NBC's America's Got Talent is now in its ninth season. The variety show that boasts big talent can include singers, dancers, comedians, magicians or other talented individuals competing for a million dollars that an audience vote decides.
The four judges from last season have all returned: Heidi Klum, Howie Mandel, Melanie Brown and Howard Stern. A new twist was added this time as a golden buzzer gives one chance for a judge to save an act during the audition round.
Host Nick Cannon joined Klum for a call about this latest search for big talent.
Windy City Times: Hey, guys. It was great seeing the auditions in Chicago last season. It seemed to take a long time to film. Is it hard being away from your families for that long?
Heidi Klum: When we start the live shows, it's easier for me because I'm moving my entire family to New York instead of me flying back and forth every week. I just set up our base there so my family is there and they don't have to move. It works out perfectly for my schedule in terms of my kids going to school. They love being in New York because we only really shoot only two days a week, we shoot the live shows Tuesdays and Wednesdays. I have all the other days off where I can run around with my family and enjoy New York City.
Nick Cannon: I would say the same thing in the sense that the days are long, but the amount of time kind of works very well with the family. The average person has to work a nine to five every single day. They don't get those breaks and those times to actually spend with their families. So I always tell people, as crazy as it seems, I probably get to spend more time with my family than the average person because that's just the way the days are scheduled.
HK: It would be hard for us probably if we would do a movie and you're on a movie set for three months or you're shipped off to Australia and you shoot a film for three months. I think that would be probably really tough, but you know, with this kind of schedule, it works out pretty well I think for all of us.
WCT: The show has shown a range of different ethnicities, age groups and LGBT folks in the past. How is the diversity this time out?
NC: It's definitely the same. It's one of those things where this is the show, come one, come all. Race, color, creed, agewe'll let anybody on that stage to do whatever they feel to do, as long as you have, I was about to say "as long as you have talent," but that doesn't matter, either. It's just like you don't even have to have talent to be on that show. It's really just being able to come out there and express yourself. If you're somebody that wants to express yourself, we'll put a number on you and push you right out there on that stage!
HK: I mean, a new category I was introduced to this year [was something] I didn't know even existed: same-gender? Same-gender professional dance?
NC: Ballroom dancing, yes.
HK: We have two male dancers because normally in ballroom dancing you have a male and a female. I have never seen that before and I didn't know that that existed and so I was loving that. I think that it's great for America to see that, too, that there are actually professionals, same-gender performers, that do this amazing dance.
We fell in love with these two guys. It was incredible how well they danced together and how talented they are. So that was something new for me that I hadn't seen before and I'm sure that a lot of people in this country, too, will be like, "Wow, that's cool. That's new." So I think also that we kind of show people things that they hadn't seen before, same way how I was new to that. I loved it. I embrace that.
WCT: Did you have any favorite acts this season?
NC: Just as a host, I come from a place where I try to embrace everything, but I'm not really a fan of the side show act because I've got a weak stomach. Anytime people are like inflicting pain on themselves or that crazy stuff, like putting staplers in their face, you've seen my reaction if you watch this show. I can't look at it. I just close my eyes and look the other way.
Then the ones that are my favorite, obviously, are always the young people. I just have a soft spot in my heart for the kids that come on the show and I think this season, season nine, we probably have more young people that have come out that are just extraordinarily talented. It's really probably one of the standout things from the season where you see all these young people doing all these things and then I was conflicted at one time because we actually had a young person swallowing swords, so I loved her and hated her at the same time.
HK: What I don't love is when people just want to come and they don't really have an act, but they just want to be on TV. Like we had this one girl, for examplebeautiful girl, she was really fit and she wanted to show us how you pose to do a selfie. Like that didn't take me long to hit my buzzer.
NC: Because Heidi already knows how to take perfect selfies. She didn't need that.
HK: That's not a talent and that's not a million-dollar act. There [are] people that are really serious that have been training for years and especially the kids when we have contortionists or dance groups or singers that are clearly beyond talented, and then there comes a grown-up girl and she's serious about teaching us how to do a selfie? I'm, like, "Really?" Those kind of things I get annoyed by. I think it's maybe fun if someone comes to a party and does that, but this is not for America's Got Talent. Those kind of things annoy me when someone does things like that.
NC: I loved the selfie girl.
HK: You did?
NC: Yes, she came out there and stripped down to a bikini in front of thousands of people. I'm supportive of her, but that's my job: I'm supposed to be supportive.
WCT: Since you have a soft spot for kids on the show, would either of you let your children audition?
NC: Absolutely not. Nope, I wouldn't.
HK: I would have to say no as well.
NC: The reason is because my kids are kind of born into the entertainment industry, so I want them to have a sense of accomplishment, something that has nothing to do with entertainment is probably what I would encourage them to do.
HK: I think it's hard for children to get rejected and I don't know if I want to put my kids through that. The good thing with my children is that they don't have the ambition to do that right now. My kids are kids. They want to be kids. They go to school and they have their hobbies, but they are not kids that are training to do anything like that right now. So I'm not pushing them. I'm happy about that. They have their playdates and they have their soccer, gymnastics classes, things like that that they love and that they're passionate about.
It's a different kind of breed of kids, I think, that are just made for the stage. When you have strong singers, they're just born with that gift. They just have it or they've been dancing or doing gymnastics, or sometimes we have these amazing kid dance groups, and then you have these seven or eight year olds flying through the air doing all this amazing stuff. They have been doing this since they were probably four years old and so you have to start this kind of stuff early and really want it. I think these kind of kids that we see on the stage, they have that passion from an early age. And my kids are just not interested in that. They're interested in other things.
WCT: Does the show work well because it is so family-oriented?
HK: I think because it's a variety, I think especially but I do watch the show with my children. There is not a lot on television that can keep their attention for a very long time. If it's just about music or it's just about dance, they're like, "Okay, can we watch something else now?" They get bored.
This show keeps all of our attentions, every few minutes someone else comes out with something so unexpected. You always have a surprise and they just want to sit there, just to know who comes out next. I think that's what keeps everyone watching America's Got Talent because there are all these new people with amazing ideas that pop up every year over and over again. The audience just loves that and my kids love that.
NC: Yes, I agree with Heidi. It's the same idea or it's the true essence of what entertainment is all about. It's people getting an opportunity to see people from all walks of life reach and strive for their dreams, and I think that's why America connects with us so much.
America's Got Talent broadcasts on Tuesdays for the world to see on NBC.