Every summer, people everywhere look forward to the global sensation that is America’s Got Talent. Whether you are one of the viewers that religiously tunes in to the show each week, or you are among the millions that catch the highlights of awe-inspiring talents and emotionally moving stories on YouTube and various social media sites through their many viral videos, fans of the show are everywhere. The show is iconic, along with its original series Britain’s Got Talent and spin offs like America’s Got Talent: The Champions.
To pull off such an internationally successful television program, there is a huge team at work behind-the-scenes that make it all possible. One such individual is Harriet Cuddeford, Global Creative Director of Simon Cowell’s company Syco Entertainment, and the Creative Producer of America’s Got Talent. Working on the show is a highlight of Cuddeford’s esteemed career, proud to be a major leader of the number one summer show in the United States that is aired in 172 countries.
“I think America’s Got Talent is truly a global show that changes people’s lives and that is something I was really excited to be a part of. It’s ethos really resonates with me. It’s inclusive, anyone can be a part of it, which is unlike most other shows, and the production value is really high. I love the way that, particularly on the live portion, the show aims to give contestants these huge performances, a real chance to make their mark and that is something that is creatively really fun to be tasked with. It’s also really enjoyable to get to make people’s dreams come true, these performances they’ve dreamed of doing their whole lives, you get to create for them,” says Cuddeford.
Originally from Edinburgh, Scotland, Cuddeford has been in Los Angeles working on AGT for seven years. She began her time with the show as Creative Producer of the live shows, constantly travelling back and forth between London, New York and LA. Quickly impressing the entire team, the Executive Producer of the show, Ricard Wallace, asked Cuddeford to come on board for an America’s Got Talent Christmas Special. When America’s Got Talent: The Champions was commissioned last year, Simon Cowell asked Cuddeford personally to produce the show after her tremendous record of success.
“I’ve worked with Harriet on AGT for six plus seasons. It seems like forever! She is very collegiate in her style but has real clarity about her creatives. Like all good leaders, she makes sure she has good people around her who not only support her, but also are allowed to contribute creatively. A production like AGT has a lot of moving parts and coordinating with each department is a key part of a creative director’s role. This can be a super-stressful environment, especially when you’re in the teeth of two live shows a week, but Harriet’s collaborative strengths enable her to navigate these difficult waters with consideration and flair,” says Wallace.
Cuddeford spends four to five months of the year working on AGT, beginning around mid-May. Working explicitly on the live shows, she begins her time being filled in on the talent that has already made it to that point, and she starts to learn as much as she can about their stories, their act, and their goals regarding what they want to achieve on the show. From there, she gathers as many inspiring creative references to make these dreams come true.
When Cuddeford started working on the show 7 years ago, the executives wanted to take the show in a new direction from what it had been previously. Cuddeford and her team were put in charge of making them happen, massively upping the production value, making the performances a much larger scale, and making them as creative and edgy as possible. Training under and working for Simon Cowell, Cuddeford is in a very unique position to other creative producers on the show. She understands his aesthetic and what he is trying to achieve visually. She made a real effort to create a distinctive style of performance that was unlike any other reality show. As a result, the live shows took on a different aesthetic and this really helped in boosting the shows’ success and helping it to really stand out in a crowded market.
“I feel incredibly fortunate and proud to be working on such a successful show, with such an incredible team. It is always a challenge when a show has been doing so well for so long to keep making things interesting for viewers, to keep showing them new and exciting things, but myself and the whole team work tirelessly to keep surprising people, to keep them thinking ‘wow’. People have tried and failed to make copies of AGT, but there is just that certain AGT magic that sets it apart. This group of creatives that I am fortunate to be a part of keep dreaming big and putting in their love and energy to keep it fresh and keep it special,” says Cuddeford.
The second season of America’s Got Talent: The Champions just wrapped up on Feb. 17th, 2020. Fans sadly have to wait until summer for the next season of America’s Got Talent, but in the meantime, check out the show’s YouTube, which has over 15.2 million subscribers eagerly awaiting the next season.