‘AGT’ Newbies Gabrielle Union & Julianne Hough on Their Judging Styles, Favorite Acts

America's Got Talent - Season 14
Trae Patton/NBC

We’ll miss you, Heidi Klum and Mel B. But Season 14 of America’s Got Talent — TV’s top-rated alternative series for 13 summers and counting — is shaking things up.

Julianne Hough (Dancing With the Stars) and Gabrielle Union (Being Mary Jane) take their seats on the judging panel alongside vets Howie Mandel and creator Simon Cowell, while Terry Crews, who emceed the winter spinoff, America’s Got Talent: The Champions, replaces Tyra Banks as host.

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Here, Hough and Union dish on their new gig.

What surprised you most about AGT?

Gabrielle Union: That the acts are a combination of international acts and American acts.

Julianne Hough: I didn’t realize how much I’d enjoy pressing the Golden Buzzer [which allows a judge to send an act straight to the live shows].

First impressions of Howie and Simon?

Union: [Howie] and I are like the bad kids in church who should never be seated next to each other. We make our own jokes that I’m hoping don’t end up on air — my mom would be mortified. I went into it remembering Simon from American Idol. I was expecting super harsh criticism, but I actually call Howie the [mean girl] Regina George of our panel. He’s more direct.

(Art Streiber/NBC)

Hough: Howie is a sweetheart, and Simon is definitely more of a softie than he lets on.

Describe your own judging style.

Hough: I’m not afraid to give tough love.

Union: I’m more [like Idol‘s] Paula Abdul. I’ve been working for 25 years, and all the noes I’ve heard I remember. There are ways of communicating critique without mean-spiritedness. You don’t need to hear four versions of “That was bad.”

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What are your favorite types of acts?

Hough: I love variety, so I love them all! Though dancing and singing, of course, excite me.

Union: I love a song and dance. I now also have an appreciation for ventriloquists.

Heidi once had an apple shot off her head with an arrow. What’s your take on participating?

Union: When [contestants] ask, I oblige, but it’s not my favorite thing. I mean, Terry’s right there. He’s a strapping guy, on the cover of Men’s Health every week — let’s use Terry as much as possible. [Laughs]

(Justin Lubin/NBC)

Hough: There were a few times that [made me feel] a little terrified, but there’s nothing better than a shot of adrenaline to really get you fired up. Count me in!

Check out an exclusive clip from the upcoming season of AGT here:

America’s Got Talent, Tuesday, May 28, 8/7c, NBC