It’s a new era for Live.
After teasing the morning show’s big announcement on her Twitter account this weekend, Kelly Ripa finally made the news official: Ryan Seacrest is joining the Live family as her new co-host.
Before Seacrest permanently took up the seat beside Ripa, she faced a long road in finding a new co-host following co-host Michael Strahan‘s surprise announcement last year that he was leaving the show.
Here’s exactly what went down.
A Dramatic Departure
Back in April 2016, Strahan announced he would be leaving Live with Kelly and Michael – after serving as co-host for four years – to join Good Morning America.
“My time with Live with Kelly and Michael has been transformative, and my departure will be bittersweet,” Strahan said in a statement.
“Kelly has been an unbelievable partner, and I am so thankful to her and the entire team. I am extremely grateful for the amazing support I’ve received from all of the fans.”
Taking a Break
Following the former NFL pro’s shocking announcement, Ripa was noticeably absent from her eponymous talk show, reportedly feeling “blindsided” by the news and “refusing to come back,” sources said, as she seemingly heard Strahan’s news at the same time as the rest of the world.
Strahan acknowledged her absence on air, but continued to sing her praises: “Kelly welcomed me here and I’ve learned so much from her,” he said. “She’s just been an amazing influence on me and this has truly changed my life to be here with her.”
Still absent from the show — and staying mum on her feelings — Ripa jetted off on a tropical vacation with her family.
“Having a few days away from things was very helpful for Kelly,” a source close to Ripa told PEOPLE of the talk show host’s decision to regroup following Strahan’s shocking announcement. “She is glad she had the time with [her husband] Mark [Consuelos] to celebrate their anniversary and to think about things with the show.”
A Heartfelt Message
One week after Strahan’s announcement, Ripa returned to the show and was met with applause before addressing the audience:
“What transpired though over the course of a few days has been extraordinary in the sense that it started a much greater conversation about communication and consideration and, most importantly, respect in the workplace. And since we’re being honest, I don’t consider this just a workplace. This is my second home. This is a place that I’ve devoted myself to not just because of you, our loyal viewers, but because of all of the producers and the crew who work on this show. We have an incredible team.”
She continued: “Apologies have been made, and the best thing to come out of all of this, you guys, is that our parent company has assured me that Live is a priority.”
The Search Begins
For a full year, Ripa welcomed multiple A-list faces to the show as guest co-hosts, including Jimmy Kimmel, Anderson Cooper, Andy Cohen, Jussie Smollett, Neil Patrick Harris and Dwyane Wade.
In June, PEOPLE reported that the search for the permanent position was narrowed down to eight contenders and in October, a surprise contender joined the race when teacher Richard Curtis (pictured above with Ripa) wowed Live fans with his charm and poise, despite not having a career in the entertainment industry. Curtis ended up scoring an invite for a return ticket to serve as Ripa’s co-pilot.
In September, sources told PEOPLE Ripa remained “committed” to finding a new co-host, all in due time, but wasn’t going to be “rushed, and so she is happy to take her time to make sure that the chemistry is right.”
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Welcome to the Live Family
Before bringing Seacrest to the stage on May 1, Ripa began: “I would first like to thank all of the men and women who sat next to me co-hosting this past year. Thanks is not a big enough word, but they took time out of their busy schedules and out of their day jobs … we all became family, and they became part of the Live family forever.”
Making his grand debut, Seacrest expressed his gratitude and excitement for his new role. The pair also poked fun of the feverish speculation around Ripa’s new co-host, with Seacrest revealing, “We were told to keep it a secret, and we’re not great at that, so it’s funny because I sent a text to some of my close, close friends and coworkers. Responses were this from people who know me well: ‘You’re engaged! You’re having a baby! You’re coming out of the closet!’ “
Chimed in Ripa, “If you want to get engaged or having a baby or come out of the closet, all of those things are possible for you.”
Live with Kelly and Ryan airs weekdays (check local listings).