JT EXCLUSIVE: Howie Mandel, Brandon Leake & ‘AGT’ Quarterfinalists SPEAK!

AGT Season 16 crew
‘AGT: Season 16’ returned to the Dolby Theatre for the first time in two years. (Photo property of NBC)

By: Jacob Elyachar, jakes-take.com

America’s Got Talent (AGT): Season 16 just aired its first live show at the Dolby Theatre! After they signed off from the NBC airwaves, Jake’s Take had the privilege to join the virtual pressroom and spoke with the acts and veteran judge Howie Mandel. Here are some of the highlights from my conversation.

Performing On The Dolby Theatre Stage

For the first time since 2019, AGT recorded its live shows at the Dolby Theatre. Each act that I had the opportunity to speak with were in awe of performing at the iconic complex:

“The live audience has to be my favorite part about performing at the Dolby Theatre,” said singer Madilyn Bailey. “It has almost been a year-and-a-half since I performed to a live human audience. It (the audience) adds a little more nerves, but it is worth it because they get so much energy. There is nothing like it.”

“It was a tad nerve-racking because I know the history of the stage,” said comedian Kabir Singh. “I had an inner monologue in my head saying – “Don’t mess this up” and “Don’t curse on TV again.” There was a little bit of pressure, but, overall, it was a complete honor to perform in front of these incredible people.”

“(Performing on the Dolby Theatre stage) was incredible,” said comedian Gina Brillon. “You step out there and look at the vastness of the theatre itself. I wanted to take a minute and soak it in, but there was not enough time for it, but I did get to soak it in during rehearsal.” 

“It felt like something out of a dream,” said magician Dustin Tavella. “You see stuff on TV, and you have this notion of how big and bright it is, then you walk in, and it is a little smaller than I thought it was going to be, which is weird. But then you walk backstage, and it feels like you are walking into a spaceship. There are hundreds of buttons, lights, and screens. It was surreal and not really what I expected.”

Howie Mandel was ecstatic to return to the Dolby Theatre. (Photo property of NBC)

Howie on Returning to the Dolby Theatre                 

Since Simon Cowell joined the panel in 2016, AGT and its crew spent a lot of time at the Dolby Theatre. However, the show filmed its live rounds at Universal Studios Hollywood during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. No one was more ecstatic to be back at the prestigious Los Angeles venue than veteran judge Howie Mandel. 

“I am thrilled to be back,” said Mandel exclusively to Jake’s Take. “It has been two years, and the energy is a little overwhelming. I think all of us (the judges and host Terry Crews) were looking at each other and commenting on the energy of having thousands of people in the room – masked by the way – and enjoying the show elevates it.”

Brandon Leake wins AGT Season 15
Spoken word artist and poet Brandon Leake who won Season 15 will be one of the first alums to perform this season. (Photo property and courtesy of NBC’s Chris Haston)

Brandon Leake’s return

Last season’s winner, spoken word artist Brandon Leake, will be making his Dolby Theatre debut during the August 11, 2021 results show. Leake, who received Howie Mandel’s Golden Buzzer on his season, is the first alum to make a return to the show. The spoken word artist previewed his performance with Jake’s Take. 

“I am doing a poem that is an ode to AGT, an ode to my city, and my art form with four youth poets from my city,” said Brandon Leake.

America’s Wildcard 

While seven acts will advance tonight, the fates of five more acts are in the balance. AGT has put an exclusive episode onto Peacock that brought back five eliminated performers for one more chance to enter the Season 16 live shows. Singer Storm Large, magician Patrick Kun, comedian Mike Goodwin, and singers Dylan Zangwill and Mike Goodwin performed one more time, but America will decide their fate this time. 

Talent Recap reported that voting would be open until Friday, August 13. The lucky recipient of America’s Wildcard will perform with the last set of quarterfinalists on August 24.

Who will make to the Semifinals? Tune in tonight to find out!

Copyright 2020 Jacob Elyachar