Tuesday night’s Dancing With the Stars was particularly emotional. Not only was it the traditional Most Memorable Year Night, but the show also paid special tribute to the late Len Goodman — and there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.
Midway through Tuesday’s episode, numerous former DWTS pros returned to the studio for a whole tribute to the iconic judge — who died in April at age 78, after serving as a judge on DWTS for nearly it’s entire history.
ET’s Denny Directo spoke with a few of the pros who took part in the tearful, heartfelt memorial — including Maksim Chmerkovskiy, who opened up about the “amazing” musical routine.
“It was a lot of emotion to get the call and then, you know, your mind goes 100 different directions,” Chmerkovskiy said. “But to be fair, that band-aid has been so far removed and there was such positive feelings towards the entire thing. At least for me, I enjoyed every second.”
However, the emotional impact of the moment hit Chmerkovskiy as hard as everyone else in the studio, and he too shed some tears.
“It was an emotional moment in the end. I held out for as long as I could,” he said. “If you’re not tearing up at that point, this is the wrong ballroom.”
Meanwhile, Peta Murgatroyd — who is competing this season with Brady Bunch star Barry Williams, and is married to Chmerkovskiy — was responsible for working on choreographing the routine, and reflected on some of the challenges.
“It was a lot, and I think we had to kind of remove the emotion for a little bit and just structurally be like, ‘How do we accomplish this?'” Murgatroyd recalled of the dance — which included numerous past and present pros, including Kym Johnson-Herjavec, Tony Dovolani, Anna Trebunskaya, Edyta Śliwińska, Karina Smirnoff, Mark Ballas, Louis van Amstel, Derek and Julianne Hough, and numerous others.
“With 12 couples on the stage that have never danced together before? We also had three hours to put it together. Really? And We didn’t get Derek and Julianne until yesterday. So it was just like so many moving parts,” Murgatroyd shared. “But I think what really brought it to life was the unity and the gratitude from all of us having the same purpose of doing it for Len.”
“This was like our love letter to him,” she added. “And I have to thank all of the dancers for making it come to life because it was just really more than I ever could have imagined.”
Judge Carrie Ann Inaba — who worked alongside Goodman since Season 1 — was particularly moved by the tribute.
“It was hard, because Len is so much a part of my experience of Dancing with the Stars,” Inaba shared with ET. “He always sat to my left, and I really missed him.”
“But I thought that the dancers did a beautiful job. They sort of brought him to life through that dance and all the beautiful things about Len — and there’s so many beautiful things about him,” she continued. “But I think he would have been so proud.”
For Inaba, the whole experience was “very, very emotional.”
“And I think I think it caught [fellow judge Bruno Tonioli and myself] by surprise, because we were trying to be professional and hold it together, but sometimes you just can’t,” Inaba explained. “And I think that’s the beauty of this show. Dance is very emotional. I mean, all the dancers are all emotional creatures right? Dance is fueled by inner emotion. And I couldn’t hold it back anymore. It was hard.”
In honor of the late judge, the show revealed that the iconic DWTS trophy would be renamed in his memory as the Len Goodman Memorial Mirrorball Trophy!
Dancing With the Stars airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. ET/PT on ABC and Disney+.
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