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Brian Dunkleman: Ryan Seacrest and I "didn't get along" on 'American Idol,' it's a relief to discover I was dumped and didn't really choose to leave

By Elizabeth Kwiatkowski, 04/08/2016 

Brian Dunkleman experienced a wide range of emotions having left his position as co-host of American Idol after Season 1 and then returning for the show's Season 15 finale. But what was he most nervous about?

Seeing fellow original host Ryan Seacrest again.

"I was most nervous about seeing Ryan. I hadn't seen Ryan in 14 years," Dunkleman told reporters after Thursday night's finale, according to E! News.

Dunkleman revealed his relationship with Seacrest was tense back in the day and they had issues. But much to Dunkleman's surprise, Seacrest was "completely great" when they reunited.

"I wanted to see him before rehearsal in his dressing room, I walked in and he said hello and we shook hands. I said, 'I have to get this out but, I want to apologize to you for all the times we didn't get along back then.' I told him that I wished I could go back and change that but I can't," Dunkleman said.

"I wished him only the best for him and his family! It was a really great moment and he was so gracious! Maybe I can get a selfie with him and he can tweet it and I can get more than 3000 followers on Instagram."

Following Dunkleman's departure, Idol became a phenomenon and pop culture sensation -- not to mention Seacrest rose to fame and fortune. Dunkleman admitted the show's monstrous success bothered him "a little bit."

"You know they would talk about it on ESPN, and presidential debates! Like eight years ago you can't watch television or listen to the radio or go online without hearing about American Idol," explained Dunkleman, who must've been kicking himself for years over the wasted opportunity.

"Was I bitter? For a while. I think so and it took me a long time to get over that, and to be able to come back is just really a full circle kind of thing for me. It's definitely been an emotional 14 years... It was a painful experience."

While it had been widely reported at the time that Fox made the decision to drop Dunkleman after Idol's first season in 2002, the comedian and actor had insisted he opted to leave on his own accord.

"I left the show but from what I gather they weren't going to have me back anyway. So it's kind of a big load off my shoulders. I guess I didn't make a mistake. The mistake that I made was I just didn't do a good enough job," Dunkleman said.

"I don't think I handled myself as professionally as I needed to back then. In retrospect, I really just didn't have the wisdom I needed to handle what was going on. I like to say I was just young and stupid, but I really wasn't that young. I was 30-years-old. But it's been kind of a relief. It's been a long time of not knowing what the truth was."

Dunkleman was "definitely hoping" Idol producers would ask him to come back and be a part of the farewell season's finale.

"They contacted me about a month and a half ago. I actually wrote pretty much all I said tonight except for the opening line which was written by their brilliant writer and it just couldn't have been better," Dunkleman said. "I'm very glad that they asked. It's been a very, very cathartic evening for me."

He continued, "It was just so amazing and just really healing for me... I kept it together the whole time until I got off stage and then it just hit me and I was like, 'Alright you can't start crying because you won't stop.' I'll probably do that later... I have grown so much and I am a totally different person and being here tonight is a really big gift!"

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