After longtime “The Voice” coach Blake Shelton bid farewell to the NBC competition show last season, Season 24 has a fresh lineup of coaches with country legend Reba McEntire taking Shelton’s red chair, in a dynamic EP Audrey Morrissey describes as a “rebirth.”
“Blake is one of a kind, and he helped create what ‘The Voice’ has become, and obviously, his charm, and his wit and his comedic chops are something really signature to him,” Audrey Morrissey told TheWrap. “With that said, this season is so funny, and I think all the coaches really, in their own way, fill the space that Blake left. It’s just a new dynamic and a new thing. It feels fresh, it feels alive, it feels new — it’s like a rebirth.”
After McEntire served as “battle advisor” for Team Blake during the show’s first ever season and was a “mega mentor” in Season 23, the Queen of Country is finally serving as a coach after first being offered the gig ahead of Season 1.
“She’s always been in the back of our minds — she has come on the show several times and she’s a wonderful mentor, and everybody knows her humor,” Morrissey said. “So with Blake leaving, it really seemed right to go back to her to see if she would be interested in joining us. And as it turned out, the timing was right for her.”
Keep reading to find out what type of approach McEntire takes as a coach, and what the new dynamic is like as McEntire joins returning coaches John Legend, Niall Horan and Gwen Stefani.
TheWrap: Now that Reba has joined, there’s a new dynamic among the judges. How have they all been interacting?
Morrissey: They are having a blast. Niall sits next to Reba and it is the cutest little relationship — she just finds him so charming, and he loves her, so there’s this sweet little love affair happening between the two of them.
They all — John, Gwen and Niall — are respecting that the Queen of country has joined them. It’s also really funny now because Gwen has returned and she’s married to Blake [and] she has had a few country hits with Blake, and she wants to get country people on her team. It’s this funny, dynamic where she’s pitching herself, like, ‘I know country and I’m married to this guy,’ but she’s also acknowledging that the queen is two chairs away. It’s been a really, really funny season.
How did the idea for McEntire to serve a a mentor first come about? Do you think you’ll try a similar strategy in the future?
It came about because we knew she was going to be a coach, so we wanted to put her in that chair again. We’ve always had mentors on the show, and it’s always been a great opportunity to see how people take to the show. Do they like it? Do they enjoy it? Is it a good fit? I think that’s something that we’ve always looked at and will continue to in the future.
How did McEntire’s time as a battle adviser and mega mentor help smooth the transition? How do you think it impacted how she coached?
[It helps to] understand, not only the process [of being a] mentor, [but also to] get a feel for what our staff and crew are like, and the house band and just the rhythms of the show. There’s such a process behind the scenes of how we work, so, I think, if nothing else, that she had the coaching down, [and] just understanding how our system works was really helpful to her as she got ready to shoot two seasons at the same time this summer, which was something new for all of us. I think we’re still trying to figure that one out, but it worked really well.
How did McEntire respond when you asked her to be a coach for this season?
She jumped at it. She was really excited [and] her reaction was thrilled. She had really enjoyed her time [on the show], and she was excited to give it a try. When we first asked her, the show hadn’t been on, she had no idea what type of tone it was [or] what type of show it was. Now she knew what that was and she was excited to give it a shot.
Why do you think it was kind of the right timing in her career to take on this opportunity?
She has a lot of knowledge to pass on. She wants to pay it forward. She has a unique perspective as being an entertainer — someone who’s taken on film and TV and musicals — and this multi-decade successful recording career. She always likes new challenges, and this was something new that she hadn’t [done before].
How would you describe her approach to being a coach?
She’s a pro, and she conducts herself that way. She passes that down, I think [her mentees] are getting not only vocal coaching, but performance coaching and how to act on stage, and also how to be a professional in this business — always be on time, always be early, always be prepared, be ready to go and to be coachable.
She herself loves to be coached; she wants to be better. She asks for critiques. She wants to give you what you want, and what you need. Here’s this incredibly successful woman, and she’s hungry for feedback, and that’s what she wants out of her team — people that will seek out advice, take the advice and act on it.
New episodes of “The Voice” premiere Mondays and Tuesdays at 8 p.m./7 p.m. CT on NBC.