"I thought it was amazing and unique, it moved me," Sofia Vergara tells PEOPLE about her Golden Buzzer selection

By Karen Mizoguchi
June 02, 2020 10:00 PM
Art Streiber/NBC; Trae Patton/NBC

Sofia Vergara's got talent — as a judge!

The actress, 47, proved she's got great intuition for recognizing one-of-a-kind acts on America's Got Talent as she pushed the Golden Buzzer for 10-year-old singer Roberta Battaglia, who blew everyone away on Tuesday's episode with her cover of Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper's Oscar-winning song "Shallow" after shaking off her nerves at the start of her audition.

"She was amazing. I thought she was amazing. I thought she was unique," Vergara, 47, tells PEOPLE of the pre-teen performer from Toronto, Ontario, Canada, who was bullied at school.

Battaglia's rendition "moved me," the new judge says.

In fact, Vergara tells PEOPLE she made her golden choice on her first day on the job. Though she was "nervous" about serving as a judge after acting on Modern Family for 11 seasons, the star says she followed her instincts after being wowed by Battaglia's "mature" vocal talents at such a young age.

"They were surprised that I had the balls to do it on the first time," Vergara recalls.

In early spring, she filmed her AGT debut and initially followed judges Simon Cowell and Heidi Klum's lead on set "to see the words that they use, to see when can you touch the [red] X, when can you give a Golden [Buzzer], all those things."

"You get overwhelmed, some people are so good and you're like, 'Oh my god. These are the Golden [Buzzers].' You don't want to wait because you only get one," Vergara explains. "They were very surprised. I used my Golden [Buzzer] on the first day that I shot. So that was really exciting. And when I did it, I was like, 'Oh my God, I hoped that I picked someone good because it's the first day.' "

"It was great. They were very happy with who I picked," Vergara adds of the feedback from producers and her fellow judges, including Howie Mandel.

Roberta Battaglia
Trae Patton/NBC

And Klum, 46, tells PEOPLE that Vergara made a memorable first impression.

"She pushed it on the first day!" the returning judge says of Vergara's inaugural golden moment. "She was really nervous when we started. She was like, 'Oh my gosh, I don't want to do anything wrong.' I was like, 'You can't do anything wrong here.' "

Klum adds, "It must be also so nice to not have to memorize anything because normally she must have pages upon pages to memorize. This is so nice because you can speak about what you just saw and how you liked it. Having a new friend on the show is amazing. We met a bunch of times and it's been fun."

Mandel, 64, couldn't agree more. "She said she was nervous, but I heard her just say that and you don't see that," he tells PEOPLE. "She's funny and witty. We just felt like a team that had already been together for a decade. It was amazing on her first day. I think America is just going to enjoy her."

Cowell, 60, also echoes similar sentiments, telling PEOPLE, "Within five minutes, we just clicked. It felt like we were working together all our lives. She just gets what the show is about."

Heidi Klum and Sofia Vergara
Tyler Golden/NBC

Meanwhile, Vergara has reunited with her Soul Plane costar Terry Crews, who has served as host of AGT for the past couple of seasons.

"She has probably seen the highest levels of success that anyone has ever seen. One of the biggest stars in the world, I'm honored to know her. I see her and her husband [Joe Manganiello] on red carpets over the years, and now to be working with her, it's an honor," Crews, 51, tells PEOPLE. "She's the greatest. She's really a down to earth person. She's awesome."

As Vergara's Golden Buzzer pick, Battaglia moves straight to the live shows, where she will compete against Crews' golden choice, the Voices of Our City Choir.

The live shows are typically filmed in August at Los Angeles' Dolby Theater. However, the coronavirus pandemic has shut down production on AGT, and the schedule for resuming the live shows remains up in the air.

America's Got Talent airs Tuesdays (8 p.m. ET) on NBC.