The Real Reason Why Kelly Ripa Says Working With Regis Philbin "Was Not a Cakewalk"
"The biggest misconception is that it all came easily," Ripa said of working on Live.
For 10 years, Kelly Ripa co-hosted Live! with Regis and Kelly with long-time TV personality Regis Philbin. By the time she became a permanent fixture on the show in 2001, Philbin had already been hosting the series with Kathie Lee Gifford for around 15 years. Plus, he had decades of prior experience working in TV. So, when Ripa—who was best known for acting on the soap opera All My Children—was hired on Live, she was joining a show with an audience who had been around for years and partnering with a co-host with a much longer career.
In a new interview with People, Ripa opened up about her difficult early years on the talk show and shared why it wasn't always easy working with Philbin, who died in 2020. Read on to see what she said.
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Ripa had to "earn [her] place" on the show.
Ripa spoke to People ahead of the release of her book, Live Wire: Long-Winded Short Stories (out now), shared that joining Live 21 years ago was not an easy transition, especially because she's a woman.
"There were good and bad days," she said. "I don't want to feel like I'm slamming anyone or that I'm being disrespectful. But I also want people to know it was not a cakewalk. It took years to earn my place there and earn things that are routinely given to the men I worked with. Including an office and a place to put my computer."
She added, "The biggest misconception is that it all came easily. People think I just showed up one day and was handed a job and I lived happily ever after and now everything's perfect. But it never is that way."
She was told to look at Philbin as her "boss."
Ripa told People that when she was cast, her agent told her, "They want you to know who your boss is."
"It was very ominous," the host said of the warning, "and it did not feel good."
She was also told not to bring an entourage to the show, so she brought only a hairstylist and a makeup artist, which she described as "not an unusual thing for people on a television show to show up with." But still, she heard Philbin say to executive producer Michael Gelman, "Uh-oh, Gelman, it's got an entourage." Ripa said that she "felt horrible," even though she knows Philbin "was probably trying to be funny." She added, "I understand that probably he didn't want a co-host, but the network wanted me to be the co-host and I didn't think I should pass up that opportunity. I don't think it was fair to him. But it was also not fair to me."
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They got along better when they weren't working.
Ripa explained to People that while the co-hosts clearly managed to work together, their personal relationship was better off-camera.
"Off camera and outside of that building, it was a different thing," she said. "The handful of times we spent together, I so enjoyed. We went to the same resort once on vacation and he came to a dinner I hosted—one of the favorite nights of my life. I never laughed so hard." She added, "I loved him, and I still do."
But Philbin held a grudge after leaving the series.
After Philbin left the show in 2011, there was still some tension between him and Ripa. He told The Insider that she was "angry" when he left, and that the show had never reached out to him again. ABC then put out a statement confirming that he had been invited back, pointing to a clip of Philbin in attendance for the filming of a Halloween episode in 2015.
Of the back-and-forth, Ripa told Good Morning America, "What was so baffling—to not just me, but to us as a show—was he'd been invited back. He'd been invited back to host. I had seen him on-camera and off-camera. And I wasn't sure why, A, I was vilified and, B, why it would be solely my responsibility to maintain what was really just a working relationship. We did not have this close friendship that was assumed. I have still enormous respect for him, and I truly think he is still the greatest storyteller of all time. I loved working with him. I thought it was a unique experience. I learned so much."