Hollywood Reporter Interviews DWTS Executive Producers, Including Questions about Heather Morris Extensive Dance Background
Well this is certainly an interesting interview. Remember the old saying “Me thinks they doth protest too much?” Yeah. This. 🙂 Hollywood Reporter interviews executive producers Joe Sungkur and Ashley Edens about DWTS, including some tough questions about Heather Morris and her very obvious dance experience…and our execs have the company line down pat. Even if it is complete BS. Excerpts (and commentary) below. The way they write about Heather, it’s entirely possible that everyone (besides us) is starting to realize this show has jumped the shark totally and completely.
While most of the ensemble represents the show’s standard mix of actors, reality stars and pro athletes, there is one notable exception with the addition of Morris. Long before she became a household name as Brittany S. Pierce on Fox’s hit musical comedy, Morris was a professional dancer working for Beyonce. She danced backup on The Beyonce Experience world tour, and danced alongside her on Saturday Night Live, the American Music Awards and The Ellen DeGeneres Show, among others.
They really drive the point home here, don’t they? I think I love them. 😉
Courtney: When the “coven” at Pure ain’t the only ones hip to the fact A PROFESSIONAL DANCER is part of the celeb cast this season and aren’t afraid to call TPTB out on it, you know this is gonna be a tough season for the higher-ups at DWTS.
Vogue: Oh boy, I can see what’s coming already.
Ahead of the premiere, The Hollywood Reporter spoke with longtime executive producers Joe Sungkur and Ashley Edens to find out what’s in store for the season, whether or not they think Morris has an unfair advantage, the reason behind the lack of Bachelorette stars and their dream contestants.
Again, more on Heather…and they’re bringing up the sore, Bachelorette point.
What’s the process like when pairing the stars with the professional dancers? What were the conversations for this season like? How much say do the dancers have in who they dance with?
Eden: There’s no real science or a perfect formula behind the pairing process. The dancers don’t have a say in who they’re getting. Jo, myself and [casting director] Deena [Katz] who books the cast. Deena will know the celebrities a little bit more. Joe and I work with the dancers day in and day out so together we try and make the best pairings based on height, personality [and] dance ability or lack there of. We try not to always put predictable pairings together. You’re not seeing Witney [Carson] with the exact same type person every single season. That’s a challenge. And ultimately we want everyone to be happy whether it’s the celebrity or the dancer. That’s at the forefront in making the strongest pairings.
You’ve got to be fucking kidding me. First, you choose WITNEY as an example of someone not getting the same partner all the time? Then you try to claim that you don’t make predictable pairings?? You guys are really too close to this show if you’re being sincere here. Val has gotten essentially the same partner for most of his time on the show – young, fit, with plenty of dance experience plus a fanbase if possible. Emma?? This is the first season she hasn’t had a total obvious early out, on paper. Artem? The new “Tony” typically gets the older women – at least his partner this season is under 50, but still. Gleb? Let me guess – you’re going to put him with obvious sex bombs going forward. Sharna has had a decent mix of partners, as did Derek in the past…but Derek forced you into that through his success, did he not? I could go on, but I wonder what Courtney and Vogue have to say here.
Courtney: And here we get our answer to the question “What are Rob Wade’s successors going to be like?” The answer: company line-reciting yes-men/women who are so indoctrinated into the manipulation that I think they actually may genuinely believe their own bullsh*t. Val has literally gotten the same partner for ten seasons now – just in different colors & model years. The fact that they chose to comment on a relatively peripheral pro’s partners tells me they know they’re typecasting, hardcore – when most of the show’s Twitter following can predict the pairings without any hints, you know you’re being very, very predictable. Val’s on his 11th young, sexy, able-bodied partner with dance experience; Sharna’s on her 3rd guy with a near-death experience and inspiring comeback story; Keo’s on his 3rd cannon-fodder partner; Artem’s on his 4th partner over the age of 40; Sasha’s on his 4th partner of extraordinarily short stature. As for Witney – anymore, she’s even getting typecast, albeit to a lesser degree, because they seem to be alternating between giving her young guys with dance experience and older, goofier guys that aren’t likely to make it far (Alfonso was an anomaly – and I still maintain that he only got Witney due to his height and her tap experience). Bottom line: there’s totally typecasting going on, whether they chose to acknowledge it or not. And the fact that they’re denying/deflecting just kinda shoots their credibility to hell.
Vogue: If they don’t want to see someone get the same kind of partner every season, then why always pair Maks and Val with ringers? I just don’t get it. And now we see Gleb with the “sexy” partner again. What a shame. The producers really need to watch what Gleb can really do on DWTS Russia and Strictly Come Dancing. His choreography was on the level of Derek’s at times. I just don’t get it? 😐
Maksim Chmerkovskiy and Peta Murgatroyd just had a baby and are engaged. How much will their storyline be a part of this season?
Edens: While we will document it, the story is about Peta and Nick, and Maks and Heather. Those are the stories that we have to capture. We have to keep the focus on the couples.
Sungkur: This season is a wonderful season for us because we have so many of our talent that are getting married. Not only do we have Peta and Maks, we have Sasha [Farber] and Emma [Slater], Julianne Hough, Erin [Andrews], and Carrie Anne [Inaba]. It’s wedding season. I’m sure our viewers will be interested in those stories as well as the stories of the couples and their journey in the competition.
:::vomit::: Seriously, is this a dancing show or what? And color me shocked that the man in this partnership is the dang shipper. I could not possibly care less about everyone getting married on this season. And as for Maks and Peta not being a focus? I’ll believe it when I see it.
Courtney: My god, what are they trying to do? Parlay all this wedding focus into a spinoff called Wedding with the Stars? Knowing Peta & Maks, they’ve probably already signed on. Nobody made a huge deal of it when Lindsay, Witney, or Mark got married. Oh wait – they married people outside the show, so they were no good for shipping potential. Wuh wuh wuhhhh. And I just have to shake my head like Heidi in the disparity between the response that Edens gave and Sungkur gave – she’s trying to maintain that it’s about the couples, while he’s all “Look at all the weddings! Our audience is predominantly female, and everyone knows bitches love weddings. Give the bitches weddings and they will eat that sh*t right up!” The fact that they aren’t really on the same page here spells trouble.
Vogue: While I think all the romance is great in their private lives and it’s fun hearing about at times, this is a dancing show. I just want to see great dancing and the journeys play out most of all. I’m also interested in seeing how each Pro grows every season with their choreography. I have no interest for how they try to manipulate and create story lines that aren’t true either. Again, I don’t get it? 😐
Heather is a professional dancer, so does she have an unfair advantage?
Edens: No. We looked at that a lot. Does she have an advantage? Yeah. Is it unfair? No. She has never had a ballroom lesson. She’s never partner danced. That is a skill in it of itself. Does she know how to count music and have rhythm? Yes. But the expectation because she’s a dancer is going to be very different than someone like Rashad Jennings, who is an athlete coming into this. But Heather is finding it challenging because it’s like learning a new language. It’s foreign to her. She has not ever partner danced. It will be interesting to see the dynamic between she and Maks.
When you start repeating phrases like “She’s never partner danced” you are protesting too much and sounding very defensive. And you claim the expectation is going to be higher? Yeah, we’ll see about that. It will be interesting to see if you hammer on Heather and Maks and let Normani slide completely to get Val to number 3.
Courtney: Oh, Ashley – if only you had seen my analogy about how learning different forms of dance is like learning languages, in that each subsequent one is actually easier to learn…then you might not lean quite so heavily on this limp excuse. Honestly, I think the only reason they went ahead and cast Heather was because they were scraping the bottom of the barrel for celebs and she was willing to do it. Had they actually had other options, I think they would have actually acknowledged the fact that “Heather has an unfair advantage, and that may not sit well with some of the viewers”. I mean, she was a secondary character on ONE show on another network that wrapped 2 years ago. Not exactly a currently-hot commodity like a current Olympic gold medalist or a World Series champion. Casting her was an act of desperation, and now they’re having to tie themselves in ridiculous knots to justify it. Not sure why Ashley opted to even bring up Rashad’s name in this context, but it almost struck me as a bit of a veiled dig at him – almost an implication that he has just as much of an advantage as Heather simply by being an athlete. Which is dumb.
Vogue: I’m sorry, but I don’t believe she hasn’t danced with partners in the past. I’ve attended almost every Madonna concert. Not only do her dancers dance solo, they dance with each other too sometimes. I’m sure it’s the same for a Beyonce concert, etc. So, that excuse isn’t going to work either.
Do you have anything else to say to fans of the show on social media who are saying it’s an unfair advantage?
Edens: We’re not shying away from the fact that she 100 percent has dance experience. Because of that, she will be judged on a higher level and there will be higher expectations on her.
Sungkur: In the past, we’ve had people like Zendaya and Corbin Bleu and people said they had an unfair advantage, but they didn’t end up winning the show.
Now this just pisses me off because it indicates that you think your audience is stupid. We ain’t, sweetheart. Zendaya and Corbin Bleu, who were people who had dance experience, were not PROFESSIONAL dancers. They didn’t make their living for the first 20 or more years of their life through dancing!!
Courtney: My god, the logical fallacies – just because someone that’s got an unfair advantage doesn’t win, doesn’t mean they still weren’t playing fair. Hell, look at the New England Patriots – they haven’t always won the Superbowl, but the body of evidence against them for generally doing some underhanded sh*t is still there. And I don’t recall Zendaya or Corbin (or Meryl, or Laurie, or Ginger…) being judged all that much harsher by virtue of their dance experience – it doesn’t get applied across the board in the bastion of fairness that is DWTS, Ashley. It all hinges upon whether said dancer with experience fits into the “plan” for the season – they wanted Meryl to win, so she got judged pretty easily; Alfonso, on the other hand, got his ass ridden for the majority of his season. Let’s not pretend this show gives everyone the same fair shake – it’s not a good look.
Vogue: They better start thinking of future celebrities. If I was a celebrity, why should I agree to do the show if I can’t have a fair journey with the other contestants? It’s sad when you think about it.
Can you see why the fact that there have been more Bachelors on the show than Bachelorettes is troubling to viewers?
Edens: We had Trista [Sutter]. [It’s] based on when we’re casting and the whole cast we’re pulling in and what other reality stars we already have in place.
Sungkur: Who knows what could happen in the future.
Personally, I think these two are giving Mike Fleiss cover – Kaitlyn said she had a contract in hand and he put the kibosh on it. He’s the problem, in this instance. But beyond that, I do believe that the Bachelor/Bachelorette are late picks if they can’t find anyone better.
Courtney: I get that they’re toeing the company line here, but it seriously gets my goat that everyone at ABC that gets asked this question holds up Trista Sutter (and sometimes Melissa, although she’s not actually a Bachelorette) as if she somehow neutralizes any perceived sexism. There have been four Bachelors and one Bachelorette on DWTS; to claim that there isn’t a bit of a bias in favor of Bachelors is like holding up Barack Obama and trying to claim that American politics doesn’t unfairly favor white men because we elected ONE black president. I probably would have been more understanding had Ashley said “It really is just a matter of who is available and who we’ve already cast, and it just hasn’t worked out with anyone other than Trista so far. But we are always looking out for future seasons!” And speaking of future seasons – I think enough noise has been made about the whole thing that I would not be at all shocked if a Bachelorette (particularly the new one, the first black Bachelorette, whose name escapes me) showed up on the fall season. There’s been enough sensationalizing of this whole thing that now it’s actually worth their while to cast another Bachelorette, I think.
Vogue: There is no excuse here why they couldn’t have a Bachelorette to even it out unless they needed a male celeb and a Bachelor is all they could find.