There is no dearth of talent shows on the small screen. And BBC Brit has come up with another with Let It Shine, which is hosted by the witty Graham Norton and Mel Giedroyc.
And they have brought out the big guns when it comes to the judging panel, helmed by Gary Barlow as the head judge (front man of Take That), TV personality Dannii Minogue, actor and singer Martin Kemp and former Glee actress, Amber Riley. The competition runs for eight weeks, where hopefuls are put through their paces.
On how she came to be involved with the show, Riley says, “They were looking for someone and my name came into the conversation. My agent asked me if it was something I would be interested in doing seeing as I was in the UK for a West End musical.
I’ve always wanted to see what it would be like to be a judge on a show like this because I watch all of these types of shows anyway, I love music and I love singing. I always have an opinion about something, so why not try and be a judge on a TV show?”
She did her homework on Take That and looked into the songs that made the band so legendary.
She admits, “I did look up their videos on YouTube, I had to do my research. I saw a lot of the videos from back in the day. I loved how - I don’t want to say quirky and weird - but I just loved how artistic they were. I loved their style and their dancing! It’s very 90s! Some of those dance moves were very cool.”
On meeting Barlow and the other judges, Riley reveals, “I literally flew in and met them at rehearsals for the show. Everyone was lovely, of course. Gary was great, he gave me the low-down on everything, what to expect and what he was looking for. He wanted us all on the same page.”
She continues, “Every time we came out the women would scream their heads off. I enjoyed it. He loves it too. I can see what they love about him, he’s extremely charming, really smart, well-spoken and very warm, so I get it, I get the appeal, ladies.”
How did you get on with the other judges?
“It was great, Gary was wonderful and very funny. Dannii is so energetic and glamorous, she’s so gorgeous. Martin was like the dad on the panel. I’ve been away from the US because I’m staying here for a year to do Dreamgirls, the West-End musical, so Martin sent me flowers and a candle. Everyone was very inviting.”
As for finding her feet as a judge, Riley says, “It was hard because you want to be constructive and not just tell someone no, you want to be encouraging. I have been in their position before, I know what it’s like to want something really bad and think it’s going to be the turning point for your life, so being rejected is very hard. I wanted to be honest but not give anyone a false sense of hope. It’s been exciting though, because we’ve found some rare talent.”
She adds, “I feel like I’m the newer talent, the rest of them have so much more experience than I do. But when it comes to the people on the stage, I was in that position more recently than the other judges were, so I’m in touch with what they could be feeling in that moment.”
And she’s been impressed by the contestants.
“Everyone that came out was so different. It was interesting to hear so many different voices, some of them were musical theatre, some operatic, some rock and some pop. I was extremely entertained every day, Britain didn’t let me down. We (the judges) had a couple of disagreements because all of us were looking for something different in people.
"Sometimes you can see things that the others can’t. Gary’s judging harder than the rest of us, though Dannii is surprisingly tough too. She was tough on a lot of them... We couldn’t confer about the contestants before we voted, so if you really liked someone you just had to hope that the others would feel the same way.”
* Let It Shine is on BBC Brit (DStv 120) from January 21 at 6pm.