Dave Karger
September 30, 2011 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Yeah, Simon Cowell is back on TV, and there are already some standout X Factor contestants. But who’s that dashing host with the peculiar accent? He’s 33-year-old Welshman Steve Jones, known in the U.K. for presenting the morning show T4 (and for a stint in 2009 as Hayden Panettiere‘s boyfriend). Yet behind Jones’ easy charm lies an ambition that helped him score the X Factor gig over competitors like High School Musical star Corbin Bleu. ”The meetings I had at Fox, I said to them, ‘The show you’re talking about, the sheer scope and magnitude of it, you need a host,”’ he says about his pitch to Fox’s president of alternative entertainment Mike Darnell. ”I remember Mike saying, ‘You would say that; you are a host.’ And I was like, ‘No, you misunderstand me. If it’s not me, get yourself a host. You need a professional in there who knows what they’re doing.”’ Jones admits he’s happier steering the show on his own rather than with initial cohost Nicole Scherzinger (who’s now a judge instead). ”With two hosts it got a little bit messy occasionally,” he says. ”If I’m being completely honest, I am happy to be the solo host of the show. I think it’s a smoother process, it really is.” Diplomacy and drive? His outlook seems more Seacrest than Dunkleman.

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