'Dancing With the Stars' Producers Defend Casting Heather Morris
Every season of "Dancing With the Stars" comes with casting controversy, and this year's target is "Glee" alum Heather Morris.
DWTS Season 24 starts tonight (Monday, March 20) on ABC, and Heather Morris will debut with a Viennese Waltz with partner Maksim Chmerkovskiy. Morris is not the first "Glee" star to be on DWTS -- Amber Riley won Season 17 with Derek Hough -- and she's not the only one to have previous dance experience -- that list is long, but Maks previously won with ice dancer Meryl Davis.
The "controversy" with Morris is that she's a professional dancer. It was even listed right in her Twitter bio up until the weekend before the show: "Professional dancer/actor. Formerly known as Brittany from Glee. Proud mom of two. Avid morning coffee drinker." It currently reads "Dancer/Actor. Formerly known as Brittany from Glee. Proud mom of two. Avid morning coffee drinker :)"
Morris even tried out for "So You Think You Can Dance," which is where DWTS has drafted many of its pro dancers, including current pros Witney Carson and Lindsay Arnold. She didn't make it, though:
#TBT... When #HeatherMorris auditioned for #sytycdhttps://t.co/VZdjOAqXng#DWTS24
— DWTSGossip (@DWTSGossip) March 16, 2017
It sure looks like she's doing ballroom in that video. However, when The Hollywood Reporter asked executive producers Joe Sungkur and Ashley Edens about Morris, they argued that her dance is experience just creates higher expectations and does not give her an "unfair" advantage to win.
Here's part of that THR Q&A:
Who are some of the early frontrunners this season?
Edens: There's a ton of expectation on Simone [Biles] and Sasha [Farber]. There's a ton of expectation on Heather Morris and Maks. Do I necessarily think they will be the best? You have to wait and see.
Sungkur: There are some obvious people that have dance experience that you would look at in the beginning, but often as you've seen in the show, the person with the best dance experience doesn't necessarily win.
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.
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.
The odds-makers at SportsBettingDime still think gymnast Simone Biles has the best chance to win Season 24 (she's partnered with Sasha Farber), followed by Normani Kordei (with reigning champ Val Chmerkovskiy) then Heather Morris with Maks.
It is possible that Morris's pro dance experience will actually cause a backlash that works against her, but it's 50/50. Last season, Laurie Hernandez won because of/despite the fact that the gymnast was a dancing powerhouse right out of the gate and had the top scores nearly every week.
"Dancing With the Stars" airs Mondays from 8 to 10 p.m. on ABC.
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