Jake’s Take EXCLUSIVE: The ‘AGT: Season 15’ Semifinalists Speak!

America's Got Talent: Season 15 Semifinalists Group 2
‘Jake’s Take’ received an exclusive opportunity to interview the second group of AGT: Season 15 semifinalists. (Photos & graphics property of NBC)

By: Jacob Elyachar, jakes-take.com

Before the second group of America’s Got Talent (AGT): Season 15 semifinalists learned their fates, Jake’s Take had the opportunity to speak with almost every act (minus the Bello Sisters). Jake’s Take wants to give a special shoutout to Fremantle and NBC for giving me this incredible opportunity to speak the semifinalists.  I also want to give a special “Thank You!” to my colleague, TV Grapevine journalist Sammi Turano, for joining me in our conversation.

Jonathan Goodwin, Brett Loudermilk, & Max Major 

The first group of semifinalists I spoke with were three Jake’s Take favorites: daredevil Jonathan Goodwin, sword swallower Brett Loudermilk, and magician Max Major. Jonathan Goodwin delivered the scariest danger act that I have ever seen on AGT and stated that his zipline stunt was on his performing to-do list, and it was bizarrely a dream come true to put it together on live television. 

“It has been on a literal list for probably six or seven years. I take a lot of my inspiration from performers of the past. There was a lady in 1931 who traveled across Times Square on a zipline hanging by her teeth,” said Goodwin. “There’s very grainy footage of it, and I remember seeing it probably around ten years ago. I thought: “I have to do that at some point and do it with all the spectacle that we could bring when we were filming with AGT.” 

Sword swallower Brett Loudermilk shocked the country when he stuck an endoscope down his throat and retrieved a yellow rubber duckie. He was coy about revealing what he would do if the AGT fan base voted him into the Season 15 finale.

“I think it would be unfair to give that away. Because I don’t want to spoil it for any of the judges,” said Loudermilk. “I made a splash using Sofia (Vergara) so much and torturing her. I tortured Howie (Mandel) quite a bit, and it might be time for Heidi (Klum).”

Magician Max Major auditioned during the AGT at Home segments and proved himself during the Season 15 Judge Cuts rounds to advance to the Season 15 live shows. With each performance, Max impressed audiences with his superb presentations. He shared his creative process exclusively with Jake’s Take.

“This season is about reacting to the world we live in rather than try to do stuff on stage that I tried to do in the past,” said Major. “I tried to use the virtual crowd to get them involved, and I have had people from home get involved as well. I am so used to seeing people face-to-face, and I wondered during the lockdown, “If I could still read people through the screen?” Of course, the judges are my number one participants, but it has been entertaining to get the people at home involved, and that is something that I hope to continue to do if I have the chance to go into the finals.”

Cristina Rae & W.A.F.F.L.E. Crew 

Both Heidi Klum and Simon Cowell’s Golden Buzzer acts, Cristina Rae and W.A.F.F.L.E. Crew, were the next people that I spoke with. Cristina revealed the main lesson that she would take with her after AGT is over.

“I would say the biggest lesson that I took away from AGT is discipline,” said Rae. “It is very easy to lose focus. But just to know that I can be a disciplined person, mom, and now an artist is huge. This whole experience helped me held myself to a higher standard and taught me a lot about myself.” 

W.A.F.F.L.E. Crew members Astro, BJ, and Waffle Kozik, represented the New York City-based dance troupe. The trio revealed how the freestyle dance group adjusted to performing on AGT as they performed across various areas of Universal Studios Hollywood. 

AGT made us better! We come from a dance style that is made out of originality, and you are not supposed to look like the next person,” said Astro. “We had to train that philosophy in our heads for years. As we came together and worked on our choreography, we had to make sure that everyone’s steps were in sync. We had to clean everything up and become perfectionists. Because we did all of that, we leveled up.”

BAD Salsa, Daneliya Tuleshova, & Kendai Dodds

India’s Got Talent winners BAD Salsa hung out with young singers Daneliya Tuleshova and Kendai Dodds in my next Zoom room. The dancing duo, Sonali Majumdar and Sumanth Maroju, left audiences speechless with their outstanding routines. They opened up to me what this opportunity meant for both of them. 

“We have been dancing together for eight years. Bivash Chowdhury, our teacher, has been training us since we were very little. Now, performing on America’s Got Talent and representing our country is the best thing that we have done in our lives.”  

I also spoke with both Kendai and Daneliya about how their AGT experience helped them grow as performers. For Kendai, she stated that her time on the NBC show helped her grow vocally.

America’s Got Talent changed my voice,” said Dodds. “The more confident I get each round, the more my voice comes out, and in turn, my personality is shown to America. It has been a huge learning curve, and I learned so much instrumentally and vocally being on the show. Each round gets better and better.” 

“I think I had grown as a performer because I am much more confident than before I was on the show,” said Tuleshova. “Before I go onto the stage, I am nervous but not at the same level as before. Also, I think that AGT also helped me grow as a person.” 

Celina & Voices of Our City Choir 

Finally, I had the opportunity to speak with vocal standouts Celina and Terry Crews’ Golden Buzzer act, Voices of Our City Choir. Last night, Voices of Our City Choir gave me chills and made viewers cry with their outstanding cover of David Bowie’s “Heroes.” I spoke with choir director Steph Johnson and member Willie Mills on how the group got to the song. 

“We were not sure what we were going to do for the semifinal,” said Johnson. “We wanted it (the song) to be an anthem. The group also writes music, but we felt that we would select a song that taps into this message and reached people who felt hopeless and isolated during such a crazy time in our country.” 

Once the Voices of Our City Choir director presented the song to the group, they decided to sing the David Bowie hit’s choral arrangement. However, the Voices of Our City Choir had to move online for their rehearsal process. 

“Everything was online. We use a texting system, but a lot of choir members did not have devices. Last time we performed on AGT, the group acquired 75 laptops, and we connected all of our choir members with WiFi. When you see us on stage, it is not just us singing that song. There was a lot of work that went into our performances.” noted Johnson. 

Meanwhile, Celina opened up about her song selection. She stole the show several times this season with her covers of Shawn Mendes’ “Mercy,” London Grammar’s “Strong,” and Labrinth’s “Jealous.” 

“When I sang “Mercy” at the beginning of the season, it related to my story,” said Celina. “I have sung that song since it was released. I love Shawn Mendes, and it is a powerful song. Somebody suggested “Strong” to me. At first, I not sure of the selection. I had to listen to it over and over because I did not know it.”  

“I sat at the piano. I took it down a key and just made it my own. It became such a powerful song, and I connected with it very well. I loved “Jealous,” and it was great for me to do a song that I knew. People can relate to this song because we have all been jealous of somebody and wished that they were happy with you instead of somebody else. I am going through a similar situation, and the emotions were brought out in this song.” 

Tonight, five acts will move on to the Season 15 finale! 

Copyright 2020 Jacob Elyachar