"Certainly, one of my goals is to make them as comfortable as possible, even though 20 million people will be watching them on television," Ryan Seacrest says of the "American Idol" contestants. "And, of course, the big job is protecting them from Simon. Now that can take work."

- RYAN -
Emcee acts as calm in
an often chaotic scene

Ryan Seacrest serves several roles as emcee of "American Idol."

"I'm part confessioner, part comedian, and a little bit of Switzerland in that I'm the neutral one taking care of these contestants," Seacrest says in a telephone interview from Los Angeles.

And he's the man that helps keep the popular FOX television show "American Idol" energetic, loose and moving forward. After completing an extraordinary run as host of the second season of the wildly successful "American Idol," Seacrest will be in Honolulu this week to interact with the talent and judges.

American Idol logo

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"I have more contact with the contestants than the judges," he says, rapid fire. "I'm with them when they go on, stand nearby when they perform, and I'm usually the last one to see them when they finish.

"Certainly, one of my goals is to make them as comfortable as possible, even though 20 million people will be watching them on television. And, of course, the big job is protecting them from Simon. Now that can take work."

Seacrest often soothes some egos after what seems to be some verbal bashing or critiques by BMG record executive Cowell. But Seacrest says he and Cowell are good friends, though earlier this summer Cowell said Seacrest's so vain he pages himself at airports. That countered Seacrest's reported remark that Cowell walks through airports just to get noticed.

"What you see on television is entertainment and there's nothing wrong with that, especially considering what's happening in the Middle East," he said. "Putting things into perspective, what we're doing is very trivial relative to what's happening there.

"The show is there for entertainment, and hopefully if you flip it on at the end of your day and you sit down with your family we can entertain you for an hour or so."

Originally from Atlanta, Seacrest is currently the host and executive producer of the No. 1-rated weekday afternoon talk show, "Ryan Seacrest for the Ride Home," on L.A. radio station Star 98.7 FM. In addition to his duties as the host of "American Idol" and "American Juniors," he is also set to star in and executive produce a weekly syndicated show beginning in January 2004.

Seacrest, 28 and single, says without hesitation his goal is to become the next Dick Clark.

"It all started when I was 16 and chosen to recite the Pledge of Allegiance over my high school's P.A. system," he said. "It hooked me on the whole broadcast thing."

That same year he applied for an internship at one of Atlanta's top radio stations, WSTR/Star 94, and was turned down.

"If they thought they had seen the last of me they didn't know who they were dealing with," he says laughing. "I kept going back over and over again to do anything to get my foot in the door."

When Seacrest eventually submitted a demo tape to the station's program director he was offered the job as an on-air personality on the 7 p.m. to midnight shift.

"Not bad for a kid, right?" Seacrest says. "My show became one of the highest rated for the station, and I still was able to keep up my school work and even played on my high school football team."

When producers first came to Seacrest to be a host, he never imagined it was going to be the hot blockbuster of the summer.

"But I was excited about it," he said. "I thought the show sounded very cool, and I was interested in doing it. My background is music.

"I remembered sitting down talking with some friends about the show, what if it goes on the air and nobody really watches it? Will it be pulled off the air if it's not successful in two or three weeks?

"Now to see it doing so well and to see contestants that we met in Texas, and Justin (from Pennsylvania), who we met in New York, to see them now become household names essentially, is this incredible experience that I never would have thought could happen."

Seacrest's advice for "Idol" contestants is simple: "Be prepared, be persistent, be yourself and be original. Don't pick songs that are done over and over again."

"Do not up give because one or a few people reject and criticize you," he said. "Learn from the experience and grow.

"It's so easy to tell which one of the people auditioning are prepared or wasting everyone's time including their own. Have your 15 minutes of fame, but not at our expense. Everyone sees through it right away. Be confident with who you are and not some Michael Jackson wannabe."

During Seacrest's freshman year at the University of Georgia, he was offered his first TV show hosting the daily sports game show "Radical Outdoor Challenge" for ESPN on weekends.

In 1995, he moved to L.A. to host "Ryan Seacrest For the Ride Home." He also has a live, nationally syndicated performance show, featuring big-name recording artists.

His other hosting credits include E!'s "Talk Soup," NBC Saturday Night Movie series, and "The New Edge" for the Sci-Fi channel. In July, AT&T Wireless signed Seacrest to lend his "TXT APPEAL" to promote the company's text-messaging services.

Considering his successful broadcasting career, it's no wonder why E! Online recently named the 28-year-old Seacrest as one of the 20 "Young Guns Under 30 Who Hold Hollywood's Future in Their Hands." People magazine also featured Seacrest in its latest picks of "The 50 Most Beautiful People."

And when Seacrest isn't listening to neophyte pop stars, who does he choose to listen to?

"The Four Tops, Dave Matthews Band, Enigma."

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