I found out early on that I’m the adult in the room,” Richie says. “And I find it hilarious, some of the things Katy [Perry] and Luke [Bryan] say that I would never say on national television, and it comes out of their mouths so easily because that’s their generation. I’m a little bit more guarded on what I’m saying. I think their job is to see if they can get me to faint before the show is over.”

Mills confirms that dynamic: “I think that of the three of them, Lionel is probably the most mature in the room. That said, he has a wicked sense of humor and can be just as playful as Katy and Luke. In the third episode, the judges all give each other gifts and Lionel gives Katy and Luke an Afro wig and mustache.”

The ABC exec is confident Richie’s geniality won’t be a liability on a show that’s often been fueled by irascibility. “His being nice is not shtick,” Mills says. “He genuinely believes you can be successful and still be a decent human being. But there is also a side to him that is critical, and he is hardest on himself. This is his first time in a role like this, and he wants to be as legendary a TV presence as he is a music presence. He will be as critical of himself and the potential Idols as he has to be to be successful.”

Even though everyone, Richie included, wants to play up the idea that the singer can put aside his genial persona when he needs to, Richie takes some pride in how having an all-artists panel on the new “Idol” fosters more empathy with the contestants.

“Because we’re artists, when we tell them no, we all know what ‘no’ sounds like,” he says. “We know where the pain and the struggle is. Basically they’re getting free psychiatric help from us before they get further into the business.”

More Music

  • Lil Nas XCMA Fest, Nashville, USA

    Lil Nas X's 'Old Town Road' Featuring Billy Ray Cyrus Is Certified Diamond

    The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) declared on Tuesday that Lil Nas X’s hit “Old Town Road” featuring Billy Ray Cyrus is diamond certified. Not only is “Old Town Road” the first song of 2019 to gain the recognition, it is the first in the RIAA’s history to meet the minimum requirement of 10,000,000 [...]

  • Selena Gomez Releases New Single, Leaves

    Selena Gomez Lets the World In on a Rough Romance With 'Lose You to Love Me' (Watch)

    Ever since she released “The Heart Wants What It Wants,” which served as a half-humbled, half-defiant apologia about her relationship with Justin Bieber, Selena Gomez has managed to otherwise successfully avoid the subject, at least in song, of the troubled coupling that fascinated so much of the world. Five years later, she’s returned to the [...]

  • Cardi B

    Cardi B Joins Vin Diesel in 'Fast & Furious 9'

    Cardi B has joined the cast of Universal’s “Fast & Furious 9” in an undisclosed role. It’s the rapper’s first movie part since her role as the stripper Diamond in STX’s drama “Hustlers.” Vin Diesel disclosed the casting Tuesday in a post on his Instagram account with a video that showed him and Cardi B [...]

  • Mountaintop

    Film Review: Neil Young's 'Mountaintop'

    If you ever wished you could be a fly on the wall at a Neil Young recording session, his new film “Mountaintop” may put that desire to the test. Or at least it’ll severely try the patience of any unsuspecting dates who get dragged along by Young fanatics to the movie’s one night in North [...]

  • Michael MannLACMA: Art and Film Gala,

    TV News Roundup: Michael Mann to Direct and Executive Produce HBO Max's 'Tokyo Vice'

    In today’s TV news roundup, HBO Max names MIchael Mann as a director and executive producer of “Tokyo Vice” and Chip and Joanna Gaines announce the first original series coming to the couple’s Magnolia Network. DATES Netflix announced a six-episode docuseries centered on Nasty Cherry, the latest all-female group signed to Charli XCX’s label will [...]

  • Universal Screens 'Bride of Frankenstein,' Releases

    Universal Screens 'Bride of Frankenstein,' Releases Franz Waxman Score for First Time

    Halloween is only days away, and what better way to celebrate than with a classic monster movie that’s been fully restored and whose original score has, 84 years later, finally been issued as a soundtrack album? Universal screened its 1935 “Bride of Frankenstein” Monday night to an appreciative audience on the studio lot, following a [...]

  • Lizzo performs on stage at The

    Watch Lizzo Dance With 'Home Alone' Star Macaulay Culkin at L.A. Concert

    Macaulay Culkin (“Home Alone”) is a serious Lizzo fan, and he’s not afraid to demonstrate his love for the fast-rising singer in front of a packed audience, even if it requires busting a move. Culkin showed up to Lizzo’s Los Angeles concert Monday night, inspiring the audience to start chanting, “I don’t really need you, [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content