Michael Strahan Talks Relationship With Kelly Ripa: 'At One Point I Think We Were Friends'

Antoinette Bueno

Michael Strahan is telling his side of the story when it comes to his drama-filled departure from Live! in May.

The 44-year-old Good Morning America co-host gets candid about his now less-than-friendly relationship with his former Live! co-host, Kelly Ripa, in a new interview, and says he's not "the bad guy." ABC was widely criticized for not giving Ripa the heads-up that Strahan was leaving Live! to co-host GMA, before Strahan announced it suddenly in April.

"The most disappointing thing to me was that I was painted as the bad guy, because I value the way I carry myself," Strahan tells People. "I don't want people to see me as 'Oh, he just ran out, just left them there.' That's just not true."

WATCH: Kelly Ripa and Michael Strahan's 7 Most Awkward Moments During Her Return to 'Live!'

"At one point I think we were friends," he adds about his relationship with Ripa. "I don't know what happened at the end. I learned a lot from her, though."

As for Ripa's reaction to his departure -- calling out of work the rest of the week -- Strahan says he "wasn't surprised."

"I wasn't surprised by her reaction at all, but I can't control somebody else's actions," he explains. "I was there four years, and it's about more than just being in front of the camera."

The former football pro admits their one-time friendship isn't the same anymore.

"Toward the end of it all, we didn't really communicate that much," Strahan shares. "I kinda looked at it like, 'It was what it was.' I come from a business where you have to collaborate. The show was going well? We're all winning. That's all that matters to me."

And the father of four says his past as a pro athlete has helped him develop a thick skin against his critics.

"On air, all I could do was control myself," he explains. "In football, New York is the toughest place to play. One day you're the greatest player they've ever seen, then the next game you're the worst."

"I said, 'Hey, it doesn't matter what their opinion is. All I know is I'm doing my best, and I'm giving it everything I have,'" he continues. "I've been in stadiums with 80,000 people calling me all different kinds of things."

WATCH: Michael Strahan vs. Kelly Ripa and 8 Other Celebs Who Didn't Get Along on Set

Meanwhile, 45-year-old Ripa is still looking for a new Live! co-host ... and she's not rushing it.

"The show is going to stick to doing a round robin shuffle of guest co-hosts for the time being," a source close to Live! told ET earlier this month. "Kelly likes the dynamic right now, so they're not in a hurry to make a decision anymore."

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