Returning to the show in the midst of the still-raging COVID-19 pandemic -- which forced the show to go remote for the final stretch of the previous season -- also feels good for Stefani. "I'm so grateful to be here," said the singer, who is coming back for her fifth stint in the big red chair. "It's different, definitely different. Everyone has all these rules and we're all being safe -- it's just actually a little bit more exciting than usual, even though I didn't think that was possible because it was already super exciting."
Fellow coach John Legend said he was also psyched to have Stefani back, and though he's ready to fight tooth-and-nail with Shelton over potential star singers, he feels good for his buddy as well. "I know Blake is very excited and very happy to have Gwen back but we all love Gwen," he said. "She's such a kind person, she has such a great spirit and energy and I love having her back."
Shelton and Stefani have said that they spent much of the coronavirus lockdown at Shelton's sprawling Oklahoma ranch, so the move back to The Voice set is likely a big dose of humanity for them. They will confront a much different scene for sure, as the production has instituted a number of COVID-19 safety protocols, including jettisoning a live audience during the blind round auditions in favor of a virtual one featuring fans watching from their homes.
"I think that being able to sit down and watch a show that's so inspiring and will bring inspiration to people, it will definitely bring joy," Stefani said of the judge's hope that seeing the gang back on TV might provide some comfort to the millions of homebound viewers. "Music is the heartbeat of human beings, so I feel really blessed to be here and to be a part of that and to be able to connect around America on the TV."
Stefani has already promised to replace the usual contestant hugs with distanced shots of merch from a t-shirt cannon when The Voice season 19 premieres on Oct. 19 at 8 p.m. ET on NBC.