FORT WORTH — Will Mel B, one of the new judges on “America’s Got Talent,” be mean when she critiques aspiring performers or will she be a big softy?
The former Spice Girl says she’s simply going to be honest and fair.
But Howie Mandel, her fellow judge, paints a different picture of her. He describes her as tough and blunt, someone who can cut to the bone with one withering remark.
“We’ve had some comedians this year,” the Bald One says, “and if they don’t rise to the occasion, Mel B pulls no punches in telling them, ‘I’m going to tell you why I don’t like you. You’re not funny.’
“But that’s what you want from a judge. I don’t know if we’ve had that element before: brutal honesty with a lot of experience.”
We’ll be able to see Mel B in action alongside Mandel, Howard Stern (another returning judge) and Heidi Klum (the other newbie judge) as “America’s Got Talent” returns for its eighth season on NBC. We talked to Mel B and Mandel last week about the new season and what to expect.
First things first, Mel. Howie says you’re a tough and sometimes even harsh judge of talent. Would you like to make a rebuttal?
Mel B: “You know what? I don’t know how people are going to take me. Hopefully, they’ll just think that I’m honest. I’ve got a lot of experience under my belt. I’ve had my own show in Vegas. I’ve been performing for 20 years. I’ve done Broadway. I’ve done big stadiums with the Spice Girls. I have been in that world of entertainment for a long time. So I’m just a very honest judge. I wouldn’t say I’m mean. I like to have a lot of fun, because I think life’s too short. And at the end of the day, this is their moment to shine, their 90 seconds to shine. So unless they’re wasting everybody’s time, I’m going to be nice.”
Last season, a traveling dog act was the champion. Do you like that fact that this TV talent show doesn’t focus solely on singing, that it addresses a wider variety of entertainment?
Mandel: “Also remember, Season 2 was won by Terry Fator, a ventriloquist. The heart and soul of our show is that we are the last bastion of variety. It doesn’t have to be that traditional singer. They can do absolutely anything. We have more dangerous acts, more exciting acts, more wacky acts and more classic talent than we’ve ever had before.”
Mel B: “We’ve seen close to 450 acts and we have to bring it down to 50. Literally there are a lot, a lot, of really talented people. It’s going to be so hard to decide. From great opera singers to great danger acts to great cloggers, dancers, animal acts. In every single category, we almost have too much talent.”
Do you see many acts that make you think, “Why aren’t you already famous?”
Mel B: “Oh, every day. And let me tell you: The acts are raising the bar this year. They come on with the mindset of, ‘I’m not just going to ride a unicycle. I’m going to juggle while riding a unicycle and then lift somebody else on top of my head.’ Instead of demonstrating just one skill, they’re doing it all.”
If there had been an “America’s Got Talent” before the Spice Girls became famous, how do you suppose the group would have fared on the show?
Mel B: “Oh, God knows. I have no idea. ‘America’s Got Talent’ is not just a singing show. It’s a complete variety show. We harmonized well as Spice Girls. We definitely had something for everyone. But I’m not quite sure how it would rank, considering that it’s not just singers. Hopefully, we would do well.”
Mandel: “I think they would do well. In their time, they had what we look for. They were original. It wasn’t just five women singing and dancing. There was also a message: girl power. And a big part of ‘America’s Got Talent’ is that America is part of the voting. I think the Spice Girls would have touched a nerve and done really well with a large segment of the audience.”