Lionel Richie Says He's the 'Adult in the Room' on 'American Idol' Reboot

The American Idol reboot has all the ingredients of the original — heartwarming back stories, talented newcomers and off-the-wall personalities. But one thing fans have not found in the ABC revival of the show is the animosity between judges that often made the competition more of a fight between big personalities than a show of talent.

That's not to say the new judges Katy Perry, Lionel Richie and Luke Bryan are all on the same page. As Richie noted to Variety prior to the Sunday, March 11 premiere, his decades in the music industry definitely gives him a different perspective.

“I don’t think we have to fight,” the singer said. “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 continued. “And I find it hilarious, some of the things Katy and Luke 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.”

Rob Mills, SVP of alternative series, specials and late night confirmed the dynamic to the publication. “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.”

Richie added that having an all-artist panel of judges this season will add to the empathy in their responses to the Idol hopefuls.

“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.”

The ABC exec said he thought Richie's personality would be an asset to American Idol, not a hindrance: “His being nice is not shtick,” Mills said. “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.”

He also suggested 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," he said.

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American Idol airs Sundays at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.

Photo credit: ABC