"The judges set out to find a star this year," Ryan Seacrest exclusively told PEOPLE ahead of the season finale on Sunday

By Christina Dugan
May 14, 2020 02:35 PM

With the American Idol finale just around the corner, Ryan Seacrest believes there's a star in our midst.

In an exclusive interview with PEOPLE, the longtime host opened up about how the Idol crew teamed together to create a successful remote show and why he thinks judges Lionel Richie, Katy Perry and Luke Bryan were able to find a true "star" this season despite the circumstances. (Since April, Idol has been conducting remote shows amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.)

"We put the show together earlier in the week because there are so many factors to it," Seacrest, 45, told PEOPLE. "It’s technically not possible to do it all live obviously. Every once in a while we have to be careful not to step on each other while we're talking because there’s that delay that we’ve all experienced talking to our families at home on different Zooms and things like that."

Ryan Seacrest
Ryan Seacrest
| Credit: Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images

"But it’s working," he added. "The contestants are getting a chance to do this in a way that we’ve never thought about before. At the end, we’ll get a winner. I think we have a real show to have someone that gets into the music world to make a name for themselves.

Earlier in the season, the judges opened up about the advantages and disadvantages of conducting a remote show — and how the contestants were able to make the best of it.

American Idol is all about fairness, so we sent everyone a kit that had same mics, the same set, the same lights,” Perry, 35, previously told reporters. “It was up to the talent. They had the option to perform with their own instruments or utilize our music director from afar.”

Credit: ABC

“The disadvantages would be that they don’t get the opportunity to play off of an audience,” the mom-to-be added. “They have to look into the lens of the camera as though it is an excited audience. They don’t get to flex that muscle. There’s a lot of time delay, there’s a lot of patience that we have to practice when we’re speaking, and the reactions can’t come as off the cuff as they do in a live setting. All things considered, I would say with all the circumstances, I think we’re really proud of it.”

“What I was missing was, I like to see the shaking of the hands, a little sweaty palms, how you handle yourself, your stage presence,” Richie, 70, added. “That’s one thing we can’t teach. You either have that or you don’t. I think they just did so well and staged their own show and pulled it off. That was the only thing that was missing. My shout out goes out to the production team and the contestants. Everybody was just on point tonight.”

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“Another part of the rules was that each contestant had three opportunities to perform their performance and pick from their best one. They just had to pick their favorite one of those performances,” Bryan said, later adding, “I feel like if they have a disadvantage, it’s because we’re really to able to really hear their vocal qualities even more. It’s a disadvantage and an advantage, but if you’re not as strong of a singer, it allows me, Lionel and Katy to pick you apart more. I think even at home, America could hear the same thing.”

The American Idol finale airs Sunday at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.

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