“Brant, you can’t giggle every time I tell you to shake your money maker!”
When the new Dancing With The Stars cast was announced last week, it was quite a surprise to see TheBacklot Hot 100 regular Brant Daugherty among the cast that also includes Valerie Harper, Elizabeth Berkeley, Snooki, Christina Milian, Corbin Bleu and Glee’s Amber Riley.
The actor, who we profiled last year when he was doing double duty as the dreamy man trying to come between WilSon on Days Of Our Lives and the devious Noel Kahn on Pretty Little Liars, spent this past season on Lifetime’s hit military drama on Army Wives. But, as Daugherty told us late last week, being part of Season 17 of the long-running celebrity dance competition was not something on his to-do list but, that said, he’s ready for the challenge.
During our chat, he also talked about the physical challenges of training, who he is already sizing up amongst his fellow contestants and whether he’s ready to rip his shirt off (and, we predict, watch the audience votes come pouring in.)
TheBacklot: Tell me first of all, what’s the process of getting on the show. Do you campaign or do you just throw yourself out there and hope you get the call?
Brant Daugherty: Honestly, it came as a shock to me. They contacted my manager about coming in for a meeting. I can honestly say I never expected it, never thought I’d be on a reality show but there’s something about them teaching me a usable skill that I couldn’t pass up!
TBL: Maybe they saw you moving your hips on Army Wives and thought ‘That guy can dance!’
BD: That’s one of the things my friends said is ‘oh, I guess Dancing With The Stars never watched Army Wives otherwise you wouldn’t be on the show!’
TBL: Once the announcement came, did you start training immediately or were you already training?
BD: We were already about a week into training once they announced the cast on Good Morning, America. We were most of the way through our first dance.
TBL: Tell me about the first time you met your dance partner, Peta Murgatroyd. She’s tough but she gets results. She has a winner (Donald Driver) under her belt!
BD: Absolutely! I couldn’t be more thrilled to have her as a partner. She knows exactly what she’s doing. Meeting her at first was so nerve wracking! It was a surprise for me on camera. I was very nervous, let’s put it that way.
TBL: Were you familiar with the show as a viewer or did you do some research?
BD: Once I found out I was going to be in the cast, I went through and watched last season to get familiar with everything. I have to say, I was pretty confident at first. I thought, ‘Dancing With The Stars. I got this. I’m going to win this thing.’ Then I watched the contestants last year and they’re good! It made me pretty nervous but I was watching Peta and I thought she was incredible.
TBL: What is your dance experience up until this point?
BD: My dance experience is pretty limited. I tried to do the high school musical thing. We did three plays a year and one was a musical. I would get leads in the other two shows and then I’d be in the background chorus for the musical of the year. I was a pretty terrible singer and dancer and have no formal training whatsoever.
TBL: Do you see that as an advantage or a disadvantage?
BD: I honestly don’t think it’s working against me. [Peta’s] such a great teacher and if I had learned anything the wrong way previously it would have been so hard to correct. I come in here as a blank slate and she’s been teaching me every single thing I know about dancing.
TBL: You’re in good shape but what has the physical challenge been like? I saw some pics on Instagram and it looks like maybe it’s been a bit of a challenge.
BD: Yeah, you never really know how in-shape you are until you test yourself doing something like this. I realized pretty quickly that I had some conditioning ahead of me. One of the biggest challenges is just eating enough. With the hours that we train and everything else I have going on it’s been a struggle to find the time to keep myself fed basically.
But our first dance is the Cha-Cha and we are coming out with a bang and it’s an exhausting dance. We’re going to be so out of breath by the end of it.
TBL: That’s not an easy dance!
BD: I’ve learned it is not!
TBL: Last time we talked, I thought you said you weren’t a big fan of working out…
BD: I believe I said I didn’t like working out without a goal and that’s why I like the Parkour and the surfing because I felt like I was accomplishing something while I was doing it. I really struggle to just go to the gym and lift weights in the mirror. I don’t see any end result in that but dancing has been great. It doesn’t feel like a workout whatsoever. When we’re in it, we’re having so much fun and I don’t realize how tired I am until it’s all over.
TBL: It’s early but who of your fellow contestants are you eyeballing as a threat?
BD: I’ve been thinking that for a couple of weeks now and I’m not completely sure. I don’t really know what a lot of them are capable of yet. I will say that I’m keeping my eyes on Corbin Bleu, I’m keeping my eyes on Christina Milian, I’m keeping my eyes on Elizabeth Berkeley [and] definitely Keyshawn Johnson.
TBL: You’ve been working on the Cha-Cha but what dance style scares the hell out of you?
BD: [laughs] You know, honestly, all of the Latin dances in general. I grew up in a little farm town in Ohio and there wasn’t very much Latin influence there so the whole concept of moving your hips…it’s a very foreign concept to me. We never Cha-Cha’d growing up, that’s for sure!
TBL: And sometimes on Dancing With The Stars, the guys have to rip their shirts off to get some votes. Are you ready to just rip it off?
BD: We’re not going to get into that too early. I don’t want to be the first one to start taking my shirt off every week. I think we’ll definitely get there but we’ll get there when the audience really wants to see it.
TBL: As far as you know, will you be good at taking criticism from the judges? They can be helpful but they can also be harsh. Are you ready for that?
BD: I think one of the advantages that actors have on the show is they get judged to their faces every single day. Nobody is ever shy in telling me how they feel whether it’s a casting director or somebody on Twitter, my manager or someone who has watched the show. They are always brutally honest with you so I like to think I have thick skin. I know that all the criticism is only there to make me better.
TBL: The show will keep you busy for a few months so is it safe to say we won’t see you on Pretty Little Liars or Army Wives?
BD: This has been my only focus since we started rehearsals. We’re still waiting on Army Wives so we’re not sure if we’re getting an eighth season yet or not, so I don’t know if I’ll have work at the end of this or not. [We also confirmed with ABC Family that Daugherty isn’t in any upcoming PLL episodes.]
TBL: How was the Army Wives experience since it was so different from what you did on Pretty Little Liars or even Days Of Our Lives?
BD: It was definitely the most different from myself than I’ve played thus far in many ways. I, in my personal life, have so much respect for our soldiers but that’s not the kind of lifestyle that I have. It definitely took a lot of training and discipline to get into that mentality. I had an amazing time on the show and the cast and crew are really like a big family and they welcomed me with open arms.
The new season of Dancing With The Stars kicks off Monday, September 17th at 8pm on ABC. You can follow Brant on Twitter @BrantDaugherty.