Dancing With The Stars, Derek Hough

Last season, few expected Derek Hough and Joanna Krupa to make it to the semifinals of Dancing with the Stars. It's a different story this time around, as Hough is paired with former Pussycat Dolls member Nicole Scherzinger. "I do think there's a little bit more pressure on me with everyone expecting Nicole to go far. That's OK," he tells TVGuide.com. "Last season was one of my favorite seasons because I had a great time. I had no expectations. I was just enjoying myself and that kind of came through. I'm going to try to retain that this season." See what else the Season 7 champ has to say about his new partner, why she's not a ringer and which cast member is a party animal.

TVGuide.com: Anna Trebunskaya says you've been busting in on her rehearsals with Evan Lysacek. Are you scoping out the competition?
Derek Hough:
Totally! We're constantly walking in, like, "So what's going on, guys?" [Laughs] It's funny because Nicole does this certain move in our Viennese waltz that kind of looks like ice skating, like gliding, so every time she does it, she goes, "It's the Lysacek!" Everyone's having a good time. She gets along with everybody and she's enjoying herself. Nicole's a really hard worker, but we've been playing hard as well too. She's a huge goofball. I thought I was crazy and goofy, but she's definitely outmatched me.

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TVGuide.com: There seems to be at least one person every season with a performing or dance background that people label a "ringer." Some say it's Nicole this season. Does that bother you?
For me, I don't think it's Nicole. I think it could be Evan. He performs choreography on ice. He's like Baryshnikov on ice! Nicole is like, "Wait a minute. I'm a singer who just happens to do a few chest bumps and a few head rolls." That's what she compares her dancing to. But what's so great about this season is that I don't think there is a definite ringer. You've got lots of people who can be very good. Evan will be tough for so many different reasons. Chad [Ochocinco]'s got a great personality. We've learned in the past that people who've danced before don't necessarily do well, let alone win. The show is so much more than just dancing. It's about personality, it's about story, it's about charisma. Just look at Ty Murray.

TVGuide.com: How much has Nicole's dance background helped?
I hate when people say, "No, it's a totally different monster. It doesn't help at all." That's ridiculous. Of course it helps! I think what helps the most is her musicality. But it is very true that this is hard. People make it look easy, but that's what's so hard about it — making it look easy. It's definitely a struggle, but I think her dance experience has allowed us to up the ante as far as choreography.

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TVGuide.com: You've been paired up with some gorgeous women over the years. Luck of the draw?
[Laughs] I have no idea what goes through the producers' heads, but I sure am grateful because I have no say in who I get. I'm just fortunate to have always been with wonderful people. People tell me, "Man, you have the most amazing job in the world! You dance with all these beautiful girls!" I can't disagree with them. The best part is just getting to know these people and making friends for life.

TVGuide.com: Your champion pupil, Brooke Burke, is the new co-host. Are you excited to have her back on set?
I get my girl back! I'm really excited. She's a pro, man. I heard she nailed it when she came in [for her screen test]. She should be great. I think she'll breathe new life into the show. We've got a new set. I think it's going to be one of the best seasons yet. I think Brooke's going to be a little bit harder on me than everyone else!

TVGuide.com: Is she jealous of Nicole?
She's always jealous! [Laughs] It's really funny because when I get new partners, the old ones call me up and are like, "Oh..." And I go, "Don't worry! Still love you!"

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TVGuide.com: Who are you excited to see dance?
I think Pamela Anderson is going to bring something good. She's with Damian [Whitewood], the new guy, who's going to bring new energy. Erin Andrews and Maks [Chmerkovskiy] should be something as well. I can't wait to see Buzz [Aldrin]. Buzz is a little party animal. I went out twice last week and he was at both parties. He was kicking it right until the end. ... This guy is a party animal and he's 80 years old! He's awesome. When he practices, he wears this shirt with this guy walking on the moon, and I said, "Is that you?" He said, "Yeah, it is, actually." "Oh, wow!" [Laughs] People say that he's a moonwalker, and he doesn't like that. "No, I walked on the moon. I've actually walked on it." It's pretty funny because it's true! You're like, "Right, sorry. Duh. You're a legend."

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TVGuide.com: Do you have anything new on the music front? Are you and Mark Ballas going to perform again on the show?
We actually have a cool idea that we're putting together maybe for the third results show. It's going to incorporate some guitars. It's a possibility. It won't be original music, but it would be quite interesting. But Mark's doing his solo project now. I think when we start working together again, it's going to be a throwback to stuff we were doing when we were growing up in London — a little more heavier, our "British sound," I guess you can say. I directed one of Mark's videos, "All for Nothing." It's a song he wrote about his uncle who committed suicide and it's a beautiful song. It's really close to home — everyone should check it out. I just love all aspects of media, so I'm hoping to do more of that.