‘American Idol’ Cast Member ‘Crippled With Depression’ After Leaving the Show


Former “American Idol” cast member Brian Dunkleman has revealed that after leaving the show after hosting season one, he was “crippled with depression” and contemplated suicide because he thought he had made the biggest mistake of his life.

Dunkleman Felt Like ‘American Idol’ Left Him Twisting in the Wind After Season 1

In an interview with TMZ Live tied to his new Amazon Video film “Dunkleman,” the former “American Idol” host spoke candidly about his decision to leave the show after season one. If you’ll recall, Dunkleman was the co-host of “American Idol” season one alongside Ryan Seacrest and original judges Simon Cowell, Randy Jackson and Paula Abdul. He told TMZ that he “never really understood” what the producers were doing after that first season, so he just decided to leave of his own accord and it haunted him for a very long time.

“[The producers] re-signed Simon, they re-signed Ryan, and they let me and Randy and Paula twist. After a couple of weeks, I knew I wanted to be an actor, I knew I didn’t want to come back, I tried to do the right thing, I just released a statement,” said Dunkleman. And then when “American Idol” went on to be such a massive hit, he spiraled into depression thinking he had made a huge mistake.

“I was crippled with depression. I thought I made the biggest mistake that anybody’s ever made in history,” said the former “Idol” host. “I couldn’t get out of bed. I like to say I wasn’t really suicidal, but I was suicide adjacent. I was drinking and doing drugs and doing everything that I could to get out of my own head. I was stuck there for a very long time.”

Dunkleman Finally Got Closure at the Season 16 Finale

Dunkleman went on to say that when he came back for what everyone thought was the series finale on FOX (the show was later revived at ABC), he found out that he actually beat the producers to the punch.

“[W]hen I did the FOX finale, I saw one of my old bosses and they told me that I beat them to the punch. They were just gonna keep one [host] or keep both, and they decided to keep one, but I released a statement that said I was leaving. So all of that [weight] just came off of my shoulders. I did not make a mistake. They were gonna get rid of me anyway and I did not know that. So it was like a million pounds off of my shoulders,” said Dunkleman.

Dunkleman has a new documentary coming out, “Dunkleman” on Amazon Video, which chronicles his career and he said that it was what he needed to let go of his anger.

“I was a lost soul [after ‘American Idol’]. I was so obsessed with something that it detached me from life — the way I dealt with my father dying and then the way I dealt with my career dying,” said Dunkleman, who is now doing stand-up comedy and improv. “It really took going through the process of doing this film where I finally closed the chapter on the healing I needed to do and letting go of the resentment and the anger and this process of this film has kind of set me free.”

He added that he hopes what people get out of his documentary is to remember that “everybody goes through something” and to “just hang in there.”

“Everybody has something in their past they wish they could re-do, everyone has dark times and my times got pretty dark, but I hope people just hang in there because I’m really glad I did not kill myself because this is the happiest I’ve ever been in my life right now,” said Dunkleman.

“Dunkleman” is out now on Amazon Prime. The official description reads, “‘Dunkleman’ is the story of Brian Dunkleman, who went from an unknown stand-up comedian to host the biggest show in the history of modern television, ‘American Idol,’ to driving an Uber. The backstage fights, the drug use, the alcoholism, and the downward spiral of depression. If you’re looking for something light, watch this instead.”

If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, the toll-free National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week with assistance in English and Spanish. You can also speak with a trained crisis counselor 24/7 by texting HOME to 741741 to reach the Crisis Text Line.

“American Idol” airs Sunday and Monday nights at 8 p.m. Eastern and Pacific times on ABC.

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