Tony Dovolani was the only one in the dark. The Dancing with the Stars pro says he doesn't read casting rumors about the show, so the possibility of working with Kate Gosselin (a widely speculated pairing since they both live on the East Coast) never crossed his mind. "Everyone was thinking that except me!" he tells TVGuide.com. "I don't read rumors. If you do and set your heart on somebody and don't get them, or it turns out the person is not doing the show, then you're disappointed even if you get somebody great." And great is exactly what the mom of eight is, says Dovolani, a dad of three — whatever "haters" might think.
TVGuide.com: What was your reaction when you found out you had Kate?
Tony Dovolani: I knew my wife was going to be very happy because she's a big fan of hers. I think there's a bond between people who have had twins. I was pleasantly surprised and happy she was doing our show. You hear about people and you're always curious to see if they are who you think they are. In this case, I was very happy to learn she was just as sweet as I thought she was going to be. She's so nice, and we're having so much fun together.
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TVGuide.com: Evan Lysacek said Kate showed some rhythm during your title shoot. Is she going to be a dark horse?
Dovolani: [Laughs] Kate has never taken a dance step in her life! The one thing she does have is drive. That's something that I love about her. She's fantastically driven. There are a lot of hours packed in and she's 100 percent present the entire time. She wants this really badly and she's willing to work really hard. But as far as her having any advantage over the contestants — no. The other ones come with way more experience.
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TVGuide.com: How often do you rehearse?
Dovolani: Every day for six hours a day at her home in Pennsylvania. The rest of the time, she's with her kids. People think she's away from her kids and she's not. She's a single working mom. Instead of being supportive of her, they're bashing her. I don't understand that. My sister told me, "Tell Kate that all of us mothers understand and we're standing behind her." To hear that confirms that I'm thinking the right way. She has to provide for those kids. They're so sweet! They came up with a routine they showed us one day! Once in a while we perform for them. She's a great mother. They're all over her.
TVGuide.com: How does your Viennese waltz look?
Dovolani: We're ready. I'm excited to show everyone what she's accomplished in such a short amount of time, not having any experience whatsoever. You're expecting a person to go from zero to 160 mph in seconds. There has to be a lot of trust. It's a process. As a teacher, I'm excited because I have an empty canvas to work with. She has the work ethic and that's all you can ask for. I would say she's an average learner, but the hard work makes her a fast learner.
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TVGuide.com: She's a very divisive figure. Are you concerned about how that will affect voting?
Dovolani: I'm new to this whole thing about hating somebody and I don't understand why people hate her. Our show is so positive that it's going to be difficult to hate someone. I love our show. It's the only show you can watch with the whole family. For me, it's mindboggling to think people think negatively in general, let alone at someone they don't know. I guess if you're a hater, don't watch when we're dancing. ... Honestly, I think the side she has shown — not what the tabloids have shown — there's nothing wrong with her. She's a mom taking care of her kids. She doesn't buy into the tabloids. She's a great role model for her kids.
TVGuide.com: What do you think of the rest of the cast?
Dovolani: It could be one of the best seasons ever. We have a little bit of everything. Niecy [Nash], Nicole [Scherzinger] — I'm a huge fan of hers. Erin [Andrews], Evan — I can't wait to see them. Chad [Ochocinco], what a personality! ... I'm excited about the changes too. Brooke [Burke] coming on is awesome. There were changes that needed to be done, like with the big cast. I think the producers listened to the audience. The audience was the one that suggested these things.
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TVGuide.com: Are your or Kate's kids going to come out for the tapings?
Dovolani: I don't know if hers will come. My wife comes out every three weeks every season with our [4-year-old] daughter. My wife's my hero. She goes through so much on a daily basis so I could do what I do. When we got pregnant with our first child, I said I was going to quit competing to be around. She said, "No. You're going to compete and you're going to win because I want you to share this with your kids to set an example for them. I want them to say, 'My dad is a champion.'" It's because of her I am where I am now.
TVGuide.com: You also act. What do you have coming up?
Dovolani: There are some projects. I love being able to create — acting, choreography, dancing, whatever it is. ... There's an independent movie called Wormhole that I'm going to do. I have Pumping Up, which has to do with bodybuilders, and it's really cool. I'm looking forward to the summer because there are a bunch of projects lined up.