"If you have a natural gift, you've got great taste and you're unique, you've got a shot," Simon Cowell tells PEOPLE
But with the new spin-off show, AGT: The Champions, Cowell is sifting through former season winners and fan favorites to crown one act as the best of the world.
“How do you describe someone as a champion? The thought process was who wants to be on the show and compete again? And more importantly who could be better the second time around?” Cowell tells PEOPLE of why the idea of Champions was so appealing.
“It was jumping into the unknown. You don’t know what it’s going to like. I think what was good was that everyone had to up their game when they were competing with different people and surprise results,” he says.
Competing against the best acts in the world also means the level of talent has elevated. And at times, the most memorable acts from past seasons get eliminated.
The longtime judge adds, “Particularly with singers, you see them come back and they have better song choices. Or with comedians, they have better material. The difference is there are international artists, that’s the real world.”
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While Cowell has been developing talents for more than a decade, he shares that his views on being a judge have changed since becoming a father to son Eric.
“Now Eric is older, he’s nearly 5. I can see the show through his eyes. It’s very interesting sometimes I can notice with the show when he switches on and off, so that’s a huge help,” Cowell says. “Because I have Eric now, I look at the younger contestants in a very different light, thinking, ‘Oh God what if that was him?’ “
Cowell has been a part of reality competition shows with an increasing amount of generational audiences tuning in — and he reveals talent is ageless.
“The one thing we’ve always tried to do when I was working on American Idol as well, never patronize people. If you’re good, great. If you’re not good, just give it up,” he advises to future contestants.
“If you have a natural gift, you’ve got great taste and you’re unique, you’ve got a shot. I think people, fortunately, have trusted the brand. Comedians, magicians or whoever, they trust coming on the show because they’re not going to get ripped apart. It’s a good platform,” Cowell adds.
“What’s so interesting, I’ve been saying for the past three or four years, a lot of kids who years ago wanted to be a singer, now want to be a comedian, magician, dancer or acrobat. So in that way, it’s changed people’s aspirations about fame is all about and how talented you have to be and the time you have to put in.”
If he and son Eric were to audition for Got Talent, the doting dad says it would not be singing.
“We’d either do a swinging balancing trick or try out and train our dogs who are the worst behaved dogs in the world,” he says. “Probably the latter and it would be a disaster but I would be happy to do that.”
AGT: The Champions airs Mondays at 8 p.m. ET on NBC.