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The Shady Truth About America’s Got Talent

Simon Cowell

America’s Got Talent may as well be called America’s Got Drama, due to the sketchy things that tend to go on not only behind the scenes, but even on live TV. The NBC hit has seen its share of feuds, accidents, attorneys, and shocking allegations. As a result, the talent competition reality show has boasted a revolving door of judges (including Piers Morgan, Howard Stern, Simon Cowell, Howie Mandel, David Hasselhoff, Brandy, Sharon Osbourne, Mel B, Gabrielle Union, Julianne Hough, and Heidi Klum) and hosts (such as Regis Philbin, Jerry Springer, Nick Cannon, America’s Next Top Model alum Tyra Banks, and Brooklyn Nine-Nine‘s Terry Crews) since its inception.

Whether AGT‘s mishaps and alleged misconduct made its backstage environment a poor one for participants, the show’s ratings never really suffered until more recent years: By 2019, Season 14’s premiere had a record low of 9.75 million viewers — down more than 2 million viewers from year before. That said, could controversy toward the end of that decade spark a ratings revival in 2020? Only time will tell. In the meantime, here’s the shady truth about America’s Got Talent.

Nick Cannon quit AGT because he thought NBC was too controlling

Nick Cannon

Nick Cannon — who’d hosted America’s Got Talent since 2009 — angered network brass with a crack he made about NBC taking away his “black card” during a Showtime comedy special in 2017. According to TMZ, NBC higher-ups reportedly believed Cannon “was disparaging the network — a violation of his contract.” Sources claimed that network execs considered firing Cannon, but ultimately decided against it. However, Cannon quit AGT days later, with sources telling TMZ he felt he was treated differently than other celebs who’d previously made jokes about their networks.

“After days of deliberating over some extremely disappointing news that I was being threatened with termination by executives because of a comedy special that was only intended to bring communities closer together, I was to be punished for a joke,” Cannon wrote on Facebook at the time. He later told Yahoo! Entertainment, “It was a freedom of speech process and me standing firm for my own beliefs and culturally who I am, and really for all the employees who have been thumb-pressed by their bosses. I kind of stood up and said, ‘Yo, I was threatened for some content that I created.’ And they wanted me to shape up and get in line and watch my choice of words or how I speak about the network . I told them, ‘You can’t fire a boss. I quit!'”

Gabrielle Union accused AGT of having a toxic on-set culture

Gabrielle Union

In November 2019, Variety reported that Season 14 judge Gabrielle Union had complained about a racially charged joke from guest Jay Leno that April. Though Union allegedly “urged producers to report” the incident, it was supposedly never brought to HR, but the joke was cut from the show’s broadcast when it aired months later. Union also reportedly also expressed concerns over a racially insensitive act from a contestant during auditions, which was also cut from broadcast.

However, insiders claimed these incidents were just one of many that contributed to a “toxic culture” on the AGT set. Alleging that Union and Julianne Hough were both criticized for their appearances, sources claimed that Union was singled out multiple times because her hairstyles were considered “too black” for the show’s audience. Hough denied the claims, while an NBC insider said the appearance notes both women received were for “hair continuity” purposes.

While Hough and Union were both let go from the show after a single season, NBC and Fremantle Media, which produces AGT, said in a statement to Variety: “America’s Got Talent has a long history of inclusivity and diversity in both our talent and the acts championed by the show. The judging and host line-up has been regularly refreshed over the years and that is one of the reasons for AGT‘s enduring popularity. NBC and the producers take any issues on set seriously.”

Sharon Osbourne slammed AGT as a ‘boys’ club’

Sharon Osbourne

Sharon Osbourne, who judged America’s Got Talent from 2007 to 2012, spoke out after Gabrielle Union’s exit and accused producers of sexism in both casting and wages. “It is a boys’ club,” Osbourne said during a December 2019 episode of The Talk. “The boys take care of each other, and the women are not paid as much as the men.”

After pointing out that she was on the show before Howie Mandel and that AGT‘s ratings were better during her tenure than when Simon Cowell joined the panel, Osbourne noted how Cowell and fellow judge L.A. Reid always worked alongside younger, attractive women on X Factor USA. “I was open — I told L.A. Reid, and I told Simon — it’s nothing I wouldn’t say to their face: ‘You look like two dirty old men.'” Osbourne also alleged that Mandel got better non-monetary perks than she did, including private jet flights — but noted that she held no ill will toward Mandel personally.

Osbourne’s co-host, Carrie Ann Inaba, then read a statement from NBC espousing the network’s support of inclusivity and taking workplace culture complaints very seriously. To which Osbourne griped, “NBC can kiss my a**.” It’s worth nothing that Osbourne previously alleged that Cowell fired her from X Factor in the U.K. because she was “too old.”

Howard Stern accused Simon Cowell of being sexist

Howard Stern, Simon Cowell

Howard Stern is another former America’s Got Talent judge who’s had words for Simon Cowell. In 2015, the infamous Sony hack revealed that Cowell lobbied NBC to hire him in replacement of Stern on AGT (via the New York Daily News). Fast forward to August 2019, when Stern lashed out at Cowell on his radio show about the hiring and firing mess. “My only beef with him is he had a campaign behind my back, which I wouldn’t have known if the Koreans hadn’t hacked Sony,” he griped (via Radar Online). “They exposed these emails he had going, ‘We can get rid of Stern and I’ll work for so much cheaper.’ And by the way, if I had really wanted that job, then I would’ve been p**sed. But I just find him sleazy and he is a liar.”

After Gabrielle Union’s unceremonious exit from AGT, Stern accused Cowell of being sexist. Claiming that Cowell was behind Union’s termination, Stern speculated that the current lineup of male judges (Howie Mandel and Cowell) wasn’t likely to change (via Deadline). “He has set it up that the men stay, no matter how old they are, no matter how fat they are, no matter how ugly they are, no matter talentless they are,” Stern alleged. “But what he manages to do on all his shows is he constantly replaces the hot chicks with hotter chicks and younger chicks. Which is so obvious.”

America’s Got Talent may not be kind to comedians

Joe Matarese

It isn’t just the judges and hosts on America’s Got Talent who’ve aired grievances about their experiences on the show. Comedian Joe Matarese accused the reality series of editing one of his sets to make it appear that he performed poorly. Matarese had competed during Season 9, but was eliminated just before the quarter-finals. Prior to that, he did exceptionally well (Howard Stern in particular loved him). However, he may have been inadvertently set up for failure in his final round: Matarese had to perform for just the judges and not an actual crowd, creating a truly awkward predicament for a stand-up comic.

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“I don’t even look at myself as blowing it, because there was no audience in the next round, and there was supposed to be an audience, which made it even worse,” Mataese claimed on his Life of Joe podcast. “They had technical difficulties, so they had to change the whole thing. So all the material I prepared, I prepared because I thought there was going to be 2,000 people there . I did jokes that work on performance and the pause . There [were] act-outs in the jokes, and the act-outs are way off when you have an audience there to time it out.”

Matarese also claimed that it’s especially hard for comedians without management teams and connections to make it past the AGT audition process.

Several AGT stunts have gone SERIOUSLY wrong

Simon Cowell

Some specialty performers on America’s Got Talent have unfortunately gotten hurt on the show. Back in 2007, an acrobatic breakdancer named Ivan fell headfirst into metal chairs and lied on the stage floor motionless for moments. Then-host Jerry Springer later announced that Ivan received medical attention and would be okay, but wouldn’t return to the competition post-mishap.

Similarly in 2016, Canadian stuntman Ryan Stock appeared on the show with fiancée AmberLynn Walker, who was supposed to shoot a bullseye near his face with a crossbow and flaming arrow. Instead, the arrow hit Stock in the throat. After the incident, Simon Cowell told Us Weekly, “I’ve heard he was OK, but this has never happened before. We always kid that they need to make it more dangerous, but then this happens. I thought it was part of the act, but then I realized this was bad. I just had a feeling, they looked nervous before they started. But he’s OK.”

Two years later, married couple Mary and Tyce (the latter of whom is nearly blind) of Duo Transcend performed a trapeze act on AGT. When Mary took a nasty fall after slipping through Tyce’s grasp, the show quickly cut to commercial. Thankfully, the pair had a protective mat that broke her fall, so she was fine . though the audience (including her mother and baby boy) may have been at risk for heart attacks.

Did Mel B and Simon Cowell stage an on-set AGT fight?

Mel B, Simon Cowell

Before Mel B was cycled out of the America’s Got Talent judges’ panel, she periodically had tense moments with Simon Cowell on air — and that tension came to a head in 2017. After a contestant’s magic act went awry, Cowell cracked, “I kind of imagine this would be like Mel B’s wedding night: A lot of anticipation, not much promise or delivery.”

Mel B, whose divorce from ex-husband Stephen Belafonte was rife with allegations of sexual abuse, substance abuse, and domestic violence, appeared to not take kindly to Cowell’s remark and threw her water on him before storming out of the studio. However, they reconciled not long after the incident, with Mel B saying (via Variety), “He should know if you say something inappropriate he’s gonna, like, get stuff thrown at him. In a friendly way. I made sure there was no ice in it this time. I told him he was an a**hole and that was it, and he goes, ‘Oh, whatever.'”

All that said, a source cited by Radar Online claimed that the entire tiff was actually staged, alleging that Mel B knew Cowell’s remark was imminent, which was why her Dunkin Donuts-sponsored cup “was full of water and not coffee.” The insider added that Cowell would allegedly do almost anything to drum up drama — including skipping the press line post-show, even though Mel B happily chatted with reporters. Hmm.

Terry Crews butted heads with Gabrielle Union over her AGT diversity complaints

Terry Crews, Gabrielle Union

During a January 2020 interview on the Today show, Terry Crews was asked about America’s Got Talent‘s ongoing toxic set allegations. “I can’t speak for sexism because I’m not a woman, but I can speak on any racism comments,” he replied. “That was never my experience. In fact, it was the most diverse place I have ever been in my 20 years of entertainment.”

Gabrielle Union, of course, didn’t take too kindly to his remarks, tweeting that she had “multiple witnesses” to back up her case. Alluding that Crews tried to “throw [her] under the bus,” she later claimed that he’d lied, before following up with more tweets about the alleged lack of diversity behind the scenes, even in the hair and makeup departments.

Following Union’s response and some subsequent social media backlash, Crews apologized in a series of tweets, writing that he needed to “acknowledge the pain of other people.” He continued, “@itsgabrielleu, I want you to know it was never my intention to invalidate your experience — but that is what I did. I apologize. You have been through a lot in this business, and with that I empathize with the struggle toward fairness and equality in the workplace.” Crews added, “You are a role model to the entire black community and In my desire to be professionally neutral as your co-worker, I should have at the very least understood you just needed my support.”

Gabrielle Union said the America’s Got Talent set made her physically ill

Gabrielle Union

In an interview with Variety published in May 2020, Gabrielle Union said the trauma she allegedly suffered on the set of America’s Got Talent didn’t just affect her emotionally and mentally — she also became physically ill. Union claimed that she’s allergic to cigarette smoke and that Simon Cowell’s smoking on set severely hindered her health for two months. “It was a cold that lingered, and turned into bronchitis, because I couldn’t shake it,” she explained. “It impacted my voice, which affects my ability to do my job.” Union also alleged that her respiratory illness irked notorious germaphobe Howie Mandel, going on to claim that when she brought up these incidents to producers, nothing happened.

Union also spoke about the racist jokes and material she allegedly witnessed, as well as the show reportedly not having a policy in place to ask contestants about their preferred pronouns. Having attempted to culturally course-correct for the show to no avail, Union added, “It put me in a position from day one where I felt othered. I felt isolated. I felt singled out as being difficult, when I’m asking for basic laws to be followed. I want to come to work and be healthy and safe and listened to.”

Gabrielle Union wasn’t thrilled to work with Julianne Hough for a very specific reason

Julianne Hough, Gabrielle Union

Gabrielle Union told Variety that one incident in particular infuriated her: A white male contestant’s act included quick transformations into different celeb singers, and for one portion of his performance, he wore black gloves to “transform” into a black artist. Union claimed she brought up concerns about blackface and was ignored, even though the contestant’s performance was “flagged as problematic” pretty early on, before he was ultimately allowed to perform.

She also shaded fellow judge Julianne Hough, who infamously darkened her skin to be “Crazy Eyes” from Orange Is the New Black for Halloween in 2013. “I’m a part of a show that hired one of my co-workers who had an unfortunate incident doing blackface,” Union said. “I’d like to trust her at her word that she learned her lesson, and has educated herself amid the consequences she faced and is hopefully a better person. But you would think that perhaps the show and NBC might be more conscientious in exposing that, and it would be taken seriously. I took it seriously.”

Gabrielle Union filed a discrimination complaint against AGT producers

Gabrielle Union

Gabrielle Union didn’t just speak out about the alleged racial discrimination she faced on the America’s Got Talent set — she also filed an official complaint with California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing against NBCUniversal, Fremantle Productions, and Syco (Simon Cowell’s production company).

In documents obtained by TMZ in June 2020, Union claimed that she was subjected to or witnessed “racist jokes, racist performances, sexual orientation discrimination, and excessive focus on female judges’ appearances, including race-related comments.” These included Union allegedly being told to tone down her hair, and she claimed she raised 60 concerns with higher-ups about various incidents of racial and gender discrimination. Per Variety, she also alleged that NBC Entertainment Chair Paul Telegdy threatened her for speaking out about the discrimination she claimed to experience on the set of AGT. Though the exact nature of the reported threat wasn’t revealed, Union believes she was fired over coming forward with her allegations.

NBC said in a statement (via TMZ), “The allegation that anyone involved in this process threatened Ms. Union is categorically untrue. We took Ms. Union’s concerns seriously, and engaged an outside investigator who found an overarching culture of diversity on the show. NBCUniversal remains committed to creating an inclusive and supportive working environment where people of all backgrounds are treated with respect.” By denying Telegdy’s alleged threat, rather than “substantively address the DFEH complaint” that Union filed, her attorney accused the network of playing semantics.

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Gabrielle Union met with NBC about inclusivity after the scandal

Gabrielle Union

Though Gabrielle Union was let go from America’s Got Talent, she reportedly still wanted to make a difference in how talent was treated on the show moving forward. “Gabrielle believes there is a toxicity that has become normalized at Talent,” a source cited by Deadline claimed in December 2019. “She wants to help fix that, because she loved a lot of her time on the show last season, even with the issues with Simon and what have you. But she could never go back, even if they did a [180] and asked her to for another season — no.”

Page Six reported that Simon Cowell’s company, Syco, lawyered up ahead of the meeting, noting that attorneys would be present to gain information about the alleged on-set environment. Thankfully, Union later tweeted that she and NBC spoke for five hours in what she called a “productive meeting,” adding, “I was able to, again, express my unfiltered truth. I led with transparency and my desire and hope for real change.” Meanwhile, NBC stated to The Associated Press, “While there will be a further investigation to get a deeper understanding of the facts, we are working with Gabrielle to come to a positive resolution.”

While that all sounds like a big mess for AGT, it was only the beginning, as Variety soon reported that the Screen Actors Guild (SAG-AFTRA) was also launching it’s own investigation in to the allegations.

The Screen Actor’s Guild investigated AGT’s production company

Orlando Jones wearing a Pac Man themed suit while speaking at Comic-Con / Gabrielle Union wearing a mustard yellow dress at New York Fashion Week

In December 2019, SAG-AFTRA announced it was investigating NBC, Fremantle Media, and America’s Got Talent following Gabrielle Union’s allegations of a toxic work environment rife with racial discrimination and health hazards. Later that month, SAG-AFTRA announced it wasn’t just investigating AGT, but also American Gods, another Fremantle Media production, for allegations of racial discrimination after star Orlando Jones, who starred as Mr. Nancy, was let go from the series. Jones said he was fired for “sending the wrong message to Black America.”

The union said in a statement (via IndieWire), “After initial meetings with Gabrielle Union and her representatives about her experiences on America’s Got Talent, and after learning more about Orlando Jones’s experience on American Gods, SAG-AFTRA is expanding its investigation of Fremantle Media. Our enforcement actions are handled confidentially to protect the members involved, and we typically do not publicize these matters unless the affected members request that we do so,” it reads. “We have nothing further to report at this time.” Fremantle Media said that they would cooperate with the investigations, which are ongoing as of the time of this writing.

Dwyane Wade and Time’s Up spoke out in support of Gabrielle Union

Gabrielle Union, Dwyane Wade

After NBC denied Gabrielle Union’s allegations about the America’s Got Talent set, her husband, NBA star Dwyane Wade, spoke out in her defense. He replied to a tweet about her complaint in June 2020, “So instead of making sure your work environment is a better place for everyone. Y’all have decided that she what? Made it all up because she lost a job? She’s a black [woman] in Hollywood she has lost out on many jobs.” In a followup tweet, Wade wrote, “When these negotiations started my house started being watched and my family started being followed. My daughter couldn’t even go to swim class without us being trailed by people looking for answers. Well y’all have the answers and y’all still don’t wanna listen to them.”

Previously, the President and CEO of the TIme’s Up Now, Tina Tchen, spoke out in favor of Union, as well, telling Deadline in part, “Not only did Union reportedly endure and witness racist and inappropriate behavior — including racially-insensitive comments and excessive criticism about her physical appearance — but it also appears she was punished for speaking out: the company labeled her as ‘difficult’ before ousting her from the show altogether.”

AGT and Gabrielle Union eventually hugged it out

Gabrielle Union at the America's Got Talent Season 14 Live Show Red Carpet

In late September 2020, America’s Got Talent and Gabrielle Union’s teams released a joint statement about the work environment on the set and the actions that NBCUniversal, the AGT producers and staff had taken to rectify it. “We’ve reached an amicable resolution,” the statement read (per Variety). “NBC Entertainment appreciates the important concerns raised by Gabrielle Union and remains committed to ensuring an inclusive and supportive working environment where people of all backgrounds can be treated with respect.”

No details were given about whatever agreement they reached in regards to Union’s formal complaint or discrimination lawsuit, nor whether there was a monetary settlement. However, Deadline reports that Union received a “significant” sum from the network, and claims that the exit of Paul Telegdy as chairman of NBC Entertainment in August 2020 was also “clearly another victory” for Union: The outlet alleges that Telgedy “threatened Union’s agent” when she came forward with her accusations about the discriminations she witnessed on the AGT set.

Gabrielle Union spoke out after the AGT matter was allegedly settled

Gabrielle Union wearing white and angel wings at a World on Wheels benefit

In an interview with Marie Claire released just weeks following the settlement with NBC, Gabrielle Union fumed at the racism she allegedly faced on the set. I should be able to exist however the f–k I want to exist,” she told the magazine for its October issue. “Because if you’re hiring Gabrielle Union for my talent, then my talent is going to come out of my body in every way, shape, and incarnation that I can imagine. You’re getting more bang for your buck the more you allow me to exist as I see fit.” Union also vehemently denied that her battle with the network was for publicity, claiming that those sorts of allegations are a form of gaslighting and are what allowed the alleged misconduct to continue for so long.

She added that it didn’t surprise her that other NBC Black talent, including Terry Crews and Al Roker, didn’t speak out in her defense, but that she was still disappointed by it, noting, “These racist institutions and systems have done an amazing job at keeping us very fearful of speaking up, asking for equality, and asking for accountability because they have shown us time and time again that we are disposable.” She added that the fear for career repercussions was real: “They will discredit and malign you, and you will never work again . Being blackballed in this industry is very real.”

Terry Crews Gives Update On Simon Cowell’s Possible Return To ‘America’s Got Talent’

Jill O

Jill O’Rourke is a contributor at Talent Recap, writing news stories and recaps for shows like ‘AGT,’ ‘The Voice,’ and ‘American Idol.’ She graduated from the University of Georgia with a degree in English and Film Studies, and has been writing about pop culture since 2012, with previous bylines at Crushable and A Plus. Jill spends her free time binge-watching sitcoms and daydreaming about life as a hobbit

Trae Patton/NBC

America’s Got Talent host Terry Crews talked to Talent Recap after Tuesday’s show, and he shared his hopes for judge Simon Cowell’s return to the show. Will we see him before the end of the season?

Simon has been absent from the quarterfinals as he recovers from surgery following a bike accident that left him with a broken back. Although Kelly Clarkson and Kenan Thompson initially filled in as guest judges, the past two weeks have featured only three judges on the panel.

Terry Crews Talks About Simon Cowell’s Possible Return To ‘AGT’

Terry told Talent Recap’s Jackelyn Shultz that he checks in with Simon frequently via text, “to make sure he likes what he sees” on the show, and to asks for tips about how to improve things. “No one is more hurt than Simon at the fact that he can’t be there,” Terry added.

“I love him like a brother, and I want him to get better,” Terry said of Simon. “I’m praying for him to get back. And hopefully, before we’re done, I’m praying that he can do like a Zoom with the audience. Hopefully, by the end of this thing, at the finale or something, we’ll be able to see Simon again.”

Terry also shared that he prefers the judging panel with only three judges, as opposed to adding guest judges to fill the fourth seat. “They don’t have the history,” he said of the guest judges, adding that it’s “more respectful” to the acts for the judges to have “been there from the beginning.”

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How Is Terry Handling The Social Distancing On Set?

Terry said it’s been unusual not being able to get close to contestants during the show. “It’s wild, because I am a hugger. I am a people person,” he shared. “I get my energy from people, and it’s been miserable being on that set and having to stay six feet away from everyone.”

The host said that “any kind of violation” of social distancing “could actually shut the whole production down.” He called it a “small miracle” that the show was able to return to production during the pandemic.

Terry also reacted to the news that contestant Michael Yo was hospitalized with COVID-19 not long after his audition for the show. He said he wasn’t nervous about having been close to Michael, saying “human connection is necessary.”

“I didn’t know at the time what was happening, and I totally respect it now,” Terry said of his understanding of the virus during the auditions. “But looking back, I’m glad I got my chance to hug everybody … It’s kind of like not knowing was an actual blessing for me.”

Terry Crews on Taking Over as Host of America’s Got Talent and His Favorite Acts

Photo by: Chris Haston/NBC

He’s an actor, an author and a former NFL player, and now Terry Crews is adding to his resumé as host of NBC’s America’s Got Talent: The Champions. The winter edition of the series brings together 50 of the world’s most talented, memorable and all-around fan-favorite acts from past seasons of AGT and other Got Talent franchises from around the world.

“I’m the biggest fan of the show,” Crews said on the AGT red carpet. “I have five kids. I’ve been married 30 years, and we sit and watch this show. It’s the perfect show for all of us to get together and enjoy, have fun, laugh, cry, just go nuts, and not feel like we need a shower afterwards. You know what I mean? A lot of TV, you just don’t know what you’re getting, but here, you know you’re going to be inspired in some way or another.”

You have big shoes to fill following Tyra Banks. Is that intimidating? Has she given you any pointers?

We have not talked, but both Tyra and Nick Cannon are good friends of mine. My thing was I didn’t want to get too much advice because I like being thrown out there. When I do talk shows, I don’t want to know the questions ahead of time. I always want it to come off the top of my head. I’m going to tell you one thing, I enjoy the mistakes. A lot of people don’t, but for me, the only thing that makes things not boring are accidents.

It’s like when you start talking and everybody knows what’s going to happen, and blah, blah, blah, but all of a sudden a fly gets in there and it lands on your forehead and you’re like, “Oh, my God, what am I going to do?” Where anything can happen, that’s when people stand up, and they look, and they go, “Oh, my God, what’s happening?” I live there. Terry Crews lives in that moment.

Are you at all intimidated taking Tyra’s role for this season?

First of all, I was super intimidated because she is a superstar. You can’t replace her. That’s not what this is about. What I would call it is a shift. It’s a different look because you can’t replace her. You couldn’t replace Nick. Everyone has their own personality, but I do have to say that my personality, being big, boisterous, and fun, and people love me, is perfect for this. For me, it was almost like, “What took them so long?” I was perfect. I wanted this. It’s like actually wanting to be in the NFL and you get the call.

The fact that Brooklyn Nine-Nine moved to NBC had to be a helping factor.

You know what? It’s like moving into a six-bedroom house. I’m going to go over to the AGT room, and then I’m going to walk over into the Brooklyn Nine-Nine room. NBC has been absolutely phenomenal. We’re doing beautiful, amazing episodes of Brooklyn Nine-Nine right now. What can I say?

This year, I have to say it’s weird. It’s like this whole year, for me, has been like an episode of Black Mirror, because it started off really, really dark and really, really scary, and I didn’t know what was going to happen. I truly didn’t, and then to have it end up like this, it’s like, “Holy cow.” I feel emotional because to end up in a better spot than I was before, it doesn’t happen. It’s very rare.

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Does your wife give you pointers since you said you watch together.

Oh, listen, I get the rundown. She’s like, “You were really chatty on stage. You need to cut it short. No one wants to see you that long. Get to the acts.” I like to milk it, and she’s like, “All right, get off the stage, buddy.”

She told me go for it, but at the same time, she’s like, “Dress, do your thing, and make sure you’re unforgettable.” That’s the deal, because you know what? Love you or hate you, just make sure they don’t forget you, and that’s a really good note. My wife was the performer in our family before I was, you know? In college, I was a football player. She was the one on stage. So she tells me project, do your thing, because it’s a live audience. It’s a different deal.

What are your favorite acts?

First of all, one of my favorite acts is Uzeyer Novruzov. He actually fell off a ladder on live TV last time he was on America’s Got Talent, and he redid the same trick. I can’t tell you how it happened or what happens afterward, but the courage that this man had to try again, I was like, “Man, what am I doing with my life?”

Literally, this guy’s giving it everything he’s got, and let me tell you, it’s like that story after story from singers, from ventriloquists, from people with disabilities who decided they’re not going to hide. In fact, they’re going to turn what everyone else would normally call a disability, they’re going to turn it into an advantage. To see these acts, I can’t tell you how unbelievably wonderful it is.

There was a little girl, Courtney Hadwin. She was so shy. She could hardly speak. Backstage, she was so shy, but then as soon as she got on that mic, she turned into Janis Joplin. I couldn’t believe it. I said, “This right here is something you can’t control.” You don’t have any idea about the wonder of the human mind and how special and beautiful we are. It’s unreal. There’s never an end to it.

Photo by: Trae Patton/NBC)

Simon Cowell said you were his number one choice. How does that feel, and did he say why?

I didn’t stick around for that. I think I blacked out. He was still talking, and I was just like, “Oh, my God, Simon,” First of all, I was really nervous to meet him because you start to feel like he’s judging you. Like, we’ll see if you have what it takes or whatever. Right off, he was like, “Terry, I chose you because I love what you do,” and I was like, “What? What?” And all of a sudden, you feel that you’re talented because he’s the most honest man in the world.

He’s not going to joke around or play around with your feelings. You know what I mean? I admire what he’s built, to see this franchise become worldwide, and this man knows talent. He knows so many great acts and has put so many people on. That’s another thing. I mean, you’re talking about this is a producer also who’s put great acts out there that have changed the world. Simon Cowell is a genius, and I’m just happy to be called one of his protégés.




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