After crowning him the winner back in 2009, Simon Cowell has asked Ashley Banjo to return to the show – and step in as his guest judge for the start of the upcoming Britain’s Got Talent semi-finals whilst the show’s creator recovers from a recent back operation.
Simon was forced to have emergency surgery after a bike accident in Los Angeles earlier this month and is now recovering at home – so will be unable to appear on the first semi-final, due to be filmed next week. As a result, the show’s creator has asked Ashley to temporarily take his iconic seat on the BGT judging panel.
Simon says: “Ashley will be a fantastic addition to the panel. He knows the power of the show; and the responsibility of it. I couldn’t think of a better person to sit in my seat whilst I follow doctor’s orders. I hate that stupid bike!”
Ashley says: “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 ten years since we won, and how people should never tell you, you can’t do something. Walking on that stage as a 20-year-old street dancer from the streets of East London and now I am walking out there and stepping in for the big man! It feels really nice, almost poetic.”
Ashley and his dance troupe Diversity famously beat off favourite Susan Boyle to win Britain’s Got Talent in 2009 in front of a TV audience of more than 20 million people. Since then, Ashley’s career has gone from strength to strength – both performing and choreographing Diversity around the world and selling out nine UK tours, selling over 800,00 tickets in the process, as well as appearing as a judge on Got to Dance (Sky1), Dance, Dance, Dance (ITV) and Dancing on Ice (ITV) and presenting both Can’t Touch This (BBC) and Flirty Dancing (Channel 4).
Now he returns to the show that first brought him to the nation’s attention.
This year’s BGT semi-finals will be very different, the inevitable result of Covid-19 and social distancing restrictions. The semi-finals, which had been due to be held in May, will now take place over five, nail-biting – and pre-recorded – episodes. The Final will then take place live in October.
As usual, Ant and Dec will host the semi-finals whilst Amanda Holden, Alesha Dixon and David Walliams will join Ashley at the judges’ desk. Eight contestants will perform in each semi-final and the judges will choose one act to go through. The second finalist will then be chosen via public vote when the episode airs.
With safety concerns paramount, some acts will take part remotely via video link whilst others will perform in the TV studio – though without a live audience. Instead, all acts will be watched by a virtual audience – with their performances live streamed into homes across the UK and the virtual audiences’ reactions then beamed into the studio on a giant screen.
The series will then culminate with the live final, in October, where one act will triumph as Britain’s Got Talent 2020 Champion and win the life-changing £250,000 prize plus that coveted role on The Royal Variety Performance.