Fox announced Friday that Remini, who competed on season 17 of “Dancing With the Stars” and also served as a temporary co-host, would be replacing Matthew Morrison at the judges’ table. She’ll be joining Stephen “tWitch” Boss and JoJo Siwa for the 300th episode, set to air Wednesday.
ET’s Denny Directo spoke with Remini and the “SYTYCD” crew about reaching the impressive milestone and infusing new energy into season 17 of the dance competition show. Remini shared her initial reaction when she got the call that she’d be coming aboard midseason.
“Makes sense, why wouldn’t I be judging!” she told ET. “I love dancing, I love dancers, I love dance shows, I love artists. I got a dance studio. People don’t know that I dance every day but that doesn’t matter, I’m not trying to like make myself like, ‘Oh duh, I’m a dancer, I should be a judge.’ I’m not a dancer but I’m a fan of the show. I love dance.”
While Remini acknowledges she doesn’t have a formal dance background like Boss or Siwa, she was excited about getting to see the competing dancers grow and evolve over the course of the competition. “I love dancers,” she said. “I love watching dancers… First of all, it is not easy. If you dance it’s because you love it. That’s it.”
Cat Deeley, who’s been host of “SYTYCD” since its inception, praised the addition of Remini, saying she’s able to evaluate the dancers’ performances from an everyday perspective.
“She’s brilliant, like straight away. It’s one of those things where we need somebody who is like everybody who sits on the couch at home,” Deeley said. “I love their dances, don’t get me wrong, but I’m not a dancer so we need somebody like that who can break it down for us and who can be that person that sat on the couch and thought, ‘Oh, that didn’t quite ring true for me. Why is that?’ Then it opens up the conversation.”
Remini’s fellow judges also praised her, with Siwa calling the actress “hilarious” and “amazing.” “She is an artist. She’s such a good energy to be around,” Siwa said.
“She offers honesty, you know what I mean? There’s nothing wrong with somebody being like, ‘Hey, I don’t know the technical aspects of this but I can tell you how I felt as a fellow artist and how you made me feel and information that I can pass on to you to help you dial in more.’ And that’s what we’re looking for,” Boss said. “That’s what we’re there for as a panel is not just to tell people how good or how bad they are, they’re already dope. They’re already phenomenal so now it’s like, what more do they need to continue to be more phenomenal and continue to grow and grow and grow and that’s why we’re there.”
Boss said there’s “no hazing Leah Remini” when asked if there was anything special he and Siwa did to officially welcome her to the judges’ table. Siwa reaffirmed, “Leah is… she’s great.”
The “SYTYCD” team also reflected on reaching rarified air as they hit the magical 300 number.
“It’s so weird ’cause it does feel as if we’ve been doing it for a really long time ’cause everybody who works on the show, we’re like a big family. So when we started the show people were single and then they got married and then they had babies,” Deeley recalled. “tWitch is the perfect example. He met his wife [Allison Holker] on the show. They now have babies, him and Allison and that’s what it’s like. So it’s weird ’cause it feels like there has been a passage of time but then it feels as though you blinked your eyes and all of a sudden we’re back, but I think we all appreciate it now a little bit more too.”
“This is something that — you also gotta remember that dance is a craft. It’s an art but it’s also a sport and this show has provided a platform to where we can call dancers by name and we know them and while we’re talking about this, look at JoJo Siwa right now, who is not only a phenomenal dancer and artist but also has built a brand,” Boss said. “It’s shows like this and other shows that really help to build a platform for dancers where they can do more than just dance. You can create a product around yourself and that’s what the legacy of this is. I think that it really helps to solidify all of the explorations and expansions that dancers could get into.”
Siwa credited Boss for being the de facto leader of the “SYTYCD” judges panel if there was one, mainly due to his years-long history with the franchise.
“tWitch, I feel like he has taken on that — there was never a leader on the panel; that was very clear from the beginning. However, tWitch was the leader from the beginning and rightfully so. This is your territory,” Siwa said. “Like, if you were coming on ‘Dance Moms’, I’d be like, ‘Yo.’ But this is your territory and I wanna be very respectful of that but I do look to tWitch as a big brother and sometimes I’ll be like, I’m gonna listen to tWitch’s comments to not jade my opinion but validate my opinion. Or prove me totally wrong or be totally opposite. I do do that all the time.”
Deeley said she’s “loved every minute” hosting “SYTYCD” and never imagined dance to be “this powerful and amazing.”
“In terms of life, I love going to America and bringing my boys over… and when you see we got 17 Emmy nominations. Seventeen. We went to the White House and danced with Michelle Obama. Lady Gaga first performed on the show,” Deeley said. “I mean, I could go on. It’s something that we are all as a team incredibly proud of.”
“So You Think You Can Dance” airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. ET/PT on Fox.
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