Dancing with the Stars' Bill Nye: The Judges Have Made Us the Underdogs
Tyne Stecklein and Bill Nye
After Week 1 of Dancing with the Stars, Bill Nye and Tyne Stecklein (aka "Team #HotKnowledge," in the Twitterverse) are in last place, with their cha-cha earning a lowly 14 points from the judges. But they've emerged as early fan favorites in the competition, thanks in part to nostalgic voters who are familiar with Bill Nye the Science Guy. And Nye, for one, is determined to step it up this week. In fact, when TVGuide.com chatted with the Science Guy on Thursday, he apologized for calling a few of minutes late because he was "rockin' out" in his kitchen, practicing his steps for the paso doble. Will those round-the-clock rehearsals pay off?
Read our full interview below for Nye's preview of his next routine. Plus: See why he thought the judges' critiques were "harsh" this week and get his thoughts on being the underdog in the competition:
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How would you sum up your Dancing with the Stars experience so far?
Bill Nye: Oh God, it's a blast. It is the coolest experience. It's just fantastic. Tyne Stecklein, I think I just lucked out. ... Maybe all [the pros] are this good, but she's something else.
What's your assessment of your performance from this week?
Nye: I thought it was OK. I thought it was fine. It's a goofy guy out there doing the steps. But I think I know what you're driving at. It really did take the wind out of my sails when the judges were so harsh. I had fun up to that moment.
Did you think the judges were a little too hard on you?
Nye: It took me about a day to get over it. It was not like, "Your posture still sucks, and you're still pigeon-toed and you've got to work on that." It was, "I just couldn't wait for it to be over." ... Tuesday night, after the hours of funk, I went swing dancing. I went out dancing to remind myself that dancing is fun.
What are you working on for this week?
Nye: The paso doble. This is actually easier for me. The posture I end up in, trying to correct for my [natural] bad posture, is not inappropriate. And it also has the magical thing where you start with the man's left foot, at least on a few of [the steps], which is huge for me. Having the cha-cha not start on number one, starting on the number four of the previous measure, it's like driving on the wrong side of the road. ... This week, although the dance is quite a bit different, we're ahead. All these weeks, [Tyne's] been sprinkling in paso doble things in the middle of the cha-cha, and I didn't realize it. Or maybe if she told me, I didn't grasp it. We're OK. We are by no means ready, but we will be.
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The chemistry lab set from Monday was great. Was that your idea?
Nye: No. The producers wanted the laboratory. They wanted to exploit the Science Guy character, the nerd transforming to the dancer. So, we went along with that. And I would remind anybody that, yes, it is a dance competition, but it's a show. So, I had no problem with that. ... I've got to bring something else. I'm not a professional dancer. I'm not going to get three 9s. ... I'm in it to win it, but strategically it's going to be real difficult for me to get to that level.
When you were approached to be on the show, what was your first thought?
Nye: "Oh, bring it on. Let's go." When you watch a sporting event ... you're saying to yourself, I could do that. Put me in there. Or at least you're wondering what it would be like to catch a football before you got crushed by a gigantic person.
Conrad Green told us that, during early rehearsals you had a predictably scientific approach to learning the routines. How would you describe your method?
Nye: I did what Tyne told me, to the extent possible. She is extraordinary. These people are world-class athletes, and they not only can do it, they can teach it.
As a teacher yourself, how is Tyne as a coach? What's your relationship like?
Nye: She's fantastic. She's just amazing. She's so patient. Yet of course, I said, "Well, what if I do this?" She says, "Don't do that." That sort of crystallizes the whole thing. What we have is trust. And that I think is really vital. ... I'm going to do what you tell me, and I believe that you are doing your best to do what I'm telling you. That's huge [since] we spend a lot of time together face to face, nose to nose.
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You and Tyne were the most talked-about pair on social media, and people seem to be rallying around you. Do you think that not having any dance experience may actually put you at an advantage? Viewers may hold people like Corbin Bleu up to a higher standard.
Nye: You wonder about that. The social media world has gone crazy for Tyne and me. The judges turned us into the underdogs, rather than just inherent losers. So, we may get kicked off Monday. That's how it is. ... Definitely being the underdog is clearly a much more visible position than being in the middle of the pack. So, from a gaming standpoint or a strategic standpoint, it's really good.
Which of the other contestants are you most intimidated by?
Nye: I'll say this: When you're in the rehearsal studio, there's all these producers around [and] half of these people are women. And the other day Brant [Daugherty] walks down the hall and, whoosh, just like blades of grass in the wind, they all followed him. He's a very good-looking young man, and has terrific biceps. He's a nice guy. He's a great guy. We're in this together.
Is it difficult having to rehearse with all those producers and cameras around?
Nye: I feel as though I have to be guarded. And what they're looking for is for you to get so caught up in it that you forget they're there, [which] very, very seldom happens. One time Tyne and I, after a particularly hardworking session, kind of got choked up. "I'm sorry I wasn't performing well enough for you." "Oh, Bill, I feel I'm being too hard on you."
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Was it surprising to you that it's as taxing emotionally as it is physically?
Nye: It's not surprising. These are two people. One of them is trying to bring this guy along who's just not skilled, and it's just got to be so hard for her. On the other hand, I'm there just really doing my best to try to catch up. ... And that's frustrating. You just wish you could wave the wand and have it go, but that's just not the case.
How grueling are the rehearsals?
Nye: Although I am of a certain age, I have a lot of stamina. I'm in pretty good physical shape coming into this. I'm not riding my bike and not surfing now and not running, because any of these activities could very easily lead to an injury. [But] from a cardiovascular standpoint, I'm in excellent shape. So that part hasn't been hard. It's the mental part that's difficult. But I can imagine some of the other contestants getting really worn out by this. You come home tired [and] you're just hungry all the time.
What else do you have in store this week?
Nye: We're going to have a little bit of a show. I'm busting my empennage on the steps, on learning the dance and the whole attitude and the hand position. [Ed. Note: Nye goes on to provide a lesson in aerodynamics, explaining that empennage, related to "fuselage," refers to the tail of an aircraft.] This doggone paso doble, the hands. Sometimes they're thumb down. Sometimes they're thumb forward. And you watch Tyne, it's just so intuitive for her. She's like, "Bill, dude, do this." ... That's another thing. I cannot let Tyne down. She just works so hard, I just can't let her down. We're coming to play. We're gonna bring it!
Dancing with the Stars airs Mondays at 8/7c on ABC. Which team are you rooting for?