Simon Cowell won't speculate on who will be behind the judges' table on the American version of The X Factor, but he confirms there will be one familiar face on the panel – himself.
"Once the show goes into production, I become a judge," Cowell told reporters Monday. "Then I have to put my trust into the producers' hands, which is effectively how it works in the U.K. Yes, I am judging."
Before the show starts, Cowell will serve as executive producer and participate in the selection of the judging panel, which has been widely speculated about. Nicole Scherzinger, Rihanna, Jessica Simpson, Paula Abdul, Cheryl Cole, Katy Perry and Will Smith have all been rumored as possible judges on the show.
Cowell says feelers are out to certain possible judges, though he would not list their names. Asked about his former Idol pal Abdul, he said, "I'm a massive fan of Paula. We honestly haven't made our mind up yet … We're talking to a number of people. We hope to make an announcement in three to four weeks."
So, can viewers expect the same hard-nosed Simon Cowell they have come to expect from his years on American Idol? Or will he be a softer, gentler Simon on X Factor?
"I started to cringe over the years as I saw people being booked as the so-called 'mean' judge and being gratuitously rude for the sake of it. I had my own style and like to think I'm honest and wouldn't sugarcoat something to make myself popular," he said. "I am gong to try and be consistent, as I have been over the years … People know what to expect if I'm on the judging panel. I don't think things will change too much."
Cowell is excited about judging on this show since, unlike on Idol, it will involve working directly with contestants. "I wanted to make a show where I could help the competitors on a weekly basis and that's more interesting to me because I will have a lot more to do," he said.
On X-Factor" competitors will make home visits to the judges during the evaluation process and perform in front of live audiences of several thousand right from the start to see "who can handle the pressure," adds Cowell.
Plus, the stakes are high for the hopeful stars: The winner of X Factor will be awarded $5 million record deal, the largest guaranteed prize in TV history.
Cowell also says he's glad that audiences are still interested in talent competitions. "The good news is people are still excited about these shows – Idol, Dancing with the Stars, America's Got Talent – people, thank god, still like these shows and that gives me confidence for when we launch ours [in the fall]."