David Walliams' BGT replacement: who is Bruno Tonioli and why is he a judge on new Britain’s Got Talent series?

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The former Strictly host replaces David Walliams as a judge on Britain’s Got Talent

Britain’s Got Talent has a brand new judge at the helm, replacing David Walliams on the panel.

ITV confirmed in January that former Strictly Come Dancing host Bruno Tonioli will replace outgoing judge David Walliams on the Britian’s Got Talent panel for the new series. Walliams, who had been part of the lineup for ten years, faced backlash after it was revealed he made derogatory and sexually explicit comments about contestants during auditions in 2020, with ITV confirming in November 2022, his future on the show was “still very much up in the air”.

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He has since apologised for his remarks. Walliams said in a statement: “These were private conversations and – like most conversations with friends – were never intended to be shared. Nevertheless, I am sorry.”

Tonioli joined his new Britain’s Got Talent co-judges - Alesha Dixon, Amanda Holden and Simon Cowel - as auditions for the kicked off in London on Tuesday 24 January. He makes a welcome return to television screens after becoming a fan favourite during his time on Strictly Come Dancing.

He left the BBC show in 2021 amid lockdown and Covid restrictions. Bruno, who was eventually replaced by Anton Du Beke on the Strictly panel, struggled to commit to judging both the UK and US version of the show, and was often seen judging via Zoom on the BBC programme.

Did David Walliams quit Britain’s Got Talent?

Walliams had been a judge on the ITV series for 10 years alongside Simon Cowell, Amanda Holden and Alesha Dixon. However, in November 2022 The Sun reported that he had decided to step down from the show after it was revealed he made derogatory and sexually explicit comments about contestants during auditions in 2020.

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David Walliams has been a judge on Britain’s Got Talent for ten years (Photo: Getty Images)David Walliams has been a judge on Britain’s Got Talent for ten years (Photo: Getty Images)
David Walliams has been a judge on Britain’s Got Talent for ten years (Photo: Getty Images) | Getty Images

What did David Walliams say?

Walliams was caught on his microphone making derogatory and sexually explicit comments about show contestants. The Guardian reported the comments took place at the London Palladium in January 2020.

During the incident Walliams called a pensioner a c*** three times and in a second incident he commented on a female contestant who had made an unsuccessful audition. Walliams said: “She’s like the slightly boring girl you meet in the pub that thinks you want to f*** them, but you don’t.

“I know, she’s just like: ‘Oh, f*** off!’ I was saying, she thinks you want to f*** her, but you don’t. It’s the last thing on your mind, but she’s like: ‘Yep, I bet you do!’ ‘No I don’t!’ I had a bit of a b****, but now it’s going, it’s now shrivelled up inside my body.”

David Walliams and fellow BGT judges Simon Cowell, Amanda Holden and Alesha Dixon (Photo: Getty Images)David Walliams and fellow BGT judges Simon Cowell, Amanda Holden and Alesha Dixon (Photo: Getty Images)
David Walliams and fellow BGT judges Simon Cowell, Amanda Holden and Alesha Dixon (Photo: Getty Images) | Getty Images

Following the revelation Walliams issued a statement apologising, he said: “I would like to apologise to the people I made disrespectful comments about during breaks in filming for Britain’s Got Talent in 2020. These were private conversations and – like most conversations with friends – were never intended to be shared. Nevertheless, I am sorry.”

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Whilst ITV said in a statement: “We do not condone the language outlined in these allegations, and we have spoken to the producers of Britain’s Got Talent. Duty of care towards all participants on any of our programmes is always of paramount importance and we have protocols and guidelines in place for all our production partners.”

Has Bruno Tonioli replaced David Walliams?

In January 2023, The Sun reported that Tonioli would be replacing Walliams as a judge on BGT. The former Strictly judge has plenty of experience having previously sat on the judging panel for 17 seasons. Tonioli left Strictly two years ago and is currently a judge on the US version, called Dancing With The Stars.

An insider source told The Sun: “For almost two months Alan may have been the favourite to take over from David, but Bruno was always Simon’s preferred choice. Not only does he have years of judging experience under his belt from his time on Strictly he will bring an outrageous brand of comedy that BGT needs on the panel.”

They continued: “In so many ways this is already the perfect job for Bruno as it sees him return to a glitzy showbusiness favourite that fits in with the rest of his work. Sealing the deal was always down to him being presented with an offer enticing enough to make a commitment to the show.”

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Adding: “After intense negotiations, they’ve managed to reach an agreement that will now see him return to prime time Saturday night TV in the UK.”

Bruno Tonioli could be replacing David Walliams on Britain’s Got Talent (Photo: Getty Images)Bruno Tonioli could be replacing David Walliams on Britain’s Got Talent (Photo: Getty Images)
Bruno Tonioli could be replacing David Walliams on Britain’s Got Talent (Photo: Getty Images) | Getty Images

It was confirmed on the first day of filming the show’s 16th series that the former Strictly judge had joined the cast. Speaking to ITV ahead of his BGT TV debut, Tonioli shared he was nervous, he said: “I am anxious, there is this adrenaline that makes you nervous. However I am doing this with friends and it is a gift, I am telling you.”

Whilst fellow judge Alesha Dixon said: “Change is always weird, we’ve all know Bruno for a while. We want to look after him, it’s not easy to be the new one.”

When can I watch Britain’s Got Talent?

The brand new series will be kicking off on ITV on Saturday April 15.

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