EXCLUSIVE: Megan Michaels Wolflick grew up watching her dad, David Michaels, produce the Olympic Games for NBC.
The sporting achievements in Athens and Beijing would have led to some tears, however now Michaels Wolflick is answerable for making viewers weep after taking sole cost of American Idol because it celebrates its 20th anniversary.
Michaels Wolflick, whose musical curiosity was sparked by artists like The Cranberries and Tori Amos, took over as sole showrunner of the ABC singing contest following Trish Kinane’s decision to step down earlier this yr.
As it enters manufacturing on its fifth season on ABC, Michaels Wolflick tells Deadline about her plans for the upcoming run and the way she’s aiming to maintain the Fremantle-produced present belting out the hits for a lot of extra years.
Michaels Wolflick (left) is at the moment in Austin, Texas, the primary cease of a 3 metropolis tour that can even absorb Nashville, Tennessee and the Sunset Strip in LA for the present’s auditions portion.
Last season, the present was being produced in the course of the pandemic, so that they stayed in California – Ojai, San Diego and Hollywood – for the auditions episodes. This yr, they’re in a position to journey a bit additional and spend a bit extra time in every. “Now we’re going to the biggest music cities in America, we’re able to go out again. We’re able to go back out to the places that make this show sing,” she informed Deadline.
The pandemic additionally compelled the group to maneuver away from its annual bus tour and change it with Idol Across America, a stay digital audition set-up, that allowed them to search out contestants in each city and metropolis within the nation, from the consolation of their very own houses.
Michaels Wolflick believes that this has benefited the present and has allowed them to search out contestants which can be extra “tapped into” the format fairly than simply occur to stay close to certainly one of their bus stops.
“Controversial as it may seem, I would never do the bus tour again. It doesn’t matter if we’re out of Covid for 20 years. If you didn’t live within five hours of one of those stops, you might not want to get in the car. [Now], we have people in the broom cupboard of their job singing on a five minute break. I can see people’s house, I can talk to parents, I could never do that on the bus tour. I get so much more out of it, not to mention that I get a really interesting perspective on the youth of today and trends, what posters are on their walls,” she provides.
Michaels Wolflick has been with the present since 2003, becoming a member of as an AP through the center of season two. She moved on up by means of ranks, preliminary beginning by placing collectively packages on the likes of Gladys Knight for exec producer Nigel Lythgoe, earlier than ultimately changing into co-showrunner and now showrunner. She stated that she was “honored” to take the highest function, though it’s bittersweet given Kinane’s departure, calling the Idol group a household, with many individuals having labored on the present for a few years, together with for the Fox model earlier than it jumped to ABC.
Now, she says the present is resembling well-oiled machine, it doesn’t want reinventing each season, but it surely simply wants a number of contact ups to maintain it contemporary. “We’re refreshing it but the base is still there. It’s like if the kitchen needs a remodel. If we decided to tear the house down, people would notice, it’s a subtle refreshment. The format still works… but we’re always trying to find ways to push the technology envelope.”
Last season, Chayce Beckham received the present with a tune – 23 – that he penned himself. Michaels Wolflick stated that Beckham and Alejandro Aranda, who completed runner up in 2019, have opened the door for extra folks to return with their very own materials. “Other shows don’t encourage original songs,” she provides. “This year, we’re seeing people who had never tried out for a show before. I feel very excited about the talent we have. Last year, everyone was a bit of a deer in headlights, either having not performed for a while or never having performed because they’re 15. Now, they’re back in the groove.”
The exec producer stated that the whole variety of registrations and people turning up doubled this season and the search has been helped additional by the success of apps resembling TikTok, which has inspired extra folks to select up a microphone (or not less than their telephone).
American Idol has confronted plenty of challengers over time, with the likes of The Voice and extra lately The Masked Singer.
But Michaels Wolflick says that she doesn’t worry the competitors. “It almost makes me want to strip Idol back even more, to its core. We are a show that literally takes the guy with dirty and makes him a star, like A Star Is Born. When Carrie Underwood walked in to St Louis in 2004, she was wearing her Lee Jeans and Old Navy top, that is the core of the show. That’s what America identifies with and is what is tried and true about the format.”
Outside of American Juniors, a youngsters spinoff that ran on Fox for one season in 2003, there was little or no speak of Idol spinoffs or extensions and he or she doesn’t anticipate any additional makes an attempt. “It’s tempting, there’s a million things we could do,” she stated. “But staying pure and true, keeping focus, and we’re on once a year, there’s a purity in that, we’re not diluting our product.”
The present’s judges – Katy Perry, Lionel Richie and Luke Bryan – have remained in place because it started airing on ABC in 2018 and host Ryan Seacrest has been fronting the present because it premiered in 2002.
In March, this quartet was in a position to remind themselves what a stay studio viewers regarded like when round 50 folks have been let in to Television City for its All Star Duets spherical. Michaels Wolflick stated that they’re optimistic that they’ll be capable to go even larger subsequent yr, though warned that this will change at any level as a result of nature of the pandemic.
“The dream is to have an audience back in, an active audience. It felt good [last season], but I missed the people in the mosh pit. If we can get to a place where we can have people in the mosh pit, that atmosphere on the floor, it’s a concert, it’s a gig, that’s our ultimate goal,” she stated.
Michaels Wolflick and her group at the moment are specializing in season 20, contemporary from Bat City and Music City, teasing a marriage gift-inspired platinum-related twist for the approaching run and plenty of acquainted faces returning. “With 20 years, we’re going to celebrate what’s come before, while we also celebrate the new talent,” she added.