Had Simon Cowell and “The X Factor” team not finalized Paula Abdul‘s contract in time for the show’s initial taping Sunday (May 8), there wouldn’t have been a taping Sunday.

It did happen, and the show did kick off its American run Sunday afternoon in downtown Los Angeles. It was close, though: Cowell told press on the red carpet that the deal wasn’t done until 11 p.m. Friday.

“The issue was, these conversations have gone on long enough,” says Cowell, who created “The X Factor” and will be back at his familiar spot next to Abdul at the end of the judges’ table when the show premieres in September. “It wasn’t like I sprung this on somebody. I just thought, It’s time for everyone to do their job and get the deal done.”

Cowell also talked more about reuniting with his long-time “American Idol” foil, the kind of artist he hopes to find on “The X Factor” and competition from shows like “The Voice” and even “Idol.” Hit play at the top of the post to see the full interview; some highlights are below.

Reuniting with Paula

“You can see there’s a lot of affection there with the two of us. I’m very comfortable with her. And she’s funny — she really is funny. I think she’s going to feel a lot of pressure, because there is a lot at stake here. … Look, I missed her when she left ‘Idol.’ I was always very clear about that. I want to see her when we were really happy, which was probably the middle of ‘Idol,’ maybe Season 4, 5. … I’d like to get back to those times again.”

How her deal came together

“When I came over a few weeks ago I was meeting people, and the problem was everyone I met, I liked. Then Paula came up to my house one afternoon — I’ve got to be honest with you, the second she walked in the door, she looked terrific, she had a real energy about her, and I went mentally, ‘You’ve got the job.’ As soon as she walked in. She was different, something about her. If it had been anyone else new who had behaved the same way, they would have got the job as well.”

What he’s looking for

“Somebody who will work today in the real world. … You can be in a bubble sometimes. I want somebody who believes they can take on Beyonce or Rihanna or Justin Bieber — but believe it. Someone’s going to win the show, but the process we’re going to go through in terms of what we do on the show to help them get better, you’re going to see as the shows go live. We kind of manage them.”

On competition from ‘The Voice’ and other shows

“You know what? I said to our guys last year, we’re not going to have a clear field. ‘Idol’s’ going to work harder, there are going to be other shows. They’re going to take you on — bring it on. You’ve got to have competition. I totally believe in it, I like it, it excites me. And if they get better, I work harder.”

Posted by:Rick Porter