It wasn’t a love for butchered cover songs that led Ellen DeGeneres to the “American Idol” judges’ panel — it was the result of a simple marital directive.
“I was like, ‘Honey, that’s it. Go get another job,’” DeGeneres’ wife, Portia de Rossi, tells PEOPLE with a laugh. “I’m that demanding.”
Maybe it wasn’t that simple, but de Rossi, who was being honored with the Visibility Award at Saturday night’s Human Rights Campaign Gala in Los Angeles, points out that “Idol” has quickly gone from guilty pleasure to a family affair.
“I’m a part of ‘American Idol’ now,” she says with a sigh. “I’m actually going to every taping of ‘Idol’ because it’s really fun to be there and it’s fun to support her. I’m just glad that I’m not a judge.”
The star of ABC’s “Better Off Ted” sees the toll that Degeneres’ new job takes when a contestant goes for a note that they should have passed on, or when the irascible Simon Cowell starts to clean his claws. “It’s hard, especially when the contestants don’t do that well,” de Rossi says, “because I know that she will be struggling to think of something positive to say to them.”
The problem, according to de Rossi, is that as much as DeGeneres may have coveted the role, her personality is diametrically opposed to the job. “She doesn’t judge people,” the actress says. “She’s a very positive person. She doesn’t like to criticize, so it’s kind of a difficult role for her to play. She wants to give them good advice, but she also doesn’t want to be negative.”
Still, DeGeneres, who is juggling her daytime talk show with the grueling “Idol” schedule, is happy with her new gig. “She’s doing two things that she absolutely loves to do,” the actress says with a smile. “She’s very busy but she’s very happy being busy. She’s loving it, and I think she’s doing amazing.”
So, as DeGeneres strives to play the ballast to Cowell’s bombast, does de Rossi want to step into Ellen’s shoes and be an Idol judge?
“No,” the actress says. “If I was up there, looking into the eyes of those young kids, I would probably be a pushover. I would be like a water-downed version of Paula [Abdul]. All I would be doing is applauding and telling them that they were magnificent all of the time.”