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A Superstar Search Continues

Thousands of young people ages 16 to 24 are camping out along the streets of Miami this week, hoping they will get a chance to audition in front of four judges. Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul and Randy Johnson are back to judge the second season of American Idol, joined by new judge Angie Martinez, and will be heading into the Sunshine State Saturday to pick a handful of lucky young stars.Getting ready to start its second season in January, host Ryan Seacrest said in an interview Friday, the show promises a new pool of talent.

The nationwide talent search for the next American Idol began Oct. 21 in Detroit and will make its way to the Fontainebleau Hilton Resort in Miami this weekend.

“I think we are going to have better talent in general across the board (and better) turnout for season two because people know what the show is about, and they know how it works,” Seacrest said.

“They know that if you win it you get a hit, and in Kelly’s case, you’re likely to get a hit record. So, that is exciting for this season.”

Thrown into the mix is a fourth judge, Angie Martinez, DJ and hip-hop artist on New York’s HOT 97. She will help Simon, Paula and Randy in critiquing the contestants.

“At least there will be one more person in the mix to make it a little different,” Seacrest said.

The three original judges all have been interesting to work with, Seacrest said.

“Randy is wonderful and has worked with a lot of really good talent, (like) Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey,” he said. “Paula’s perspective is the artist’s point of view because she has been there and done that. And what Simon does, although he doesn’t always say it the right way, what he does is he just tries to be honest.”

Seacrest said jokingly that one of the worst parts of his job is his interaction with Simon and that he will be forever on videotape.

“One of the worst parts, but also the best part (of the job) is the really crappy auditions from people that think they are just tremendous talent, and they are just so pathetic,” he said.

Seacrest, one of American Idol’s original hosts, was offered to stay on the show for season two while his partner Brian Dunkleman was not. Seacrest added that he too had to be a contestant in order to become a host for the first season.

“I had to go through the audition process from hell,” he said. “Although I didn’t have to sing, I had to go through the whole process.”

Three FOX network heads traveled to Los Angeles to see different types of people. Seacrest was one of them, and he said had to pretend he was hosting the show live in what Seacrest said was a “really stale room full of all these people.”

“They give you what is called a scenario audition and say that a contestant just got ripped apart from Simon, and they’re in tears,” he said. “They were told that they suck, and they do suck, but your job is to make them feel better, and then in the same breath, tease to The Bernie Mac Show all in 27 seconds.”

Seacrest said that after the process was finished, he stood outside the room for half an hour while the network heads talked about him, until he was called in and told he was hired.

“It couldn’t have been more awkward,” he said.

For the last eight years Seacrest has spent his life dedicated to television and radio. He is currently hosting an afternoon drive-time radio show in Los Angeles and has hosted several shows on ESPN, NBC and E! Entertainment. But Seacrest said that being the host of American Idol has given him the opportunity to meet a wide range of people.

“Now when I walk down the street, people will come up to me and start singing,” he said. “So, I get free performances all the time. In airports and cities we have been in, people just come up and say ‘Dude, I wanted to be on that show, but I was too old, but can I sing?'”

Speaking of finalists, Seacrest said that during last season he was able to hang out with the 10 finalists and was impressed about how well they all got together and didn’t let the competition take over.

“I thought that the egos would have been more aggressive as they spent so much time together,” he said. “They knew all along that only one of them could obviously win, and you would think there would have been more cat fights and stuff like that, but there really weren’t.”

Yet, Seacrest said, that when it came down to pick the final two contestants, he thought for sure that it was going to be Kelly Clarkson and Tamyra Gray.

“I really thought it was going to boil down to just based on sheer talent and performance on Kelly and Tamyra,” he said. “I was shocked when Tamyra got eliminated like a lot of people were.”

Seacrest said the audition process is a rainbow of emotions, and people who try out should go in with an open mind.

“I think it is nerve-racking, certainly for the initial calls, and there is also a lot of excitement and passion because people are showing up and camping outside days ahead of time to get in the audition room,” he said.

The coolest aspect of American Idol, Seacrest said, is going around and doing all the auditions, looking for talent. He said he badly wants the second season to be as popular as the first and that the selection of better talent across the board will help.

“The best part is really seeing somebody from any town in America become a household name in a matter of months,” he said. “Then have a record deal and make a lot of money.”

Contact Stefanie Greenat