PASADENA — Heidi Klum has no regrets — at least when it comes to "America's Got Talent."
She joined Howie Mandel, Howard Stern and Mel B last year as the fourth judge for the NBC summer competition series. Although the show produced a million dollar winner in dance performer Kenichi Ebina, there were times when Klum voted against many of the hopefuls. The supermodel turned TV presenter heads back into a new season of making and breaking dreams when the ninth season of "America's Got Talent" opens tonight.
"I am very satisfied with the way I voted last year," Klum says. "It really was a gut feeling. Sometimes, when a person has a bad audition, I can sense that there's something there that is good. I want to give them another chance because I do feel something. So, most of the time, I just go with my gut."
The judging is cut down for the TV show, but the process is a lot harder than it looks. Klum compares it to "Groundhog Day" where they look at as many as 50 acts in a day of filming that generally runs from 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Once the series starts, Klum's life is a cycle of go home, eat, sleep and get back for another round of judging.
Klum — and the rest of the judges — want to make sure they are as fair as possible with the contestants.
"Sometimes it feels like we are never out of there and it gets a little overwhelming. At the end of the day, you are a little loopy," Klum says.
That's when Klum digs deep to be as attentive as possible. She looks at judging as a great responsibility since the show can create a huge break for someone whose talent might never have been seen.
A new twist this year allows each judge to use a golden buzzer once during the season to save a contestant who got three strikes from the other judges.
There's no change in how the judges — and host Nick Cannon — will be drawn into some of the acts. In one of the early episodes, a magician removes Klum's bra without her knowing it. She laughs and says all she can remember about the disappearing act — confirmed by a very happy Mandel — was that she felt "a little droopy" the rest of the day.
A nationwide search for talent earlier this year netted the contestants who will go in front of the celebrity judges. "America's Got Talent" will air live from Radio City Music Hall twice a week when live episodes begin this summer on July 29. The show will be the typical mix of serious talent and novelty acts.
Klum is certain that this year's talent is stronger because eight seasons have already aired.
"People are more inventive, I think. I think they see a season and then they want to top that," Klum says. "They see a certain act and they're like, 'Oh, I like that. I can do that. I can top that.' "
It doesn't bother Klum that some of the acts — like a guy who can bite through a license plate — are trying to win the competition with a novelty act. The standard she uses to make the gut judgments is whether or not the act is entertaining.
"Sometimes people come and they just do plain super silly stupid things where you're like, 'OK. I've never seen this before, but no one should really see that.' Then there's other people that do something really unusual, and you're like, 'I can't even believe someone would think about doing something like that, and people should see that because I've never seen this before and America should see this.' So, we just push these people forward, and then at the end of the day, America can judge if they want them to go into the finals or not."
"America's Got Talent": 8 p.m. today on NBC, (KSEE, Channel 24.1)