‘American Idol’ Producer Wylleen May Exits After 22 Years

EXCLUSIVE: Wylleen May, who has worked on American Idol since its launch over twenty years ago, has been let go by producer Fremantle.

Executive in Charge of Production May has been on the show for 22 years, having stewarded it during its initial run on Fox as well as its reboot on ABC.

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She left after the most recent run, season 22 (or season 7, per ABC), which ended on May 19.

“It is hard to express the gratitude I have to the team at Fremantle and American Idol, the place I knew as home for the last 22 years. It may sound cliche, but it was my absolute honor to work day in and day out with people I consider to be some of the most talented, dedicated, and devoted in the business. I will miss you terribly,” she said in a statement to Deadline.

She continued, “That being said, I am sad to be leaving. I will forever cherish my time with Idol, and hope I am remembered for my experience, passion, and dedication to my role. All we want for ourselves is to know that our work had a lasting impact. I am excited for my next journey, and what that will bring. Sometimes you need a little push forward, and I am grateful for all of it – beginning, middle, and end.”

May’s departure comes after an HR investigation at the end of last year.

“Unfortunately, my exit has been the subject of hurtful speculation and innuendo. Yes, at the end of 2023, I was the subject of an HR investigation following a complaint about how I interacted with certain members of my team. I fully and completely cooperated with this investigation, and it was closed quickly without any action taken. The decision to move on from me to a new EIC is not related, and any implication otherwise is completely misleading and inaccurate,” she added.

“Wylleen has played a crucial role in helping build the lasting legacy of American Idol over the course of 22 seasons. She steered the production to enduring success, and we are deeply grateful for her contributions and dedication to the show. The decision to make staffing changes for the next season was not based on the conclusion of any investigation,” a Fremantle spokeswoman told Deadline.

May, who has also worked on shows including So You Think You Can Dance, has seen a large number of changes on the show, which began on Fox in June 2002.

Created by Simon Fuller, American Idol, based on a British format, began with judges including Randy Jackson, Paula Abdul and Simon Cowell with Ryan Seacrest as host.

That trio remained for all but the final three season on Fox, with Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick Jr. coming in for those. The show ended on Fox after 15 seasons in April 2016.

It was subsequently picked up by ABC, which launched its first season (and season 16 overall) with Katy Perry, Lionel Richie and Luke Bryan as hosts. Perry recently announced she was stepping down after the most recent season and there’s a search currently underway for her replacement.

The singing competition, which was one of the most-watched shows in the U.S. between 2003 and 2011, has spawned stars including Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood, Jennifer Hudson, Clay Aiken, Adam Lambert and Jordin Sparks.

Megan Michaels Wolflick has served as showrunner since season five on ABC; Trish Kinane was showrunner for the final season on Fox and the first four on ABC.

Fremantle produces alongside Sony Pictures Television’s 19 Entertainment. Michaels Wolflick also exec produces the show alongside Fremantle’s Jennifer Mullin, with Eli Holzman and Aaron Saidman serving as executive producers for 19 Entertainment.

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