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Last month, Cannon said he would not return to the show after NBC threatened to fire him over what he said was a racial joke made during his Showtime comedy special Stand Up, Don’t Shoot.
Howie Mandel, one of the show’s judges, tweeted the news about Banks on Sunday.
— Howie Mandel (@howiemandel) March 12, 2017
In making the official announcement, Banks said: “Since I was a little girl, I’ve been obsessed with grandiose acts and performers who make the seemingly impossible possible. I love how AGT brings that feeling into everyone’s home, capturing the best of people who come out and give it their all to make those big, fierce and outrageous dreams come true. I look forward to connecting with the dreamers, having fun and giving hugs and words of encouragement when needed. And maybe I’ll get one or two performers to smize for the audience!”
“Smize” is a reference to one of the catchphrases Banks used on America’s Next Top Model, a show she created and executive produced for 23 cycles. The former supermodel also has hosted her own talk show.
“Welcome to the America’s Got Talent family, Tyra! This is really exciting,” said Simon Cowell, executive producer, judge and creator of the Got Talent format.
Banks also is CEO of The Tyra Banks Co. and recently developed Fierce Capital, an investment arm that invests in early-stage companies, including firms that are female-led or female-focused. She also overseees the TZONE Foundation, a nonprofit organization that invests in young women to help them realize their ambitions and face their challenges. Most recently, Banks created TYRA Beauty.
“Tyra is the complete package: Out-of-this-world talented, funny, brilliant and all heart. In whatever she has done, she has always connected with audiences around the world. Her vivacious spirit will infuse AGT in a big way,” said Paul Telegdy, president of alternative and reality group at NBC Entertainment.
“Not only is Tyra smart and beautiful, she’s also warm, compassionate and a lot of fun,” added Trish Kinane, president of entertainment programming at Fremantle North America. “She will fit right into the crazy world of AGT.”
The move comes a month after Cannon addressed the situation in a lengthy Feb. 13 Facebook post.
“I was to be punished for a joke. This has weighed heavy on my spirit. It was brought to my attention by my ‘team’ that NBC believed that I was in breach of contract because I had disparaged their brand,” he wrote. “I find myself in a dark place having to make a decision that I wish I didn’t have to, but as a man, an artist, and a voice for my community I will not be silenced, controlled or treated like a piece of property. There is no amount of money worth my dignity or my integrity.”
The joke in question was less about race and more about violating the non-disparagement clause in Cannon’s AGT contract. The clause is common in Hollywood and, in short, says talent will not disparage the network they are on. The Showtime special included several jokes about NBC and his different persona away from family-friendly AGT. “That’s what NBC is gonna stand for tonight: ‘N—rs better come on, ‘cuz n—rs be cussin‘, so n—rs be careful,” Cannon said in the special. “‘Cuz y’all see me on the show. I mean sometimes I wish I could say the stuff that I want to say. … But I can’t say that. I can’t talk like that ‘cuz that would mess up the white money. It will.” (Watch a clip, below.)
In a subsequent interview with Howard Stern promoting the Showtime project, Cannon said he wasn’t worried about the network’s reaction to the content in the comedy special. “If they fire me from AGT for the things I’ve said, I can sue them and create a whole new controversy — ‘NBC hates black people!'” he said with a laugh when asked if he was afraid the “AGT white money would dry up.” Cannon went on to praise the show and NBC during the raunchy Stern interview, noting that “it’s the best job that I have … hopefully I can do it forever.” (He also noted that he was unsure just how many more years he had left on his AGT deal.)
The Stern interview raised eyebrows at NBC, and prompted network insiders to tune in to the Showtime special. Sources tell The Hollywood Reporter that several NBC insiders reached out to Cannon directly after the special — never threatening his role with AGT but instead to check in on him following a series of troubling Instagram posts. None of their efforts to reach him were returned and insiders reached out to Cannon’s team instead.
“My soul won’t allow me to be in business with corporations that attempt to frown on freedom of speech, censor artists, and question cultural choices. Not to get too detailed but this isn’t the first time executives have attempted to ‘put me in my place’ for so-called unruly actions,” Cannon wrote Feb. 13. “I will not stand for it. My moral principles will easily walk away from the millions of dollars they hang over my head.
“It’s never been about the money for me, what is difficult to walk away from is the fans, the people who love me on the show. This hurts tremendously,” he continued. “I felt like I was a part of the fabric of our great nation every summer, representing every culture, age, gender, and demographic. Now for the rug to be pulled from underneath me and to be publicly reprimanded and ridiculed over a joke about my own race is completely wrong and I have to do something about it.”
The next edition of the talent competition — which ranks as NBC’s No. 1 series in the summer — would have marked Cannon’s eighth cycle as host. (Regis Philbin hosted in season one; he was followed by Jerry Springer for seasons two and three, with Cannon taking over in season four.) Judges Cowell, Heidi Klum, Mel B and Mandel will all return for season 12 in the summer, with live shows from the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood.
“I wish AGT and NBC the best in its upcoming season but I cannot see myself returning,” Cannon wrote. “Most of us don’t realize that there are 6 major corporations that control 90 percent of media in America and the amount of minority executives is dismal. With this being the case, true equality in our industry is impossible. There will always be a ‘do as I say’ mentality that mirrors society’s perception of women and minorities, and only a few will stand up against it. I proudly stand as one of those few, and will gladly take on whatever repercussions that come with it.”
The Got Talent format, created by Cowell and co-owned by Syco Entertainment and FremantleMedia globally, airs in 186 countries and has been commissioned in 68 territories worldwide.
Teen singer Grace VanderWaal won last year’s season.
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