"[Kathie Lee Gifford] wrote me a beautiful note telling me that she hopes that I have 15 wonderful years with Regis like she had," Ripa told TV Guide Online at a brief press conference following yesterday's show. "She was very nice and generous... I am a big fan of hers."
The 31-year-old quick-wit won the highly coveted gig after producers tested out dozens of potential replacements in the six months since Gifford's swan song. According to insiders, Ripa's main competition was Ally McBeal's Jane Krakowski and Entertainment Tonight's Jan Carl.
"She was sort of an ebullient personality and had a lot of great qualities that we were looking for," Philbin explained. "But because it is such a big move for all of us, we invited her back three times, and after the third time it became apparent that she was the one."
Ripa officially inherits Gifford's throne Feb. 12 (at which time the show will be renamed Live with Regis & Kelly), but don't expect her predecessor to drop in for any sort of baton-passing ceremony. "It's Live with Regis, so there's no baton to pass right now," responded executive producer Michael Gelman, whose prickly history with Gifford was no secret.
Asked whether she planned to take a page from Gifford's book and discuss her family (which includes husband and AMC leading man Mark Consuelos, their three-year-old son Michael, and a second child on the way) on Live, Ripa replied, "I don't think you can be a parent and not talk about your children on the show. The only life I have is my husband and my son and, now, Reege."
Ripa also can dish about the latest happenings in Pine Valley, as she has no plans to quit AMC. However, viewers should expect to see less of her alter ego, Hayley Santos. "I don't think I will have such a tremendous storyline as I have," says the 10-year soap vet. "So, I will be able to spend time with both of my children, which has always been my primary goal."
Another of Ripa's major goals is maintaining Live's momentum. Season to date, Live with Regis's ratings are up 12 percent a fact that is not lost on the actress. "All these articles are written about how Regis is No. 1 by himself, and you think, 'If it's so high now, you can only go down,'" Ripa said. "I just don't want that to happen, and then the eyes of America that are showering all this great press on you [will] turn and shower all this negative press."
Ahh, welcome to the wonderful world of celebrity...