Simon Cowell is back at the judges’ table, and it feels so good.
The longtime American Idol judge makes his highly anticipated return to American TV this summer as a judge on America’s Got Talent. It marks his first stateside onscreen gig in three years, since The X Factor was canceled in 2013 after three seasons.
“This felt like the perfect timing, and it’s been a lot of fun,” Cowell told reporters Friday at NBC’s Summer Press Day. “It was worth the wait to come back to this.”
Cowell joins returning judges Heidi Klum, Mel B and Howie Mandel for the upcoming 11th season, replacing shock jock Howard Stern. As the co-creator of the original British format for AGT and an executive producer, Cowell remembered longing for a gig on the series two years ago when he attended a taping of the summer stalwart.
“I was kind of hoping one of them would hurt themselves. … Bad enough that I would have to go, ‘I’m here,’ ” he said with a laugh. “I was offered to do it five years ago, but I couldn’t do it.”
Although Cowell acknowledged there have been “some bad days” in addition to the good ones as a judge on America’s Got Talent thus far — ”there was one day where I thought I lost the will to live,” he joked — he said the good days, and the strong talent, made up for it.
“Of course it’s worth it,” he said. “When you’re there, when you discover a star … you’ll never forget that moment.”
Mandel, for one, admitted he and the rest of the team “didn’t know what to expect” when Cowell signed on. “You have a reputation that precedes you,” Mandel told Cowell. “It is more fun than we have ever had in the history of this show.”
Mandel said Cowell — known for his acerbic wit and sometimes vicious critiques during Idol‘s heyday — also surprised him for a different reason. “We didn’t know that you were going to enjoy yourself so much,” he said, looking at his boss.
Although he’s had a few years away from the American spotlight — which he jokingly called a “desert” at the top of the panel — Cowell showed he hadn’t lost his touch and his charm. In the final moments of the panel, Cowell took a moment to praise his colleagues onstage and behind the scenes.
“I was the new boy in town, and these guys without me have done an amazing job,” he said. “They have been so much fun to work with and actually so good at what they do, along with the production team who have kept this show running for so many years.”
The new season of America’s Got Talent premieres May 31 at 8 p.m. on NBC.
This article was written by Kate Stanhope from The Hollywood Reporter and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.