Kelly Ripa's current Live co-host Michael Strahan is leaving the show on Friday
Credit: Douglas Friedman

Kelly Ripa is opening up in this exclusive interview on how she really feels about Michael Strahan’s departure from

Live – and what s next for her. Subscribe now for her side of the story, only in PEOPLE!

The search for Michael Strahan‘s Live with Kelly and Michael replacement will officially commence on Friday – and Kelly Ripa already has an idea of what she’s looking for.

The 45-year-old tells PEOPLE in this week’s cover story that finding a new co-host after Strahan leaves for Good Morning America won’t be easy.

“It doesn’t fall out of the sky. It takes a lot of work, and it takes a group discussion,” she explains, noting that her show partner must mesh with Live‘s off-screen “chemistry and camaraderie and trust.”

Ripa isn’t quite ready to name names (although she teased “Stay tuned … ” when PEOPLE floated Anderson Cooper‘s), but the star does have strong ideas about what works and what doesn’t.

“You want somebody working there who’s comfortable working there. That’s how you figure – it’s like a puzzle,” Ripa shares. “It’s very much like an equation, an algorithm. Let’s see, if we put somebody here and somebody there, and, ‘Oh, this guy really likes to talk about this,’ or, ‘This guy’s really good here,’ or, ‘This lady is amazing,’ or, ‘She was great last time, let’s give her another shot.’ ”

That formula includes what Ripa calls having a “mom and dad” at the helm of the show. At no point, Ripa says, would she consider a solo project – don’t plan on Live with Kelly. “I like having a partner,” Ripa says. “I don’t think it works otherwise. I need someone sitting next to me.”

To read the full interview with Kelly Ripa, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday

A source previously told PEOPLE that “the network does have a long roster of people who will step in to guest host.”

“They’ll do the same thing they did when they found Michael … they’ll rotate a bunch of people in,” the source explained. Jimmy Kimmel will join Ripa first for Monday’s show.

While male names like Andy Cohen have been thrown around, Ripa says she’s not opposed to bringing another woman on board.

“I think the formula of the show has always been a male and a female host,” she explains, adding, “From my perspective, I like to get as many different people, men and women, in the chair as possible. Just because you never know who you’re going to hit it off with. Some of the people I’ve hit it off with the best have been women, which is not unusual for me. I’m a girls’ girl. I like the dynamic of that.”

Live with Kelly and Michael airs weekdays (check local listings).