While mum on the details, Crews did admit that the talent both he and Mandel were referring to was a performer that everyone was competing to slam their Golden Buzzer for. “It was massive,” he reveals. Ultimately, it was new kid on the block, judge Gabrielle Union, who timed it just right and was able to take the credit for advancing this mysterious guest to the next round.
This season, Mel B and Heidi Klum will be replaced with Julianne Hough and Union. Mandel and Cowell admit they didn’t exactly know what to expect with new judges stepping in but agree that the ladies are settling in quite nicely. “I’m not going to lie. As you walk in the first day, you’re like ‘I really hope this is going to work,’” Cowell tells Billboard. “But within the first hour you’re like ‘yeah this feels good.”
Mandel agrees, “From day one, they fit in like your most comfortable shoe. There was no ramping up. They sat down, boom. They were there,” he says.
Union says she’s thoroughly enjoying the gig. “I have no idea what the hell is going to happen and I love that,” she says, noting that she isn’t exactly a pushover but strives to give everyone a chance. “That doesn’t always mean saying ‘yes.’ Sometimes it’s a ‘not right now but let me give you some very specific constructive criticism that you can take away and come back and audition another day,’” she says, of her coaching style.
The newbie adds that she’s still figuring out the ordeal that is banter between the judges. “Some of my funniest commentary happens off camera. And then Howie will out me on the air! He’ll be like ‘Well Gab said…’ I’m like ‘No! My mom is going to hear this. Her best friend was a priest. Please Jesus don’t say that,’” she says, with a laugh, revealing that she’s now attempting to incorporate her “natural naughty humor” into her live critiques – since it will apparently make it in there whether she said it on air or not. “I’m not completely comfortable with it yet because I’m new and I haven’t survived a live tweet session to know how people are responding. But I’m going to do my best to be my natural self.”
Hough admits that she has a little Cowell in her. “Simon and I have a lot of like-mindedness when we are watching the talent,” she says, explaining that she gets along well with the AGT mainstay. She may give some contestants the axe but Hough is doing her best to empower the talent in the process. “This isn’t just a TV show for these people; this is their life. This is their passion, their dream. When I was on DWTS it was like ‘Oh cool I’m going to learn how to ballroom dance for a season and see if I win.’ But this is somebody’s livelihood.” Thus, judging is a responsibility that Hough doesn’t take lightly. “I always try to find something – even if we don’t feel that it’s right for this show and this stage -- that they still can leave and feel empowered and still believe in themselves,” she explains.
But don’t let her come across so sweetly. Cowell seconds that Hough is a bit of a tough judge. “That one is feisty, I’m telling you! She may look all pretty and nice but she bites. But she is hysterical. She really makes me laugh,” he says.
And as far as hosting, Crews says he is definitely the man for the job. “I was made for this show. I love the energy, I love how live this thing is, the crowd.” In addition to keeping the audience revved up, Crews sees himself holding a very special role on the show. “I’m the bodyguard of these acts’ dreams. I’m protecting them, making sure they have everything they need, making sure they feel good, making sure they are not nervous and letting them realize that they are just excited,” he says.
The host added that he didn’t get any advice from past AGT hosts as he wanted to forge his own path on the show. And he doesn’t care if that means making a fool of himself on live television. “I love the mistakes. I don’t mind tripping and falling and whoops! If I went out there and did it absolutely perfect, that would be boring. Making those little flubs is what creates excitement,” he says.
So far, everyone but Crews and Cowell have hit their Golden Buzzer. And Crews is still playfully fuming over the fact that Union beat him to the buzzer on that epic act that everyone cannot stop talking about. “I don’t think America’s ready for what they are about to see,” he says, revealing that the entire judging panel was in tears over this talent’s audition.