“Hopefully I’ll be back for Season 2, but I always exercise caution in these matters. If I’m back, I’ll be overjoyed. If I’m not, I’ll do something else. It’s as simple as that. I’ve loved doing the show. As I’ve said a few times before now, it’s a dream job. So yes, I’d be back in a heartbeat to do the second season.” _Steve Jones: Host of The X Factor
Steve Jones, host of The X Factor
By: Daedrian McNaughton | Premier Guide Media | Premier Guide Miami
Steve Jones, a former model who was discovered by Elle Magazine to do freelance modeling work, hosted the first season of The X Factor USA.
The Welchman has invested in The X Factor because he values the opinions of the judges. However, he finds cutting them off to continue the show a bit challenging.
We caught up with Jones before his release from the show to discuss his annoyance with the judges, especially the complicated Simon Cowell, his road trip after the season culminates and his abrupt stage presence and manner which is often misconstrued as being rude.
Although the job as host is high pressured, he welcomes the challenges and the excitement that comes with it. He would be overjoyed if he was invited back for season 2, but was a bit skeptical about the future, as this is showbiz, and anything can happen.
How has it been for you as host of The X Factor?
Steve Jones: It’s been fantastic. It’s been everything I hoped and much more. It’s definitely measured up to the dream job status that I was hoping for. But it’s tough, to be honest with you. It’s tough. It’s a hard show to do. It’s kind of surprised me a little bit how hard the process is, the live element and steering the judges and all the rest of it. It’s hard. It’s hard to come across as a fun person and polite when you’re steering such a beast and we’re on limited time. It’s surprised me how tough it’s been. It really has. But I’ve enjoyed hanging out with the judges, and making new friends, and the production team. It’s been amazing. I’m enjoying my new life here in L.A. I got a nice house, nice car. I’m paying my taxes. I’m a good citizen. I’m legit.
Are you getting used to the attention?
Steve Jones: I’m used to it back in the U.K. I get approached by a lot of people and there are various things written. But, America’s always been a place I’d go to for a bit of anonymity. I’ve been coming back and forth here for years and years. So it’s peculiar that people are approaching me and asking for pictures and autographs and stuff. That’s new because that’s obviously never happened in America before. But everybody is very polite and yes, it doesn’t bother me in the slightest. It’s flattering actually. If you go about and you’re not feeling great on a particular day, somebody approaches you in the supermarket and tells you how much they like you, that can put a spring in your step. I’m not going to complain. It’s nice.
You are often compared to Ryan Seacrest, does it bother you?
Steve Jones: I’m hugely flattered. I mean, it’s Ryan Seacrest. This guy is a titan of the industry. He’s the biggest host on the planet. So if my name is mentioned in the same sentence as this guy, I’m doing something right. I really am. I’m overjoyed to be compared to the likes of Ryan. He’s a fantastic host. I’ve met him a few times. He’s very polite and we have great chats. Yes, I couldn’t be more happy. I really couldn’t. Ryan doesn’t feel so great when he’s hearing my name mentioned in the same sentence as his own, but I’m the up and coming new guy. It’s a great place to start. It really is.
Are there any challenging aspects of your job as host?
Steve Jones: Probably the time element, getting everything done in the limited time we have. In all honesty, two hours is a long time as such to start and finish any show, but we have the judges to contend with. And these people just speak endlessly. They will say the same points like five or six times in succession. For me that’s the most difficult bit because I relish every word these people say. They’re interesting. They’re funny. They’re opinionated. They’re arrogant. They’re all of the above and that’s the type of people that are fascinating to watch and listen to, but I’m the guy that has to cut them off because essentially we are on limited time. So for me, that’s the most difficult part of the job. Because I know everybody at home is enjoying what they’re saying. People are thinking, “Paula is speaking. She’s giving her opinion. That’s why I’ve tuned in. That’s why I’ve invested in The X Factor. I want to hear what Simon Cowell is saying.” And I’m the guy that has to go, “Simon, please. We’ve got to move on.” And I dare say, everybody at home is thinking, “Why is he stopping Simon? This is Simon Cowell.” But if I don’t, the show will just end with no conclusion. There will be no winner and I’ll get into a mountain of trouble with Fox. So that’s the most difficult element for me, definitely.
Are you at all bothered by the criticism from the press and others?
Steve Jones: As for the criticisms, it can be expected. I certainly don’t like everybody on TV. I wouldn’t expect everybody to like me. The only criticisms that I’ve found difficult is people calling me rude and stuff, which I’m not. I’m there to do a job. I’m there to ask certain questions. I’m there to move the show along, and if I can’t do that, then Fox and Fremantle and Simon will find somebody else who can. It can be harsh when people are calling me rude and not very nice, because I’m not rude and I am nice. So critique my hosting skills. Say, “I don’t like this guy’s hosting. Say I’m not funny. Fair enough. I get that. That’s your prerogative, but it’s been a bit harsh, the rudeness thing. I’m literally just doing my job trying to keep the show moving, otherwise it’ll just end and then there will be no conclusion and then I’ll be in a lot of trouble. That’s been a bit difficult. But I take it all with a pinch of salt. It’s a TV show at the end of the day. There is a lot at stake, but perspective is important in what I do.
What is your advice to the eliminated contestants?
Steve Jones: That I’m going to miss them and that they’ve done a fantastic job and their lives are not over. I know in that moment it seems like that is the end of everything. But of course, it’s a tough situation to be in. But that’s not the truth and we know that. And I just want them to know that there are still plenty more opportunities out there for them because they’ve got so far. There are so many people that have entered the competition. When you get down to it, the final 30, or the final 20, the final 7—it’s a monumental achievement. And that’s what I want to convey in that moment. It’s like look, “This isn’t the end for you.” It’s the end of The X Factor, but it isn’t the only TV show in the world. This isn’t the only opportunity you’ll have in the world and I think that’s important in that moment. It’s hard and it’s hard saying goodbye. I’ve spent weeks and weeks and weeks with these people and that’s it. It’s over. I’m not going to see them on a regular basis again. I might not ever see them again. And that’s difficult in that moment because my changing room is on the same level as the contestants. I hang out with them all day. We chat. We catch up. It’s difficult when that just abruptly comes to an end. I just thank them for their company and, it’s just been great hanging out with them and good luck for the future. It’s tough. It really is. It’s a very unnatural situation to be in. But that’s TV for you.
How do you handle the raw emotions of the contestants after they have been eliminated from the show? Are the judges a bit hard on you at time?
Steve Jones: I got broad shoulders. I can take it. If people want to vent their frustrations and aim it at me, then so be it. I’ve been in the business for a long time now so I can kind of take it. I’m not saying it’s not hurtful. It can be when people are calling me rude and stuff because I’m not. I like to think of myself as a nice person. I’m just trying to get a job done and that’s why I’m there. But in regards to saying the right thing in that situation and preparing for it, you can’t prepare for it because there is no preparation. I don’t know who’s about to leave the show. I don’t know what’s about to come out of my mouth. It’s all happening in the moment, which is one of the wonderful aspects of the show. You just don’t know what’s going to happen. That’s what everybody wants from their job, is variety. That’s what we all want. So it’s exciting in that regard. I have a general direction of where I want to go, I want to find out how they’re feeling. I want last words. I want to address the audience. I want Simon to comment on the act and where it went wrong. It’s a general area, but I really don’t know what’s going to happen one moment to the next. And sometimes, maybe the brain is thinking, “Right, we need to ask this quickly,” and it comes out, and it seems a little bit abrupt, but maybe that’s something I have to work on for the future. But, make no mistake it’s a high pressure situation because I’m trying to get information from the contestants and the judges. We also have producers screaming in my ear to move it along. “Steve, get them to watch their …. Put them in camera shot. We want to see them in the little picture at the bottom of the screen. Move them, Steve.” I’m like, “Everybody’s hugging each other.” “Move them out of the way. They can’t hug right now.” And then we come out of that bit and I’ve got like one minute to get out of the show and I’m rushing things and getting names of other shows wrong. It’s tough. It’s very tough. But in no way, a complaint. It’s exciting. I enjoy that. I enjoy the pressure.
What did you make of Simon’s reaction when Drew was booted off the show?
Steve Jones: One of annoyance. My initial comment when I was talking about it after the show was I just thought it was a bit childish on Simon’s part because people are invested in the show. They want to know what Simon Cowell thinks. I certainly do. When I’m asking those questions, or asking Simon for final word, I’m just as intrigued as everybody else. And when he refuses to do that it defeats the purpose. It defeats the object of the show. People are watching. They deserve to hear what he’s thinking. I got a little bit annoyed on the show, as you could probably see from the dramatic hand waving. But yes, I was just annoyed because I want to know what that complicated man is thinking. It’s such a big situation. It’s a big moment for Drew and I wanted to hear his opinion. That’s why I got annoyed. Yes, I’m hoping he doesn’t do much of that in the future. I know he was utterly crushed because he just felt cheated. He felt like people were attacking him from all sides. The great Simon Cowell shut down in that moment. He just didn’t know what to do with himself. But, that’s the show. It’s dramatic. Emotions are all over the place. It’s an emotive arena to be in so yes, it was shocking.
Are you surprised at the way the result shows have gone?
Steve Jones: I’m not one to argue with America. If America doesn’t want Astro and Drew in the competition any longer, then that’s their choice. I think anybody, out of any two people who are voted off the show, any two people leaving would have been surprising. They’re all so talented. The final seven were just insanely talented. So anybody leaving was going to be a shock. But when it’s actually happening in front of you and like Astro and Drew, it’s difficult to comprehend. These are two people who could have gone on to win the whole thing. But that’s how lucky we’ve been with the people we’ve found. Actually I say luck, maybe the production team did an amazing job finding so many talented people. But anybody leaving at this stage will be shocking.
What is your take on young, Astro?
Steve Jones: He’s a bit petulant. He’s young. He’s full of himself, but essentially he’s monumentally talented. I believe he is that good and this guy will be a superstar. He’s about to fill a niche. The guy is about to fill the Justin Bieber/hip-hop niche. He’s going to be gigantic. I would put my house on that, definitely.
Do you enjoy the antics of the judges?
Steve Jones: The judges are such complicated beasts and to see their four gigantic egos in front of me every week vying for the viewers’ attention and wanting to get their points across, that’s fun. I love watching the judges. They are great. You just don’t know what is going to come out of these judges’ mouths from one minute to the next. So that’s always exciting. And the fact that I’m the guy who’s trying to steer them in the right direction, that direction being, “Stop talking now please, because we have limited time. We got to get a conclusion by the end of the show.” It’s a challenge. I’m going to say I love being in front of them.
Are the judges as volatile backstage as they are live?
Steve Jones: I definitely see traces of that backstage. It’s very entertaining to watch, but one of the aspects of the show which has surprised me is the lack of theatrics. It’s real. They have—Simon was really mad at Nicole and Paula at one point. He was livid. There are no theatrics. He wants to win. It’s Simon Cowell. He’s not really used to losing. He genuinely thought that Paula had used Drew as a pawn or something, which I know for a fact Paula would never do, but Simon just felt like he was being attacked from all angles. It surprised me how nasty it can get on occasions. But these are very popular, very big—I don’t want to say arrogant, but let’s just say big egos out there. None of them want to lose. Yes, that’s one of the things that surprised me about it. Just how real it is out there. It’s really happening. It’s not theatrics. It’s really horrible on occasions.
What are your plans after the X Factor?
Steve Jones: I’m going under the radar for about six weeks. I’m finishing on the 22nd, the finale. Then I’m going down to Mexico for a little bit with my family, just to hang out until about the 6th of January. Then I come back to L.A. and then I’m doing an American road trip from L.A. to New York for all of January, again with my family. So I’m just going to chill out until February. And then when Feb. comes I’m going back to Britain to do a project with the BBC for a couple of months and then I’m back in L.A. late March. So I’m going to be off the radar for a little bit.
Any chance you’ll be back for season 2?
Steve Jones: Hopefully I’ll be back for Season 2, but I always exercise caution in these matters. If I’m back, I’ll be overjoyed. If I’m not, I’ll do something else. It’s as simple as that. But I really do hope—I’ve loved doing the show. As I’ve said a few times before now, it’s a dream job. So yes, I’d be back in a heartbeat to do the second season.