“The most intimidating judge would have to be Derek [Hough],” the 38-year-old choreographer told Us Weekly exclusively on Tuesday, October 4. “You never know what he’s thinking. He’s always got this stone cold look and then [his score] could be, like, really bad. [Or] then he’s like, ‘That was great.'”
The Russian-born dancer joked, “It’s just his face.”
The Utah native, 37, made his official debut in the DWTS ballroom during season 5, competing with Jennie Garth. The twosome were eliminated in the semifinals, landing in fourth place. (Derek’s sister Julianne Hough took home the mirrorball trophy that year with partner Hélio Castroneves.)
While he left his inaugural season empty-handed, Derek went on to make DWTS history with a record-breaking six wins. Some of his victorious partnerships included Brooke Burke in season 7, Jennifer Grey in season 11, Amber Riley in season 17 and Bindi Irwin in season 21.
Derek appeared on 17 seasons of the ABC hit before his final run in 2016. After a four-year break, during which he judged on NBC’s World of Dance, the Emmy winner returned to DWTS to sit in for Len Goodman since the 78-year-old was unable to travel to the Los Angeles studio at the height of the coronavirus pandemic.
Fans were surprised by the tough love Derek showed the competitors during season 29, but the pro exclusively told Us he simply wanted to see each dancer excel. “I had no intention to be tough or anything like that, but I guess what I realize, for me, is that I think I just have a lot of respect,” he explained in October 2020. “I have a lot of respect for these celebrities and what they’re doing and I genuinely want to give them some feedback. ‘Cause I know for me when I was a pro, I wanted actual feedback. I want to learn how to be better. So that’s what I’ve always wanted to do.”
The Hairspray Live! star insisted that he would “never be mean” to anyone on the show, adding, “I will be honest on certain things because my intention is I really, genuinely want them to be better.”
Derek was tapped to judge again during season 30 and is currently doling out scores each week on season 31. Farber has been performing with Selma Blair — but he’s keeping a close eye on ex Emma Slater‘s partner, Trevor Donovan.
“There are definitely a lot of dark horses, and Trevor came in this competition being afraid to dance,” Farber told Us. “That’s, like, the main thing you wouldn’t do if you’re afraid to dance, is do a dance show. And he’s firing on all cylinders. He’s doing phenomenal. … The best dancer doesn’t always win. It’s a race, and it’s long. It’s a marathon. So, I think everyone has their own little advantages and disadvantages.”
Dancing With the Stars airs on Disney+ Mondays at 8 p.m. ET.
With reporting by Christina Garibaldi