'America's Got Talent' Judge Mel B Says Season 9 Will be 'Bigger and Better'

3:37 PM PST 02/06/2014 by Kanika Lal
Charles Sykes/NBC

The former spice girl and judge talks to THR about NBC's reality competition, which is in the midst of auditions; the judges' big turnoffs; and where they hang out when not filming.

America's Got Talent returns in late spring with familiar faces: Every single one of the judges from season eight is returning, along with host Nick Cannon.

The producers’ auditions for season nine began in fall 2013, and they have made their rounds in a total of 11 cities, including Miami, Atlanta, Baltimore, Denver, Houston, Indianapolis, Greensboro, Nashville, Providence and New York, and finishing up in Los Angeles by this weekend.

“I think the auditions throughout all of America are a must,” former Spice Girl and judge Mel B tells The Hollywood Reporter. “You can find talents in the smallest of places. I wouldn’t pinpoint one place that has more talent.” The singer-actress and television personality adds that she has a “feeling the upcoming season will be bigger and better.”

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November acted as the trigger month for the season, as the celebrity host and judges officially announced their reappearance on the show. Stern unveiled his return on The Howard Stern Show the day before the official NBC statement on Nov. 20. “After a lot of thought, and I say this with ‘peace and love, peace and love,’ I’ve decided – I needed a personal life – but, that big black hole inside of me that demands attention, it won,” the radio personality said. “I’m going back for one season more.” A week prior, Cannon also shared with the public on Today that he is set to host his sixth season of the Simon Cowell-created competition.

Mel B, who replaced Sharon Osbourne last season, tells THR of the cooperation among the dynamic panel of judges: “Between the four of us, we respect each other. Our different experiences in our career complement the way we operate the talent and the advice and comments we give. We bring something different to the table, which each doesn’t have. It works.” She added, “We actually genuinely like each other. We hang out after work and sometimes go to Stern’s place after dinner. We’re friends.”

Deal or No Deal game-show host Howie Mandel returns to the panel for his fifth season, while Mel B and Victoria’s Secret model Heidi Klum are on board for their second seasons. Stern, who reportedly receives $15 million for his role on the show, replaced Piers Morgan in 2011, commenting on his morning show that he feels “very special” of NBC’s accommodation to his schedule.

The British singer continued to discuss the differences among the judges when asked about specific turn-offs and impressive talents in auditions. “I don’t like spiders or snakes or any of that stuff,” says Mel B. “But Howie absolutely loves it. But I like it when there’s a dancer and Howie doesn’t like dancers. I like a really good, funny comedian. Heidi doesn’t get comedians. If you’re entertaining, you’re going through. If you’re not and fall flat, then nobody likes you.”

In the recent round of auditions, the singer shares that the talent has been extraordinary, ranging from sword swallowers to dancers. In this round, she’s seen double talent, instead of performing only one skill on stage. “The whole goal is to find that single act that can have their own show in Vegas, worth a million dollars and have their own stage. I think this season will be amazing,” she says.

Mel B flies back to Los Angeles from Australia this weekend, where she remained busy coaching and mentoring kids for The Voice Kids, co-produced by Shine Australia and Talpa Productions. She’ll also hit the recording studios to prepare for her upcoming single releasing in November. A previous judge on X-Factor, also created by Cowell, Mel B praises America’s Got Talent for being family-oriented. “It’s one of the long-lasting, versatile shows that is on television now. It’s for everyone. I can watch with my 2-year-old, 14-year-old, husband and mother. It’s a real good show.”

NBC's series averaged a 3.3 rating and 10 share in adults 18-49 with 12 million viewers overall in season eight, up 6 percent over the previous year, according to Nielsen Media Research.

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