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America’s Got Talent Exclusive Interview: Creative Director Brian Friedman Gives the Inside Scoop!

September 17, 2010 10:19 AM by Candace Young

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Reality TV Magazine recently had the chance to catch up with America’s Got Talent‘s Creative Director, Brian Friedman, to get the inside scoop on the season finale, contestants, judges, and a teaser on X Factor! Keep reading after the jump!

Brian Friedman is no stranger to reality television. He did a stint as a judge and choreographer on So You Think You Can Dance, and then joined Britain’s X Factor when Simon Cowell created the position of Creative Director just for him.  He has worked with the acts on America’s Got Talent the past two seasons, and is working on the American version of X Factor, which debuts in 2011, as well.  Here’s what Brian had to say when we spoke with him:

Reality TV Magazine: It was a very exciting season finale on America’s Got Talent!

Brian: I loved the finale! It was my second year on America’s Got Talent, so I can only compare it to the year before, but it was definitely much larger, and the talent was much stronger – it was an all around great show. I thought that the special guests we brought on the show also did a great job. I couldn’t be more happy.

Reality TV Magazine: Jackie [Evancho] and Michael [Grimm] both seemed a bit shocked when his name was called – was the outcome a surprise for those of you behind the scenes?

Brian: The word on the street was that Jackie was definitely the front-runner, that was obvious, so yeah, it definitely was a shocker. I was standing right off to the side of the stage with all of the producers and our jaws all hit the floor! It was a pleasant surprise, because Jackie is so young and has such a huge career ahead of her regardless of whether she won the show or not, she’s truly a star,  so to see someone like Michael who has struggled, and made a lifetime of trying to make his career happen, have his dream come true in that moment, was really heart-warming.

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Reality TV Magazine: In your opinion, what gave Michael the edge?

Brian: I think it had to do, in part, with his journey. You could connect to him on an emotional level in a way that you couldn’t connect to Jackie.  Jackie’s a really gifted child who has a very bright future, but there was nothing relatable to a lot of the adults.  I also think that the songs that Michael sings are songs that we know, can sing along to, and evoke emotion inside of us. Jackie was doing a lot of opera and singing in Italian, so we couldn’t connect to the songs in that way.  Also, just looking at their journeys, their home life, their families, and what they go through – Michael could really use this money to better his family, and I think that the public saw that and wanted to help him out in other ways than just his own career.

Reality TV Magazine: What’s next for him? Do you think he’ll actually headline in Las Vegas, or will he end up in a more typical recording/touring musical career?

Brian: If I were in charge of Michael’s career, I would have him do his run in Vegas that he’s won with the show, so that all of his fans can come see him, and then while that’s going on, I would have him in the recording studio getting his album together so that the second that finishes he can release his album and get his music out there. He’s got a lot to give, and I think he really does have the potential to be a recording artist who will sell albums and make a name for himself.

Reality TV Magazine: What about Prince Poppycock? Do you think Piers’ comments [on the final live show] affected the voting, with him coming in fourth?

Brian: I can’t say that they affected the votes because I feel like the American public is smart enough to form their own opinions. Regardless of what the judges say, if it were meant for Poppycock to have won the show, he would have.  I think there are a large amount of conservative people in the public who, [Poppycock] isn’t their style, and they don’t go for the eccentric ‘camp’ quality that Poppycock gave. I don’t think it necessarily had to do with his last performance – although it wasn’t on par with his other performances – there were some technical issues with his ear monitor; he couldn’t really hear himself, and he didn’t go for the big ending note – I think that Piers buzzing him right before the final note shocked him.  But I was happily surprised that Poppycock was in the final, because I didn’t think that America would have gone for that type of act as long as they did.  It shows that times are changing and people are a little bit more open-minded.

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Reality TV Magazine: Which of the other Top Ten acts do you expect to do big things?

Brian: Overall, I see the top four acts succeeding.  I really think that Fighting Gravity has the capability to come up with some great material, they just need time – time on the show was never on their side – so when they have the right amount of time, they can really deliver a polished act that wows everyone. Taylor Mathews was kind of the dark horse throughout the competition, a lot of people thought that he might make it to the final. I think that given time with him in the studio writing his own tracks, he could be a potential artist to look out for; he’s got a really good sound that’s very current, very ‘now’. Another one I believe could do really well in the studio is Debra Romer. She is such a beautiful girl, and again, had a great back story; she reminds me of a young Jewel. She’s got a different voice, but it’s the same kind of emotion.  For dance acts, I absolutely adore Studio One Young Beast Society. They were just so committed and focused, and had a really positive message. They combined insane gymnastics tricks with dance – tricks we’ve really never seen before, and that was exciting to me.  To see moves that have never been executed, or even created, is refreshing, and I think it put a lot of dancers on their toes – they really have to step it up if they want to come and audition for shows like this or they simply won’t get on anymore!

Reality TV Magazine: Howie Mandel was a judge for the first time this season. What was the overall feeling about whether or not he was a good fit?

Brian: He was definitely a good fit. The public really seemed to warm to him. What I liked about him was his honesty – he seemed like a kid! We needed that youth up there, and by all means, he’s not twenty years old, but he has the eyes of a child when he watches the acts. He’s the voice for all those people out there who just don’t get it, and who are grossed out or scared. So, it was fun, and of course he’s hilarious.

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Reality TV Magazine: He’s a great contrast to Piers.

Brian: It’s true, because Piers is just a big, gloomy cloud [laughs], which, I just love Sharon because she’s not afraid to let him know. I really enjoyed the chemistry between the judges, whether they were hating each other, or making fun of each other, or laughing together, you can tell they really enjoy what they’re doing.

Reality TV Magazine: Are there any changes coming up with the show next season?

Brian: The format will remain the same. I don’t know yet if it will be the same way with the YouTube Week and the Wildcard Week – we really don’t find that out until right before we start – but the changes come with the acts; you really never know who’s going to come out and audition. We hope to get more unusual and unique acts, and when they do come, that’s when the change happens on the show.

Reality TV Magazine: Switching gears, what can you tell us about X Factor to get anticipation going?

Brian: Right now we’re gearing up for season seven [in Britain], and there have been many changes to the show; the format has changed drastically for London, and for the American show, we’re going to figure out what works and what doesn’t work, and be ready to take it over here. The show is taking a much more current route; the artists that we are bringing on to our Top Twelve this season in London, are acts that we feel are ready to enter into the industry. They are getting the highest level of coaching in every department possible.  We want them, the second they appear on television, to look like megastars.  It will be the same for the American version – there will be no time wasted.  It needs to be a furious fight to win!

Note: The U.S. version of X Factor will debut in September of 2011.

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Photo credits: NBC, UKSun

Topics: America's Got Talent, NBC Reality TV Shows |

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