Season 32 of “Dancing With the Stars” is changing things up. Not only will the show move back to ABC after one season of exclusively streaming on Disney+, but former pro and judge Julianne Hough will join Alfonso Ribeiro as the new co-host.
“The door has always been open for me to join or come back in any capacity because ‘Dancing with the Stars’ is my family. It’s where I feel the most myself and the most at home. The door was never, ever closed. We’ve always talked about coming back and in some sort of capacity,” Hough tells Variety exclusively in her first interview since joining the competition series. “When the idea of coming back to host came around, it was truly a full circle moment. I’ve now been a part of the show in every role — being a professional dancer to judge to now hosting.”
She continues, “I just have this unique perspective to be able to relate and nurture and care for the celebrities and the couples competing because I’ve not only experienced what they’ve experienced, but I’ve also been a judge. I know what people are looking for and how I can support and make them feel the most comfortable.”
Now was the perfect time for her to rejoin the show, especially after the COVID-19 pandemic.
“That time of life gave people so much perspective [to realize] the things that matter to you the most and where you want to put your energy and focus your time. There’s been so much hustle over the last 17 years of my career, and I’m so grateful for all of it and I’ve tried so many different things,” she explains. “At the end of the day, personally, I am my happiest self when I’m surrounded by my family. This show is family.”
Hough first appeared on “DWTS” as a pro dancer in 2007. She won back-to-back seasons and exited in 2009. She came back in 2014 as a judge, before leaving again in 2017. During that time, she judged Season 19, the season Ribeiro took home the mirrorball.
For Season 32, Ribeiro will serve as the emcee on the ballroom floor while Hough will be up in the skybox, speaking to the teams after they perform.
“The love that he has for this show is so pure,” Hough says of her co-host. “The friendships that are made here are lifelong. It feels like it’s just gonna be like a peek into our friendship and our lives. With this season specifically, we are all so close. We’ve been friends for over 10 years. It’s like the ‘Friends’ cast. We’re going to be friends for the rest of our lives.”
Ribeiro feels that Hough is “absolutely perfect” for the role, and can’t wait to get to work with her.
“She knows what it’s like to go through the experience. I think last season, me being up in the sky box when they brought that role back to the show, it felt right for me because I had been a contestant,” he explains. “Julianne has the expertise as a professional that she can really dive in to the technical aspects and the heart and the journey, but from a different side. It’s gonna be very exciting to do that.”
Derek Hough, who was a pro dancer on 17 seasons before becoming a judge full-time in Season 29, recently told Variety he’d love to see an all-winners season of the show. Although Ribeiro won Season 19, he wouldn’t be stepping back onto the dance floor as a competitor, even if that season happened.
“Oh no, no! I wanted there to be an all-winners season before I got asked. Now that I’m hosting, I’m not giving this up!” he says. “What makes the show the most special competition show on television is that you get to go on a ride with 13 people, one gets eliminated and you keep going on the ride. It’s such an emotional journey. It’s exploration of their own heart and what they want and what they desire. That would all be missed on an all-stars or all-winners season. I’m not saying that it wouldn’t be fun to watch, — let’s do an all-winners season, but let it not be in place of the regular one that we do. It can be a second show, ‘Dancing With the Stars: Winners Edition’ and come out in the spring.”
Although there have been many changes behind the scenes through the years, for Hough, it feels like coming home — something she believes will translate for viewers.
“It feels kind of nostalgic, like, the band is back together,” adds Hough. “It feels like were in the older seasons of ‘Dancing with the Stars,’ with the wisdom and the knowledge of all the years of experience, but with the sense of nostalgia and home from the earlier seasons.”
“Dancing with the Stars” will air this fall on ABC and Disney+ and stream the following day on Hulu.