Googling her Dancing with the Stars partners is becoming Cheryl Burke's pre-season ritual. Last season, she had to Google former House majority leader Tom DeLay. This time around, she turned to the search engine to brush up on Cincinnati Bengal wide receiver Chad Ochocinco. "Isn't it funny? I didn't know anything about him either," she tells TVGuide.com. "It just shows you all I've been doing since I was a little kid is dancing." So what was her reaction when she learned about the NFL star? Find out below.
TVGuide.com: How's everything looking?
Cheryl Burke: It's all finally come together this past week. This has been the shortest time period [between the cast announcement and the premiere] that we've had since I've been on Dancing with the Stars. We only have three weeks to train. I was a little panicked because an extra week really makes a difference. I had to kind of rearrange everything. Normally, the first week is just basics, but since we only had three weeks, we went straight into the routine.
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TVGuide.com: Do you know why they shortened the prep time? You've had more than a month to train in the past.
Burke: When I was with Emmitt [Smith], we had six weeks. Sometimes it was five weeks. The last two seasons, we had four weeks. I think they don't want all the celebs to come out and look really good. I think they want to see improvement for everyone every single week, which is what the show is about. If everyone starts out strong, the only place to go is down. I like that we have two weeks before the first elimination again. It gives everyone a chance to stay on an extra week and feel comfortable with the process. And the public has the chance to get to know each celebrity more.
TVGuide.com: A lot of people were surprised Chad's doing the show. Were you?
Burke: Honestly, I am not a sports girl. I know a couple of football players, but Chad, I've never really heard of, so I had to do some research. When I Googled him and saw some stuff, I was like, "OK, this guy has a lot of personality." [Laughs] He's a really great guy. I didn't [tell him I didn't know who he was], but he kind of knew with all the interviews we've done.
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TVGuide.com: You won with Emmitt. How do the two of them compare?
Burke: [They're both] light on their feet. Chad's a lot taller and leaner, so I'm allowed to do different things when it comes to his arms. Emmitt was a lot shorter and wider, so it was harder for him to use arms in the transitions, and I had to choreograph around that. With Chad, I don't have to hide that. They're both really hard workers. ... That's why I love working with athletes — they just know what it takes. There's no drama. They know how to be coached. They can take direction and can go home, study and come back and do it.
TVGuide.com: Emmitt was retired when he did the show, but Chad's still playing. Is there anything he can bring from football to dancing?
Burke: Actually, I think his coach wanted him to do the show because he wanted him to become more flexible in football. He got his coach's blessing to do the show. So instead of coming in here with what he has already, he's going to leave with something that will help him on the football field.
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TVGuide.com: Is it true he doesn't want you to compliment him?
Burke: Yeah, he's the first one who's ever said that to me! The first day, you're testing the waters, so I was like, "Good job." And he's like, "Don't lie to me. Don't tell me it's good unless it's really good." I said, "OK, great. You're my favorite guy!" [Laughs] ... I think this whole process has really humbled him. When we first started, I think he thought he knew how to dance, but I don't think he knew what he was getting into. Our cha-cha is very fast and it's a different type of song that the show's never really used before. He bowed down to me at one point last week and said, "Oh my God! I have so much respect for you guys. I didn't realize how hard this was."
TVGuide.com: Are any of your costumes going to involve a poncho and a sombrero?
Burke: [Laughs] He definitely wants some crazy stuff when it comes to costumes. I'm all for it as long as it's in a tasteful manner. He jokes around about having a see-through costume and blowing up the bottom part. I'm like, "I don't think that's going to happen. ABC's not going to allow that!"
TVGuide.com: If you stay long enough, he'll design your costumes.
Burke: Yeah, I'm not worried about that at all. He talks a lot, but at the end of the day, he's very respectful. He's really sweet, really nice. He won't talk back to the judges. He won't do what people think he's going to do. He knows what he's there for and takes this very seriously, so if we last to that week, I'm sure they'll be fine.
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TVGuide.com: You have your own fitness clothing line. Do you have new designs this year?
Burke: We're trying to recreate it little bit right now, make it more of a dance-wear that you can wear on the street as well. I've been wearing the line on the show for a while now, so I'm hoping to get new samples this season. I'm working on that and hopefully opening up another studio too.