Season 15 of America’s Got Talent premieres tonight, Tuesday, May 26, 2020. Gabrielle Union and Julianne Hough will not be a part of this season after their contracts were not renewed. Union alleged a toxic work environment after the exit.
Both Hough and Union had been judges on the 14th season of AGT, but it was announced in December 2019 that they would not be returning.
Hough remained silent on the firing initially, eventually saying she had a “wonderful time” filming the reality competition.
Hough said in a statement at the time that she is happy to continue her working relationship with NBC. She told people the situation is not affecting her morale or confidence. She added that she would stay authentic to who she was and not try to please everyone and that it was important to stay true to who she is.
Union Alleged Racism and Toxicity on Set
Following Union’s exit from the show, Variety published a report alleging Union’s contract was not picked up because she asked the producers to report a racist joke. Both women were reportedly subject to excessive notes on their appearance, with Union being told her various hairstyles were “too black” for the audience and Hough receiving near constant criticism for her hair, makeup and wardrobe choices.
Vulture has also reported that workplace tension between Union and Simon Cowell was a factor. Some of the tension reportedly came from Cowell’s smoking on set, which is against the law in California.
“We remain committed to ensuring a respectful workplace for all employees and take very seriously any questions about workplace culture,” NBC said in a statement to CNN. “We are working with Ms. Union through her representatives to hear more about her concerns, following which we will take whatever next steps may be appropriate.”
Hough has since added that she is not surprised by the attention the story about the exit got, saying that the entire conversation is big and people “really want to be a leader of change.”
Union Reportedly Had a Five-Hour Conversation With NBC Executives
We had a lengthy 5-hour, and what I thought to be, productive meeting yesterday. I was able to, again, express my unfiltered truth. I led with transparency and my desire and hope for real change.
— Gabrielle Union (@itsgabrielleu) December 4, 2019
After her departure from the show, Union sat down with NBC executives to discuss what went wrong on set in what she called a “productive meeting” in which she was able to express her “unfiltered truth.” Hough later praised Union for having the meeting.
“We need to start conversations and I just commend Gabrielle for speaking her truth and starting a conversation,” she told the “Today” show.
“I’m really proud of NBC as well for also showing up and starting a narrative, and that’s what’s going to change the workplace and the paradigm that we’ve been working in for many, many years and (it’s) shifting, and I think that’s really exciting.”
This season, Union and Hough have been replaced by Modern Family star Sofia Vergara and previous America’s Got Talent and current AGT: Champions judge Heidi Klum. The other judges are producer Simon Cowell and comedian Howie Mandel. They’ll be joined by long-time AGT host Terry Crews.
America’s Got Talent premieres on May 26, 2020 at 8 p.m. on NBC.