"American Idol" fans barely had time to process Paula Abdul's shocking exit from the show back in August before another surprise came their way: Ellen DeGeneres would be taking her seat on the judges' panel. Viewers had a lot of questions about the move, not the least of which was what qualified the comedian and talk-show host to judge a singing competition.
We caught up with original judge Randy Jackson to see what he thinks of his new colleague, and he insisted that Ellen is the right woman for the job.
"I think her being just a die-hard music fan and loving music [makes her qualified to judge]. And just being a really smart, talented person herself — because she's a performer and entertainer as well, right?" he told reporters in a conference call Friday (January 8). "She knows about performing and entertaining, because this is how she's made her career, and a very amazingly successful, great career."
Jackson stressed that DeGeneres will represent "Idol" viewers on the panel as an ardent music lover: "She'll give that layperson-at-home view. ... She will give the at-home viewer a real voice to be on the judges' panel."
While Jackson and DeGeneres haven't judged together just yet (Hollywood Week doesn't start until next week, and Ellen was hired after auditions were already taped), he's sure she'll bring a new feel to the panel.
"It's definitely going to be a different dynamic, completely different people," he predicted. "Ellen's different than Paula, and she's going to interact with Simon [Cowell] and interact with me and Kara [DioGuardi] very differently."
The biggest difference? "There will be a lot of laughs," Jackson promised of the ninth season, which kicks off Tuesday at 8 p.m. "Welcoming Ellen to the fold is a good look. She's funny, she's charismatic, she's really cool, she's my homegirl from Louisiana, like me. It's going to be a very interesting, funny, different season of 'Idol.' "
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