Ashley Banjo: Replacing Simon Cowell on Britain’s Got Talent is bittersweet

Diversity star Ashley Banjo has said it feels “bittersweet” to join the Britain’s Got Talent judging panel while Simon Cowell recovers from back surgery.

The 31-year-old street dancer said the year had been “full of horrible news” and that hearing of Cowell’s accident had been especially difficult.

The 60-year-old music mogul broke his back in a number of places after falling off a new electric bike he was testing at his house in Malibu.

Banjo, who shot to fame when Diversity won the third series of BGT in 2009, said: “First and foremost, me joining the show this year is bittersweet because I feel like this year has been full of horrible news.

“There are a few people over the course of Diversity’s career who have been integral and had a huge impact, and Simon’s one of those.

“So, to hear that he had had the accident was horrible. I’m just so glad to hear he’s recovering well.”

Banjo denied feeling nerves over joining the panel and suggested that no one could ever truly replace Cowell.

He said: “Do you know what? That’s the thing, if I was stepping in for any of the other judges then I’d feel that way, I’d feel nervous about it being big shoes to fill.

Britain’s Got Talent Photocall – London
Regular judges David Walliams, Simon Cowell, Amanda Holden and Alesha Dixon (Ian West/PA)

“But with Simon his shoes are well and truly on, no one can ever replace him or fill his shoes.

“I just feel like I am doing a job for him because Simon can never be replaced in that way.

“I’m just an addition to the panel, that’s the way I see it.

“It actually makes me less nervous, the fact I’m stepping in for Simon.

“To be honest anyone sitting in Simon’s chair would have to bring a level of respect where people go, ‘Do you know what? That person knows what they are talking about’.

“There’s no one more qualified than Simon when it comes to judging variety acts, and if you’re going to sit on that panel you better have some decent qualifications.

“But I think in terms of the niche of BGT I am a weirdly qualified person purely because of my journey on the show.”

Cowell’s sometimes scathing comments about contestants earned him the nickname Mr Nasty, but Banjo said he would try to be as honest as possible.

“I’ll be tough on everyone,” he said.

“I won’t be Mr Mean, just Mr Honest. With a show like BGT there’s no mucking about.

“It’s not a celeb-based show, it’s not like everyone’s there just for entertainment, this is life-changing stuff.

“I’m going to be sitting there questioning what they are doing, why would you use your two minutes to show the world what they can do and then do that? If that’s how I feel, then I’ll say it.”

Britain’s Got Talent returns on ITV at 8pm on September 5.