‘America’s Got Talent’ Resumes Production – Here’s How Judge Cuts and Live Shows Will Look

NBC competition series shot its first episode back on an outdoor stage modeled to look like a drive-in movie theater

America's Got Talent - Season 15
Photo by: Trae Patton/NBC

“America’s Got Talent” went back into production on its 15th season last week, resuming filming with increased safety precautions amid the coronavirus pandemic and a new plan for how the long-running NBC competition series will handle its Judge Cuts and live episodes this year.

The show moved from its usual location at the Dolby Theatre to an outdoor stage in Simi Valley that was modeled to look like a drive-in movie theater, a representative for “AGT” studio Fremantle told TheWrap. The first episode in this format will see judges Simon Cowell, Howie Mandel, Heidi Klum and Sofia Vergara enter in separate cars and then watch performances from socially distanced directors chairs.

Additional precautions include regular testing, everyone wearing masks (including all the judges and host Terry Crews) except for when they are talking on camera, contestants and judges handling their own microphones, and a new pod system that will separate different areas of production. People on set were asked to stick to their specific zones and to talk via phone or walkie talkie when communicating with someone in another pod.

Season 15 of “America’s Got Talent” managed to shoot its first six episodes before production shut down in mid-March and those began airing May 26. When the show picked up taping again last week, it was time to move on from auditions to Judge Cuts and the decision was made to trim that section of the season down from the usual four episodes to one, which will air July 28, with the number of acts reduced from 72 to 60.

Taking the place of those missing Judge Cuts episodes will be a “best of” auditions compilation airing July 21 and an “AGT” 15th anniversary special Aug. 4, according to the insider.

Production is currently looking for a location to shoot the live shows, which will begin airing Aug. 11 and will consist of 44 acts competing over four weeks versus the 36 that performed over three weeks for Season 14. Fremantle and NBC are currently working through the idea of including an audience in some way, an individual with knowledge tells TheWrap.

Representatives for NBC did not immediately respond to TheWrap’s request for comment.

“America’s Got Talent” airs Tuesdays at 8/7 on NBC.