Diversity star Ashley Banjo on how he feels about stepping in for Simon Cowell as the Britain's Got Talent semi-finals begin...
When the Britain's Got Talent semi-finals were postponed in May following the auditions, due to the Coronavirus pandemic, everyone wondered if they would EVER go ahead. But, as they say, the show must go on and the semi-finals of the ITV talent show will finally hit our screens this weekend… with a few changes.
Ant and Dec are back as hosts but, for the first time in the show’s history, the semi-finals will be pre-recorded, showing this Saturday and every Saturday for the next five weeks.
To adhere to strict Covid-secure guidelines, as the best 40 acts - including the five Golden Buzzers - take to the stage once more, there will be no live studio audience, replaced instead by a 'virtual audience' watching from their homes. The judging panel looks a little different, too!
Amanda Holden, David Walliams and Alesha Dixon are back but there's no Simon Cowell for this first show, as he recovers at home in Los Angeles from a recent back operation, so Dancing on Ice panellist Ashley Banjo - who won BGT in 2009 with dance troupe Diversity - will be stepping in as a guest judge.
For each semi-final, eight acts perform and the judges choose one act, with the second chosen via public vote when that episode airs. The 10 acts chosen from the semis will compete in the LIVE grand final in October, for the chance to win a slot at the Royal Variety Performance and a £250,000 cash prize.
Britain's Got Talent new judge Ashley Banjo, 31, remembers winning like it was yesterday. Here, he reveals why he can't wait to see what new talent lies in store…
How does it feel to be joining the panel of Britain's Got Talent?
"As if 2020 couldn’t get any crazier! It’s super humbling and super exciting. I remember being on that stage last year and talking about how it’s been 10 years since we won. I walked onto that stage in 2009 as a 20-year-old street dancer from East London and now I’m walking out there and stepping in for the big man. It feels really nice, almost poetic."
You've got some big shoes to fill…
"No one can ever replace Simon or fill his shoes. I just feel like I’m doing a job for him. Will I be tough like him? I’ll be tough on everyone! I won’t be Mr Mean, just Mr Honest."
Having been on BGT, and as a performer, what's your advice to the acts about how to deal with no live studio audience?
"What some people might see as a disadvantage, like having no crowd, I as a performer would be trying to use to my advantage. However you do that is down to you; it’s about showing your creativity. People are going to have to bring their 'A game'. It’s tough anyway but, with the changes, it’s crazy!"
You're testament to how life-changing this show is. Do you feel under pressure to remain successful?
"Even now, all these years later, when I hear the BGT title music, it sends waves through my stomach. I get goosebumps just thinking about it. With Diversity, I feel pressure every year to remain great at what we do and to keep pushing boundaries. To have been on BGT all those years ago and to have kept the brand of Diversity going ever since, and now becoming a judge on the show, that’s a very individual story."
The BGT semi-finals should hopefully put a smile on people's faces…
"This year has been crazy, so I want BGT to remind everyone of how fun we are as a nation. BGT is a warm, family show which reminds us all how talented and eccentric this country is. You want to bring all of that this year more than ever before - 2020 is going to be a year that goes down in history and I want BGT to reflect the positivity."
Britain's Got Talent's semi-finals start on Saturday September 5 at 8pm on ITV.
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With over 20 years’ experience writing about TV and film, Vicky currently writes features for What’s on TV, TV Times, TV & Satellite Week magazines plus news and watching guides for WhatToWatch.com, a job which involves chatting to a whole host of famous faces. Our Vicky LOVES light entertainment, with Strictly Come Dancing, Britain’s Got Talent and The Voice UK among her fave shows. Basically, if it’s got a shiny floor, she’s all over it! When she’s not watching TV, you might find Vicky in therapy… retail therapy that is!