Sofia Vergara Joins AGT as New Judge After Gabrielle Union and Julianne Hough's Exits
The 47-year-old actress, whose ABC show Modern Family is coming to an end after its 11th and final season, has signed on to join the season 15 judges’ panel with Simon Cowell, Howie Mandel and Heidi Klum.
Vergara said in a statement, “I’m so happy to join my new family on AGT. This is a new and exciting next chapter for me and I’m extremely proud to be the first Latin judge on the show. I can’t wait to watch all the talent and have fun with all you guys!”
“Sofia’s infectious energy and sharp wit will blend perfectly with returning favorites Heidi, Simon, Howie, and Terry. As both a respected actress and successful entrepreneur, she embodies the American dream that is synonymous with AGT’s transformative stage,” said Meredith Ahr, President, Alternative & Reality Group, NBC Entertainment.
“As we head into our milestone 15th season, we are excited to welcome Sofia to the AGT family,” said Trish Kinane, President of Entertainment Programming, Fremantle. “We are also delighted at the return of the amazing Heidi Klum and look forward to a lot of fun as these dynamic, accomplished women join Simon, Howie and host Terry Crews to inspire contestants in a fun-filled and unpredictable series.”
Klum will also be returning after a season hiatus. The model was on the second season of AGT‘s spin-off show, America’s Got Talent: The Champions, which premiered on Jan. 6 and wrapped on Feb. 17, along with newcomer Alesha Dixon as well as Cowell and Mandel.
“I’m so excited to be back at ‘AGT’ with Simon, Howie and Terry. The fact that Sofia Vergara is joining us is the icing on an already delicious cake,” Klum said in a statement.
News of the official casting comes after Vergara had a meeting with the network on Dec. 18. During the discussion, the network and Vergara discussed a variety of projects, including AGT, though NBC was actively talking to multiple talents about the vacant seats at the time. (TMZ was the first to report the news.)
In mid-November, PEOPLE confirmed that Union, 47, and Hough, 31, — who both joined season 14 in February, replacing Mel B and Klum — would not be returning for the 15th season, which is slated for 2020.
Since then, Union continues to speak out about her AGT season after she was fired from the NBC competition series and alleged racial insensitivity on set.
Union and Hough were both subjected to “excessive notes” on their physical appearance, according to Variety, which also reported that Union said she received a comment about her hairstyles being “too black” for the show.
In a statement to the publication at the time, Hough denied that she had a negative experience on the show and said she was “happy to continue my working relationship with NBC.”
A spokesperson for NBC and production company Fremantle responded to the claims with a statement to PEOPLE on Nov. 26: “America’s Got Talent has a long history of inclusivity and diversity in both our talent and the acts championed by the show. The judging and host line-up has been regularly refreshed over the years and that is one of the reasons for AGT‘s enduring popularity. NBC and the producers take any issues on set seriously.”
On Dec. 3, Hough spoke with People Now amid growing outrage that her and Union’s departures were the result of a toxic workplace culture at the NBC talent competition show. “I just believe and value at the highest regard that everybody has a voice and should be heard, first and foremost,” said Hough, who is set to star in upcoming NBC Christmas specials.
“I believe that the paradigm of the workplace and how you do business and work with people now, it’s shifting, and I think that the people that really want to see change happen are going to authentically and positively … do that. And so that’s all I really have to say about that,” she concluded.
Then on Dec. 4, the L.A.’s Finest star revealed she met with NBC and AGT production company Fremantle and Syco Entertainment.
“We had a lengthy 5-hour, and what I thought to be, productive meeting yesterday,” Union wrote on Twitter at the time. “I was able to again, express my unfiltered truth. I led with transparency and my desire and hope for real change.”
“The initial conversation was candid and productive,” an NBC spokesperson said in a statement to PEOPLE about their meeting with Union. “While there will be a further investigation to get a deeper understanding of the facts, we are working with Gabrielle to come to a positive resolution.”
RELATED VIDEO: NBC Launching Investigation Into America’s Got Talent After ‘5-Hour’ Meeting with Gabrielle Union
In mid-December, Union opened up about the challenges black women in the industry face, and encouraged them to not only speak their truth but to also stand up for what they believe in — even if it means losing their jobs.
“Keep the door open … don’t be the happy negro that does the bidding of the status quo because you’re afraid. Don’t allow them to call you angry. When somebody else is saying the same thing, it’s called passion,” she said during a panel event for her New York & Company holiday collection in New York City.