Former FOX Executive Says Simon Cowell Was Playing a Character on ‘American Idol’

Jill O'Rourke
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If you’ve ever wondered whether Simon Cowell was putting on his mean persona during his time on American Idol, former FOX executive Mike Darnell recently confirmed as much. Darnell said Cowell “learned the character.”


Was Simon Cowell Playing a Character on American Idol?

Darnell, former President of Alternative Entertainment at FOX, told Deadline he was interested in a new kind of talent show judge to contrast the nicer personalities. The executive was drawn to Cowell’s honesty during an audition taping. Cowell previously delivered frank remarks on Pop Idol in the UK.

“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 recalled. “In all the other shows before him, everyone was polite and nice, and I knew that was going to be thing.”

Darnell added that Cowell was “willing to do anything,” adding that he “learned the character.” As Darnell explained, “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 is in contrast to Gordon Ramsay, who, according to Darnell, “is not doing a character.” He shared that the chef’s anger on shows such as Hell’s Kitchen is “all real.”

SEE ALSO: 10 ‘GOT TALENT’ SINGERS WHO PROVED SIMON COWELL WRONG

Cowell Claims He Softened After Having a Son

Anyone who’s been keeping up with talent shows over the years will definitely have noticed a change in Cowell’s judging style since he appeared on American Idol. Although he still shares negative feedback on occasion, he’s much nicer to contestants on shows like AGT and BGT.


According to Cowell himself, the birth of his son Eric in 2014 affected his approach to judging. He told People that having a child makes you “feel different because you understand how you would feel if it was your son up there.”

Cowell added his belief that shows such as American Idol and The X Factor “were edited so that I was always seen as this bad-tempered, miserable whatever – which of course I am at times, but I’m not like that the whole day!”

Which Simon Cowell do you prefer — mean or nice? Let us know in the comments below.

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