FORT WORTH, Texas -- Will Mel B, one of the new judges on "America's Got Talent," be mean when she critiques aspiring performers, or will she be a big softy?
The former Spice Girl says she's simply going to be honest and fair.
But Howie Mandel, her fellow judge, paints a different picture of her. He describes her as tough and blunt, someone who can cut to the bone with one withering remark.
"We've had some comedians this year," the Bald One says, "and if they don't rise to the occasion, Mel B pulls no punches in telling them, 'I'm going to tell you why I don't like you. You're not funny.'
"But that's what you want from a judge. I don't know if we've had that element before: brutal honesty with a lot of experience."
We'll be able to see Mel B in action alongside Mr. Mandel, Howard Stern (another returning judge) and Heidi Klum (the other newbie judge) as "America's Got Talent" runs through its eighth season, which started Tuesday night on NBC.
We talked to Mel B and Mr. Mandel last week about the new season and what to expect.
Q: First things first, Mel. Howie says you're a tough and sometimes even harsh judge of talent. Would you like to make a rebuttal?
Mel B: "You know what? I don't know how people are going to take me. Hopefully, they'll just think that I'm honest. I've got a lot of experience under my belt. I've had my own show in Vegas. I've been performing for 20 years. I've done Broadway. I've done big stadiums with the Spice Girls. I have been in that world of entertainment for a long time. So I'm just a very honest judge. I wouldn't say I'm mean. I like to have a lot of fun, because I think life's too short. And at the end of the day, this is their moment to shine, their 90 seconds to shine. So unless they're wasting everybody's time, I'm going to be nice."
Q: Do you see many acts that make you think, "Why aren't you already famous?"
Mel B: "Oh, every day. And let me tell you: The acts are raising the bar this year. They come on with the mindset of, 'I'm not just going to ride a unicycle. I'm going to juggle while riding a unicycle and then lift somebody else on top of my head.' Instead of demonstrating just one skill, they're doing it all."
Q: If there had been an "America's Got Talent" before the Spice Girls became famous, how do you suppose the group would have fared on the show?
Mel B: "Oh, God knows. I have no idea. 'America's Got Talent' is not just a singing show. It's a complete variety show. We harmonized well as Spice Girls. We definitely had something for everyone. But I'm not quite sure how it would rank, considering that it's not just singers. Hopefully, we would do well."
Mandel: "I think they would do well. In their time, they had what we look for. They were original. It wasn't just five women singing and dancing. There was also a message: girl power. And a big part of 'America's Got Talent' is that America is part of the voting. I think the Spice Girls would have touched a nerve and done really well with a large segment of the audience."