Alan Ritchson Claims ‘American Idol’ Producers Fabricated Story About Him

Alan Ritchson

Heavy/Getty "Reacher" star Alan Ritchson

Long before Alan Ritchson took over the role of Jack Reacher from Tom Cruise, starring as the former military police investigator on Prime Video’s hit series, he was an aspiring singer on the third season of “American Idol.” Nearly two decades later, he’s still not happy about the way things went down.

Though he’s grateful his time on the show led him to a successful acting career in Hollywood, Ritchson, 39, told late night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel on December 13, 2023, he’s still upset that producers made up a story about him and a fellow contestant slacking off during Hollywood Week.

Here’s what you need to know:

Alan Ritchson Claims ‘Idol’ Producers Tricked Him Into Filming Pool Scenes With Fellow Contestant

After a successful first season of “Reacher,” which premiered in February 2022, Ritchson is returning for a second season premiering on December 15, per USA Today. While promoting the new season on Kimmel’s show, the comedian brought up Ritchson’s time on “American Idol” nearly 20 years ago.

“That was a really fun experience for me, coming out to L.A. for the first time,” he told Kimmel after the clip aired, adding, “I was, like, top 30, a semifinalist, top 32? I made it almost to the very end.”

According to American Idol Fandom, which has tracked every contestant since the show’s beginning, Ritchson did progress during Hollywood Week but did not make the top 32 cut.

Whatever the case, Ritchson told Kimmel he felt bamboozled by producers once he watched the Hollywood Week episodes, claiming that they tricked him into filming a false storyline.

“I walked in the door of this hotel and I was greeted by 30 lawyers and a 150-page document saying, ‘You’re not gonna tell anyone what happens here.’ So I signed that!”

Ritchson, who had also been dabbling in modeling at the time, said show staff then encouraged him to put his bags in his hotel room, change into shorts and meet them at the pool, where another aspiring model to film an interview.

“I was like, ‘Oh my god, that’s amazing (to get) screen time,'” Ritchson recalled. “So within 10 minutes of being at the hotel in Los Angeles, I’m down at the pool in my board shorts and they’re like, ‘Why don’t you sit in the hot tub, we’ll ask you a couple questions.'”

The actor said he “very studiously” answered the producers’ questions in hopes of being featured, and then they encouraged he and the other model at the pool to “show everyone how much fun it is to be on ‘American Idol'” by playfully pushing her into the pool. Ritchson obliged and said he then jumped in, too, and splashed around at their request.

But when Ritchson tuned in to watch the show, he was shocked by the storyline that producers concocted using that footage. He told Kimmel that producers were shown asking other contestants during Hollywood Week whether they’d seen Ritchson or the other model anywhere. Finally, he said, they showed footage of the models splashing in the pool, making it look like they were goofing off instead of working with their groups.

“Like, what the hell?” Ritchson exclaimed to Kimmel. “I was helping people!”

Kimmel feigned empathy for Ritchson, who has clearly landed on his feet, jokingly calling the situation “unfair.”

Despite Embarrassing Videos, Alan Ritchson Says ‘American Idol’ Opened Doors For Him

On “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” Ritchson squirmed in his seat and laughed as he watched a clip of himself at age 20 singing George Benson’s upbeat R&B rendition of “On Broadway” for judges Paula Abdul, Simon Cowell, and Randy Jackson. His younger self attempted to turn the classic song into a sexy romp, prompting host Ryan Seacrest to stare at the camera and ask, “Did he just touch his chest?”

A video shared on TikTok shows another performance by Ritchson in which he flirted with female contestants and Abdul, even gently touching her hair as he sang Stevie Wonder’s “You Are the Sunshine of My Life.” In another shared clip from the same audition episode, Abdul said Ritchson was “totally hot.”

Despite the awkward clips and feeling hoodwinked by producers, Ritchson is still grateful for the experience of being on “American Idol” because it opened his eyes to other possibilities for him in entertainment.

“Singing was something I felt decent at, and it felt like it just made sense to pursue that,” he told Parade about why he auditioned. “I had never thought about acting. ‘American Idol’ took me to L.A. for the first time, where I was exposed to acting. I asked someone if they could help me get auditions and they did, and I started working.”

Ritchson still dabbles in music for fun, posting occasional tunes on Instagram, but has found his calling in acting, appearing in films like “Fast X” and the “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” movies as well as the “Titans” TV series, per his IMDb. 

Meanwhile, Fantasia Barrino went on to win the third season of “Idol” long after Ritchson was cut. She is now receiving rave reviews and earned a Golden Globe nomination for her first acting role in a feature film, “The Color Purple,” due in theaters on December 25.