American Idol Stage Manager Dishes Backstage Secrets

AMERICAN IDOL: American Idols open the AMERICAN IDOL Finale airing Thursday, April 7 (8:00-10:06 PM ET Live/PT tape-delayed) on FOX. © 2016 FOX Broadcasting Co. Cr: Ray Mickshaw/FOX

Here’s an interesting read. Debbie Williams, the beloved American Idol stage manager talked with The Wrap about her years keeping the giant live American Idol production running from back stage. Here are a few interesting soundbites from the conversation.

If people knew how unplanned and spontaneous this show was, they wouldn’t believe it,” Debbie said. “But it was so much fun.”

Debbie, if you recall, made a few headlines in season 8 when a malfunctioning staircase ripped her leg open, requiring more than 60 stitches.

Debbie describes contestant and future country superstar, Carrie Underwood, “a deer in the headlights”:

“Carrie had never been on an airplane before when she came to ‘Idol’ for the first time. She was a deer in the headlights, but she could sing. All the other stuff, she did not know. God forbid, she didn’t know how to move. It made [director] Bruce Gowers crazy. He’d say, ‘Can’t we get her to walk a little bit?’ That was not in Carrie’s toolbox yet. Carrie was so shy I thought, ‘How could this kid ever be a performer?’ Guess what? She figured it out.”

Nigel Lythgoe said the “girl vote” ensured Trent Harmon’s win:

“A lot of people were surprised that La’Porsha didn’t win. But I was talking to [longtime executive producer] Nigel Lythgoe the night before the finale and he said, ‘I don’t know. Those girl votes may go to Trent from Dalton [Rapattoni, the third-place finisher].’ He was right. That happens. Girls are the ones voting.”

And speaking of Nigel Lythgoe, she Debbie believes the disastrous season 12, which was overshadowed by catfights between judges Mariah Carey and Nicki Minaj was not totally his and fellow executive producer, Ken Warwick’s fault. Yet they were blamed and fired. I couldn’t agree with her more.

“It was nice that Nigel came back and [executive produced] the finale. He and Ken Warwick got blamed for the 2012 season, and I don’t think it was all their fault. It was a weird year. The banter between [judges] Mariah Carey and Nicki Minaj was not manufactured, it was real. I remember the night that somebody did a Mariah song, and Nicki was the first or second one to speak. And she goes, ‘Gosh, I remember when I was a little girl just sitting in my bedroom listening to that song.’ And on the crew, we all just kinda went, ‘Ouch.’ There was stuff like that all the time. It wasn’t the happiest set, our audience just didn’t like it and Nigel and Ken got blamed.”

Let’s play a game of “Who were the Divas on the Idol set!” That opening number for the series finale that featured over 50 former and current contestants singing “One Voice”? Well, there were a few singers who didn’t want to participate.

“There were a few kids that didn’t want to walk out in the white outfits and do ‘One Voice.’ No names, but I can think of three. They were kind of lackadaisical in rehearsal one night, so Nigel got up and gave one of his perfect Nigel speeches. He said, ‘I hand-picked all of you to be here, because you represent this show that has made history in the annals of television. When you walk out like you don’t care, I can’t stomach that. You’re here because I wanted you to be here, and you need to be proud and stand tall, because most of your careers would not have happened if it hadn’t been for this show.’ The stand-ins and everybody were all listening going, ‘Yes!’”

Ha ha. Oh Nigel…

About mj santilli 31373 Articles
Founder and editor of, home of the awesomest fan community on the net. I love cheesy singing shows of all kinds, whether reality or scripted. I adore American Idol, but also love The Voice, Glee, X Factor and more!