There was no shortage of drama on Dancing with the Stars last week, after the show introduced NeNe Leakes and Tony Dovolani with a package that showed the partners getting into an argument that ended with Leakes walking out of their rehearsal. And according to Leakes, no one in the ballroom was more uncomfortable seeing the dustup play out on screen than her and Dovolani.
"We were kind of surprised," Leakes tells TVGuide.com. "It almost threw us off."
To set the record straight, Leakes adds, the argument is water under the bridge for her and Dovolani, and she's perfectly happy with him as her pro partner. " The chemistry that we have is great," she says. "I couldn't imagine working with anybody else besides Tony."
Read our full interview with Leakes to find out her thoughts about being in jeopardy last week, as well as what she and Dovolani are working on for Monday. Plus: What's her take on the "unfortunate" brawl between Porsha Williams and Kenya Moore that will play out on Sunday's Real Housewives of Atlanta reunion?
Were you surprised that you and Tony were in jeopardy this week?
Leakes: Yeah, I was actually surprised we were in jeopardy. It was interesting because we've worked really hard. I was kind of surprised that we were there, but we didn't get sent home.
Did knowing that you were in jeopardy have any impact on your dance last week?
Leakes: I thought our dance was great. I had already told Tony my goodbye speech. The game that we're in, only one [person] can win. Everybody has to say goodbye at some point. So, if it was our time to go, it was our time to go. I didn't want us to go, but I'd accept it.
How did you feel about your routine on Monday?
Leakes: It was the foxtrot, which is very classy and has a lot of technique that the judges look for. But we worked really, really hard on that dance. We also traveled to New York that week to work. So we went through a lot. It was a very tough dance for us. We had a little tiff. We had a rough week, and we did so well, so I was really proud of all the hard work we put into it.
You mentioned the tiff you had with Tony. Were you surprised that your video package focused so much on that?
Leakes: We knew we had had a tiff, but we also had apologized and moved on. We were kind of surprised at the length of it. It was like two minutes or something. There were other packages that were, like, 50 seconds. It was such a long package. ... It almost threw us off. In that situation, you're either going to do great or do bad when you dance because they play it right before we dance. Luckily for us, we did great.
Was the argument just a fluke? How do you guys work together in general?
Leakes: Tony and I, when we met, we had a total connection. We're always together. We're always holding hands. I've never held hands with somebody so much in my life. We sit together, we eat together, we travel together. And it's a lot. When you're with somebody like that the way we are... you're bound to have some things happen. I wouldn't have any other partner. The chemistry that we have is great. I couldn't imagine working with anybody else besides Tony.
I've noticed that you get pretty emotional when the judges are giving you feedback. Why is that?
Leakes: To me, I just feel like we work so darn hard every week, and I'm just so happy that we get through every week. It's tough for us. I mean, I don't have any dance experience. Some of these people have dance experience. I have none. I'm going to do what naturally I would do if I went to a club or something, but I don't have any [professional] dance experience. So, I feel like it's extra hard for me, where for some of the other people on the show, they have dance experience, so it comes a lot easier for them. I'm just always proud of myself when we get through. I'm just like, wow. I'm just happy to hear any little nice comment.
What's been the hardest aspect of the competition for you?
Leakes: The hardest part for me is the technique. Some of these dances have real technique that the judges really look for, like your leg has to be in a certain place, or your arm needs to be a certain way. That's probably the hardest part. Everything else I feel like can [fall] in place. But when you start thinking about the technical part of it they're going to score you on — did you have your hand out at that time, your feet were not where they were supposed to be — those are the hardest parts. It's really hard. I always say to them, "We're supposed to entertain and have our feet and arms moving at the same time?" There's just a lot going on. And you have to look like you're having fun.
What are you working on for this week?
Leakes: This week is Party Anthem Week. We are doing a salsa to Nelly "Hot in Herre." ... So far it's going really well. I'm really happy. I'm really pleased.
What can you tell us about the Real Housewives reunion?
Leakes: I'm pretty sure [the first part] will be the Kenya-Porsha fight. I think they have edited a lot of it out, and they're probably going to play it down from the way that it actually happened. ... I think it's dumb that they allow somebody to come in with props. ... That's like allowing somebody to bring a weapon. I think that it's unnecessary. It's uncalled for.
What was your reaction to their fight?
Leakes: I think that it's unfortunate. ... I don't condone violence, but I also think that there are definitely times when people provoke you, and people want reactions out of you. I feel that Kenya really did provoke Porsha. Kenya has provoked me, and so I'm just speaking from experience. ... We were at a party and Kenya grabbed my ear during a conversation. I think those things are very provoking. You grab somebody's ear, but you get upset if they smack you in the face or something. You don't have the right to touch somebody or provoke them in that way. ... I'm not saying I'm smarter than Porsha, but I knew what Kenya was trying to do to me. I knew that she wanted a reaction out of me. And so, I did not allow that to happen. But I know that is what she does: [She] tries to get reactions out of people by doing something such as grabbing your ear or bringing something to the reunion show and putting it in someone's face or something like that. That kind of thing is something that is really unnecessary. It's provoking. It's wrong to do.
The first part of the Real Housewives of Atlanta reunion airs Sunday at 8/7c on Bravo. Dancing with the Stars airs Mondays at 8/7c on ABC.