Louis van Amstel

Season 9 of Dancing with the Stars was the longest and largest in the ABC hit's history — not to mention the most difficult for Louis van Amstel. "It was by far the hardest work I've ever done in my life," he tells TVGuide.com. "The season didn't seem to end. But I would do it again because the reward I got out of it — the relationship with Kelly [Osbourne] — was so worth it." With the smaller cast lineup for Season 10, the Dancing pro will put in fewer hours with his new partner, Niecy Nash, who, he says, will show audiences a new side to her funny, feisty self.

TVGuide.com: How are rehearsals going?
Louis van Amstel:
Rehearsals are going beyond great! I was a little worried about at first because she's a comedian. I have quite a few comedian friends who are always on. You never really have a conversation with them because they're always on — acting funny, which is fun. But sometimes, even as an audience member, if you see it on the package every single minute of the day, it can actually get annoying. But the opposite is happening with Niecy. She is funny, and it's not just comedy. The comments she makes are so head-on. It's brilliant. She's very intelligent and smart. But she's also really serious during rehearsals. She really wants this. I think that's what is going to be a secret weapon of hers.

Dancing's Anna Trebunskaya flying out the window?

TVGuide.com: So we're going to see a different side of her? She's known for her sassiness and back talk.
Van Amstel:
Absolutely. The sassiness and the back talk are absolutely there, but ... when she talks back, it's more funny and sarcastic rather than talking back like, "Louis, you're wrong!" I want that to be very clear. We get along so well.

TVGuide.com: Did you guys hit it off right away?
Van Amstel: Oh, my God! We have so much chemistry on the dance floor! I mean, Kelly and I had chemistry, but Niecy and me — oh, my God! That's why I'm so blessed this season because I couldn't have a more different partner than Kelly, which is great. People will compare, but they will not compare to the point where they cannot let go of Season 9 and enjoy Season 10. There's a different fire and spark with us. Niecy's so appreciative of the whole experience. I see the twinkle in her eyes, and sometimes she can't believe she's doing this — in a good way. She comes dressed the part. Every day, a different outfit, but to the T — Latin shoes, fishnet tights. She's not even competitive that much yet, but it's more the appreciation and the respect of, "I have to give 100 percent."

TVGuide.com: You have the cha-cha and then the fox trot. Does she prefer one to the other?
Van Amstel:
I thought she was going to be better at the cha-cha. When I was explaining the fox trot to her, she was all, "Huh? Oh, honey, I'm not sure if I like this dance." Then I started showing her the steps and she's all, "Oh, honey, I love this dance! I love it!" She calls us Louis Astaire and Niecy Rogers. [Laughs] I can't wait for people to see her do it.

Evan Lysacek: Dancing a chance to "prove critics wrong"

TVGuide.com: You traveled a lot with Kelly last season. Niecy is still working on The Insider and Clean House. How hectic is your schedule this time around?
Van Amstel:
The workload is less because the season's shorter. It's still a lot of work, of course. I'm more concerned about Niecy — she needs to work on getting sleep and eating! It was the same thing with Kelly. I'll ask Niecy what she ate and she goes, "Oh, I had some crackers and yogurt." And I'm like, "Wait a minute — and that was at 4 o'clock in the morning?" She also has three kids on top of rehearsals and her shows, so if you don't eat, you're going to have no stamina.

TVGuide.com: Are you constantly reminding her to eat?
Van Amstel:
The first week I was. She's learning. Her mother and her boyfriend came in and said, "We're going to go shopping for you." Her boyfriend brought us lunch. People always ask if I have my partners on a diet — no. I'm making Niecy eat. I make them eat because they forget to eat. I hate dieting with a passion. It's about healthy food and activity. You have to eat the right thing. And you need it, especially if you're doing as much dancing as we are.

Dancing's Aiden Turner: I don't want to turn into George Hamilton

TVGuide.com: A lot of the pros are glad the cast is smaller this season. Are you?
Van Amstel:
Yeah, last season was just too much and too long — not just the season, but the shows themselves being two hours. We all talked [with the producers] before we started Season 10, and I think the approach is different now, so I think it's going to be a nice, fresh change from the craziness of last season.

TVGuide.com: What's the new approach?
Van Amstel:
I think they really want to make it more about the celebrity's journey. I'm pretty proud of all the things I did with Kelly since fans got to see her grow over the season, which was wonderful. That's what they're pushing this season — don't fake or leave anything out. Just show everyone your full experience on the show from beginning to end.