After Rumer Willis lit up the floor as Ursula from “The Little Mermaid” on the popular Disney-themed show in April, her perf earned enthusiastic applause from the audience and her first 10-point score from the judges not to mention days of Internet chatter. Her success points to one of the reasons the show continues to enjoy popularity: Miss a night, and you could miss seeing the moment “DWTS” anoints its next breakout star.
Robert Mills, ABC’s senior veep of alternative series, specials & latenight programming, says it isn’t always clear who might stand out on the show. “Rumer is somebody that everyone is really discovering as she is blossoming into this amazing woman right in front of our eyes, but then the nostalgia plays are always great because you remember why you fell in love with these people.”
The show might have “stars” in its title, but the breakouts come just as often from the highly skilled dancers who put the celebs through their paces. Five-time winner Derek Hough, whose sister Julianne was one of the dancer breakouts, has seen his star rise in the eight years he’s been on the show, including an Emmy win for outstanding choreography. “It’s not just the visibility, but also the training of working on a show,” he says. “Figuring out how to choreograph, to move people or to just flat-out entertain people, what method do I use to get the best out of somebody? It’s all been amazing exposure, but equally, if not more important, training for future projects that come around.”
Host Tom Bergeron says he’s consistently amazed by the types of celebs who are able to capitalize on their appearances.
“Stacy Keibler comes to mind as someone who you might not have known outside of the wrestling world, but certainly became much more well-known,” Bergeron says. “Jerry Springer made a whole new group of fans who thought that he was just capable of overseeing a slugfest, and you found out he was a real mensch.”
But one of the most significant stars he’s seen emerge from the past 10 years is season nine’s Kelly Osbourne Says Bergeron, “Sharon (Osbourne) told me when I did ‘The Talk’ the last time that the whole experience completely changed Kelly’s life.”