Ryan Seacrest, Oprah Winfrey

Harpo, Inc./All Rights Reserved/Photographer George Burns.

Stare-downs be damned, it turns out Ryan Seacrest has quite the soft spot for Simon Cowell.

"I will regret this existing in the universe," the ubiquitous TV-radio personality said in an interview with Oprah Winfrey that aired Friday, "but he's a terrific individual who's one of the sweetest guys that you're ever going to meet in the business."

We doubt people like Paige Miles would agree, but please go on.

"Even though he's tough on the show, he's got a really big heart, he's very generous and he's been a good friend of mine," Seacrest continued. "That being said, we love to compete, and we love being competitive."

Cowell will be missed when he leaves after this season, though, he said.

"When his acerbic personality was first exposed to America, it was shocking. But then you realize that he does have that inner voice that we all have. Like what we hear in our head, is what he says out loud. He says it out loud and not me."

Unlike new American Idol judge and longtime Seacrest pal Ellen DeGeneres, who he feels always tries to be honest and kind at the same time.

Seacrest also likes that DeGeneres is funny, so he doesn't have to be.

And while the generally diplomatic host isn't one for playing favorites, there's a special place in his heart for one American Idol in particular.

"That's like picking kids or puppies," Seacrest joked, when asked if he had a favorite. "I really loved seeing Carrie Underwood's success. She was someone who had never been on an airplane before she came to Hollywood, and now look at the success."

Indeed, look at the success.

The 35-year-old Atlanta native wears about half a dozen hats these days aside from his gig as the highest-paid host of a reality-TV show ever, including producer, morning radio host for KIIS-FM and E! News coanchor.

"It's in my blood to be on the radio every day. I've done it since I was 16 years old," he said. "You know two minutes about a lot of different things, and you also realize that you are not the conversation. You're just sparking the conversation. I like that."

And even though his schedule is jam-packed from dawn till dusk, he doesn't mind those still-dark wakeup calls.

"I actually thrive" on the insanity, he said. "At first it was a challenge to figure out how to do it all and exist as a human being, but now, we've locked into a pretty comfortable zen with that pace. There's a rhythm to it."

"I literally get up and get to do the one thing I dreamed about doing every day," Seacrest said. "And that is being a part of a television show and a radio show that is based in Hollywood."

One of his own idols, TV production mogul Merv Griffin, taught him a very important lesson, he said.

"He taught me how to take the success of being a personality and the access you have and build something to have forever, to build an asset, because you never know how long this is going to last."


Check out what else we noticed going on behind the scenes at American Idol this week right here!

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