Mary Murphy by Kelsey McNeal/Fox Mary Murphy by Kelsey McNeal/Fox

She's known around the world for her laugh, but Mary Murphy's raucous antics belie an intensity of focus and passion that's easily missed behind her hollering. The So You Think You Can Dance judge is watching the show's hopefuls even more closely than her twice-weekly comments may reveal, plus she's got a few tricks up her sleeve beyond the Dance cameras. With a professional dance career behind her, a shrinking waistline thanks to her new Latin dance workout routine and a surge in her fame (or notoriety, depending on who you ask), Murphy may soon not only be calling the shots with her fellow judges, but also on movie sets, sit-coms and more.... And no, Hey, Mary is not in the works.

Speaking with TVGuide.com, Murphy opened up about what she sees not only in the future for SYTYCD's remaining dancers, but also for herself. The "queen of scream" also divulged some of the surprises she's seen waltz across the stage this season, as well as responded to the haters who aren't in step with her enthusiastic approach.

So far, this season has been a "rollercoaster," Murphy said, with performances changing drastically each week. Despite the ups and downs, though, she's seeing emerging stars: "Joshua Allen is a huge surprise," she said, as is Mark Kanemura. "He looked horsey to begin with," Murphy confided, "but you flip that kid's hair back, and all of a sudden, he looks like a movie star! He was a big shocker for us, because he was later in our bottom choices to put into the top 20, and now he's emerging like a little star himself."

When it comes to predicting the final four, however, they're all emerging stars — true to competition show etiquette, Murphy wouldn't pick a top pair — but she did shower some praise across her faves. "All I can say is, Twitch and Kherington are up there," she said, "and Joshua and Katee. We were all probably thinking that we were letting [Katee] slip into the Top 20, and this girl has come to life in an amazing way. Courtney and Gev are both really strong up there, and I think Mark and Chelsie are, too." In short: Almost all of the dancers get top honors from Murphy, even if they're not totally on the hot tamale train.

Yet, while she sees hundreds of top-notch dancers every year, the secret to these emerging stars, Murphy says, is heart and spirit. "A lot of there kids," she explained, "their personal lives come from tragedy, and to rebound from a past like that and to emerge into this because you want it so bad. Some of these remind me of Rudy, one of my favorite movies." The best moments for Murphy, though, are the "genius moments," those brief glimpses of total perfection. Her own such moment came during a waltz in Austria, but she says of the Dancers, "Some of these kids are having it at an early age, and I love watching it."

Not only that, but the Dance hopefuls keep it fresh and raise the bar in part because they're pushed harder than young'uns on some other current dance shows (ahem, such as America's Best Dance Crew), Murphy said. "Nobody on Dance Crew puts their body through anything that they've not had to do before. They do what they do best, all the time." SYTYCD hopefuls, by contrast, are reinventing the wheel, week after week. " We're more of a growth situation," Murphy said.

That sheer enthusiasm — nonstop — is a point of criticism from her detractors, but a source of pride for Murphy. To her, enthusiasm is a dying art; it's an approach to life that few adults embrace. "I don't care what those [critical] people think," she said, "because [the dancers] deserve more. It's a human connection." Laughing, even in tough situations, is a choice Murphy said she consciously makes.

By season's end, she hinted, the dancers might get a chance to return the fever-pitch praise. Having skipped her annual Vegas dance for contestants due to health issues, the retired pro intimated that she might just take the stage before the end of the show. "The kids, once they see me dance, then they realize why I'm there, and that I can still dance better than they can!" (Insert peals of laughter.)