By all accounts, the weekly rehearsals for contestants on Dancing with the Stars require a tremendous amount of physical strain and mental focus. Unfortunately, Brant Daugherty wasn't feeling up to par in either area before performing last week's quickstep. The Pretty Little Liars star was mugged outside of his apartment immediately following his routine the previous week, and also had to contend with a foot injury ahead of Week 3. Still, that didn't stop him and partner Peta Murgatroyd from finishing in first place for the night, with a score of 27. TVGuide.com spoke with Daugherty about how he dealt with the distractions, and what he and Murgatroyd have in store for viewers this week.
Congratulations on getting the highest score last week. Did you really get mugged?
Brant Daugherty: I got mugged outside my apartment building [the second] Monday, after we danced our rumba. I actually didn't really want to talk about it. I didn't want it to be a part of my story [this past] week. I wasn't really trying to get people to feel bad for me or anything. But it is a reality show, and it was part of my reality last week.
Has anything like that ever happened to you before?
Daugherty: No, never.
Did it have an impact on your rehearsals ahead of this past week?
Daugherty: It was just an unnecessary distraction more than anything else. It was just one more thing to think about on top of my hurt foot. It really got my head out of the game for a couple of days. And it made me worried that we weren't going to be able to put on a good show.
Tell us about the foot injury. What caused it?
Daugherty: We're not really sure. It started aching maybe an hour after our performance on Week 2. So I'm not sure if we did something that night and I just didn't notice it until later because of the adrenaline, or if it was kind of a gradual injury that finally started affecting me. ... We didn't really have time to get an MRI done. The doctor thinks that I strained or sprained a muscle or ligament in my foot. He said getting an MRI really wouldn't change his battle plan. So, he just said to rest it as much as I could and ice it, elevate it, and try to take care of it. It's been getting better every day.
Obviously you were able to pull through, since you got the high score for the night. How did you feel about your routine last Monday?
Daugherty: It was pretty shocking to me. I never expected to be in that position. We run it so many times and we go over notes and we watch video [to] make sure that we're doing what we need to be doing in rehearsals. But we're never really sure how it's going to play out once we're doing it live in front of a crowd. I think to our credit, every week that we've been doing it, we kind of really come together on performance night. We were pretty worried about our rehearsals, honestly, especially with my foot. I could barely walk Saturday morning. So we were completely resigned to the fact that our dance was going to be mediocre. And that just really stressed me out.
How did it finally come together?
Daugherty: It was just a lot of hard work. [During] rehearsal Sundaynight, we were about to call it a night. Peta asked me how I felt about it. I looked her in the eyes and I said, "I don't feel good about this at all. I don't feel like we have it yet. I don't feel like I'm doing what I need to be doing, I don't feel like we've had enough rehearsal time because of my foot, and I'm really worried. I don't want to be average." So she said, "OK, what do you want to do?" And I said, "Let's just run it and run it and run it." And we did it probably four or five times in a row, and by the end of it I finally said, "OK, I feel confident about this now."
What's it like working with Peta?
Daugherty: She's been very kind to me. She knows that I don't have experience, so she'll show me a move that I'm sure one of the pro dancers would pick up immediately and I say, "OK, you'll have to break that down for me." But she's really made rehearsal a place where I feel comfortable. And she always lets me explore, and she lets me try new things. Even if I don't succeed, she lets me experiment a bit. And I'm very grateful to her for kind of creating that environment.
Is it tough to have cameras on you all the time when you're rehearsing?
Daugherty: Yeah, they record pretty much everything we do. I'm still not really used to it. When I was in film school, they told us about this thing that happened when cameras were first invented, and people realized that they weren't the same on camera as they were in real life. It was kind of this odd notion that the effect of having the camera there makes you kind of a different person. So we've been really trying to just relax and be ourselves, and I think it's coming. And again, Peta's really helped me out with that. We both have a very crude sense of humor, so there's a lot of things that they really can't air on television that we joke about all day.
What are you working on for next week?
Daugherty: We're doing another Latin dance. We're doing a salsa.
What's the biggest difference that you've noticed about yourself between Week 1 and now?
Daugherty: I just have a lot more confidence as a dancer now. Going out that first week, I had never danced before, let alone in front of a crowd on live television. So I was really nervous. I wasn't sure how it was going to play out. But we've been steadily improving every week, and my confidence has been gaining along with that.
What's been the most surprising thing for you so far?
Daugherty: You know, I knew it was going to be a challenge physically, but I had no idea it was going to be that demanding. It's one of the hardest things I've ever done. ... I noticed that if you watch the third package of us from Week 1 and you look at me now, I'm a little noticeably skinnier. I know what I weighed at the beginning, and I know what I weigh now, and it's pretty startling. And I'm naturally kind of a lanky, skinny guy, so that was hard-earned weight that I'm losing.
Is it intimidating to be up against some of the other contestants who have professional dance experience?
Daugherty: From the beginning, I've really been keeping my eyes onCorbin [Bleu], Elizabeth [Berkley], Christina [Milian], Amber [Riley]. There's so much talent this season. I don't think a dance background necessarily means they're going to be better at ballroom dancing, but it's definitely nerve-wracking to be up against people with experience because I just have none. I've never done this before, ever. It's a whole new thing for me.
Dancing with the Stars airs Mondays at 8/7c on ABC.