When PEOPLE caught up with Richie and fellow judges Katy Perry and Luke Bryan during the taping of Idol‘s Hollywood week, the trio got candid about their judging styles … and whether or not they’ve engaged in heated disagreements.
“Not yet,” Richie, 68, said of his fellow judges. “Here’s what’s happening. We start out with 200 some odd people, let’s be honest. We took off the top layer and we also had our get-acquainted moment which is like, ‘That’s nice. Very good, don’t do that again.’ So now we’re in the second layer. As we get closer to the real deal I can almost feel that we’re going to be able to voice our opinions – I’m bringing my mace!”
“You’re going to mace us,” Bryan, 41, replied. “Don’t let him go through your pocketbook, Nicole [Richie], and get your pepper spray.”
“We’ll each have different people that we’re rooting for I’m sure,” Perry added. “But the great thing is that America is really the one that chooses so that’s exciting.”
During an interview with Good Morning America in October, the judges — whom Perry dubbed “the dream team” — opened up about working together on American Idol and revealed how they’ll go about finding new talent during the audition process.
“There’s still talent out there to be discovered,” said Perry. “There are still stars and diamonds in the rough and I think the great American Dream — we can revive that in a way and show people that if they have the talent, if they work really hard… maybe we can give them a little platform to just shine.”
But don’t expect Perry, 33, to be the “nice” judge.
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“Personally, I’m a straight shooter,” she told PEOPLE. “I’m very cut and dry sometimes. You know it seems a little not soft — I do try and watch myself because I do know how it feels to be in their shoes. I was in their shoes 10 years ago. I remind myself and I’m reminded and I’m inspired by all of their stories. I know it wasn’t an overnight success for me; it’s not going to be for them.”
American Idol premieres Sunday, March 11 at 8 p.m. on ABC.