Simon Cowell Promises AGT: All-Stars Will Be 'Brilliant' as New Show Unveils Its 60 Competing Acts
Trae Patton/NBC Simon Cowell
America's Got Talent is coming back in a new-and-improved way — and according to Simon Cowell, the competition will be better than ever.
The executive producer, 63, is set to resume his role judging alongside Howie Mandel and Heidi Klum, when AGT: All-Stars, a new extension of the beloved series, premieres on Jan. 2.
"It was terrific and it was really fascinating to see people who've competed on the American show and done really well, competing with people who won the show in other countries," Cowell exclusively tells PEOPLE. "The dynamic was fascinating ... and what really was great and cool about the show was that so many people decided to come back and compete."
Much like the original series, AGT: All-Stars — which will be hosted by AGT emcee Terry Crews — will see dozens of variety acts compete for the winning title. However, this show is different in that it will feature 60 of Got Talent franchise's past winners, finalists, fan-favorite acts and viral sensations as they compete to be the best of the All-Stars.
Trae Patton/NBC America's Got Talent: All-Stars
PEOPLE can exclusively reveal the 60 acts, which include aerialist Aidan Bryant (AGT season 16 runner-up), magician Aidan McCann (Britain's Got Talent 2020), aerialist Alan Silva (AGT season 15), ventriloquist Ana Maria Mărgean (Romania's Got Talent winner 2021), poet Aneeshwar Kunchala (BGT 2022), singer Archie Williams (AGT season 15), musician Avery Dixon (AGT season 17), comedian Axel Blake (BGT winner 2022), hand balancing group Bello Sisters (AGT season 15), a Capella group Berywam (AGT season 14), extreme variety act Bir Khalsa (AGT season 14), poet Brandon Leake (AGT season 15 winner), extreme variety act Brett Loudermilk (AGT season 15) and singer Caly Bevier (AGT season 11).
Also competing is extreme variety act Captain Ruin (Australia's Got Talent 2019), singer Cristina Rae (AGT season 15), dance group Dance Town Family (AGT season 15), singer Daneliya Tuleshova (AGT season 15), dancer Darius Mabda (Romania's Got Talent winner 2022), choir Detroit Youth Choir (AGT season 14), music act Divyansh and Manuraj (India's Got Talent winner 2022), magician Dustin Tavella (AGT season 16 winner), variety act Dustin's Dojo (AGT season 9), music act Emil and Dariel (AGT season 9), magician Eric Chien (Asia's Got Talent winner 2019 and AGT season 14), rapper Flau'jae (AGT season 13), variety act Human Fountains (AGT season 13), comedian Jackie Fabulous (AGT season 14), ventriloquist Jamie Leahey (BGT 2022), magician Jasper Cherry (BGT 2021), singer Jeanick Fournier (Canada's Got Talent winner 2022), singer Jimmie Herrod (AGT season 16) and comedian Josh Blue (AGT season 16).
Trae Patton/NBC Axel Blake
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Magician Keiichi Iwasaki (BGT 2022), singer Keren Montero (Dominicana's Got Talent winner 2021), singer Kodi Lee (AGT season 14 winner), dance group Light Balance Kids (AGT season 14), magician Lioz (Australia's Got Talent 2020 and AGT season 10), animal act Lukas and Falco (Das Supertalent winner and AGT season 14), dance group Malevo (AGT season 11), singer Mandy Harvey (AGT season 12 Golden Buzzer), magician Mervant Vera (AGT season 17), comedian Mike E. Winfield (AGT season 17), dance group Mini Droids (Belgium's Got Talent winner 2021), choir Ndlovu Youth Choir (AGT season 14), mentalist Peter Antoniou (AGT season 16), singer Peter Rosalita (AGT season 16), aerialists Power Duo (Philippine's Got Talent winner 2016), singer Robert Finley (AGT season 14), and magician Sacred Riana (Asia's Got Talent winner and AGT season 13) will also be competing for the title this season.
Rounding out the list of acts is singer Sara James (AGT season 17 and Cowell's Golden Buzzer), variety act Sethward (AGT seasons 15-17), ventriloquist Terry Fator (AGT season 2 winner), singer Tom Ball (BGT 2022), singer Tone the Chief (AGT season 8), ballerina Vitoria Bueno (Das Supertalent 2021), aerialist Vivianna Rossi (AGT season 17), choir Voices of Hope Children's Choir (AGT season 13), variety act World Taekwondo (AGT season 16) and variety act Yumbo Dump (Asia's Got Talent and AGT season 13).
Trae Patton/NBC Kodi Lee
Each week, 10 acts will perform for the judges for a chance to earn one of five coveted Golden Buzzers and move onto the finals. Fans will also get to vote for one additional act per episode to continue onto the finals. From there, the 11 finalists will perform again, before the fans vote for a winner, which will be revealed in a two-hour star-studded finale.
"We were reunited with so many great people, and then met so many great people, and there were a lot of surprises on the show as well," Cowell says. "I really, really enjoyed it."
When it came to selecting the acts, Cowell says he "kept out of it deliberately" to stay true to the audition process.
"One of the things I said was, 'If you can't get the big names, there's no point in making the show,'" he recalls. "And when they told me a couple of the names, I thought, 'This is gonna be brilliant.'"
One of those names included AGT season 2 winner, ventriloquist Terry Fator. "There's no question, he is the most successful contestant we've ever had," Cowell says. "He's had three Vegas deals ... worth about a hundred million. So the fact that he would come back and compete, I mean I was thinking, 'Why would you do that?'"
"He just said, 'Look, the show gave me a break. I love the idea of this competition and of course, I wanna compete again.' And he did. That says a lot about him," he adds of Fator, 57.
Trae Patton/NBC Terry Fator
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Other acts Cowell was particularly excited to see perform again? "Kodi Lee, Sarah James ... Detroit Youth Choir came back and they were amazing, absolutely amazing," he says. "Avery Dixon competed again, who has just got better and better. We just had brilliant people."
Cowell was also impressed by the acts from other countries, who AGT viewers likely haven't had a chance to see yet.
"It was absolutely fascinating ... I was interested in their stories, why they wanted to do well on this show," he says. "There was a real sense of competition."
With more than 20 Got Talent seasons under his belt and no end in sight, Cowell credits the series' success to the constant inspiration from its competitors.
"From where we've started to where we are now, the quality of the acts is, at times, honestly breathtaking, and just to see how they've progressed. I think they're very inspirational," he says. "And I think everyone needs that right now."
"These are not professional acts ... they've just got a talent, they've got a dream. And just seeing that, I think it makes you feel great," he continues. "Their stories are a big part of the show."
The inspiration is also what keeps Cowell coming back year after year.
"We've met the most incredible people along the way and that's a big reason of why I love doing this show," he notes. "That is what keeps me on the show. I love that part of it. I love that first audition when you see someone's true talent and you go, 'Yeah, this is a moment.'"
"And when you see them out in the real world, doing well off the back of one of your shows, it's the best feeling in the world," he adds. "That's why you go into the show every year with that feeling of anticipation, going that we could find that person again. And that's a great feeling."
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America's Got Talent: All-Stars premieres Jan. 2 at 8 p.m. ET on NBC.