‘Dancing With the Stars’ EP Talks Show’s Future: Less Len Goodman, More Julianne Hough

The showrunner feels the returning dancer could be the future of the judges’ panel

ABC/Craig Sjodin

The prodigal dancer has returned to ABC’s “Dancing With the Stars.”

Julianne Hough, who segued her successful time on the competition into two Emmy nominations for choreography and a movie career, including 2011’s “Footloose” remake, will be a permanent judge as the series returns for its 18th season on Monday.

“What Julianne brings is she was youth champion at the Blackpool [Dance Festival],” the show’s executive producer Rob Wade told TheWrap. “She’s a beautiful dancer and an excellent teacher. She has also been a dancer on the show, so she really understands every aspect of this.”

See photos: ‘Dancing With the Stars’ Season 19 Cast Revealed

But it seems like the show has bigger plans for Hough, as head judge Len Goodman will be taking off about five weeks from the ABC series.

“I’m sure it’s no mystery that Len has been getting on [in years] and he took some shows off last fall,” Wade said. “I think he’s not retiring completely, but he’s certainly not looking forward to the very taxing schedule of flying back and forth every week from the U.K. — he does the U.K. show, as well. So, he’s going to take four or five weeks off. So, we’re looking for someone to replace him.”

While judges Bruno Tonioli and Carrie Ann Inaba have picked up a lot about ballroom dance over the years, their backgrounds are more general dance while Hough grew up in the ballroom.

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“I think in particular when Len’s away, it’s going to be very useful to have her there as a permanent judge to fill that void,” Wade said. “We will have guest judges alongside them for some weeks, but I do like the idea of having a mainstay there in Julianne. She makes a lot of sense for the show not only this season but for the future of the show.”

TheWrap also spoke with the executive producer about casting and recent format changes.

The Wrap: Have you met your expectations on the cast?
Rob Wade: What’s great is we have a real diverse cast. Nineteen seasons in, we’re still able to find people from different backgrounds and different types of celebrity. We have Bethany Mota, a YouTube star. We’ve never had that before. Also, NASCAR driver Michael Waltrip, we’ve never had that before and it really opens the show up to others. We have young. We have old. We have some really good dancers, as well. I’m excited by it.

How much does the craziness of the show’s casting rumors affect your decisions? Do you take a temperature on it?
I wouldn’t say we take a temperature on it, no. We definitely listen to people’s ideas and hear what people have to say. Casting the show goes beyond ‘Is that a good name?’ You have to think of the cast as a family and you need different aspects for the cast. It can’t be one note.

We’re the only show out there at the moment that’s genuinely a family show. You can watch this with your grandchildren, your aunt, your grandfather, your father. There’s something in this show for everyone. So, obviously, not everyone is going to please everyone. If they did, we did something wrong. Everybody in the family has to have someone to cheer on.

Fans seem to miss having a results show. How do you handle the loss of that?
No individual one thing is bigger than the show as a whole. It’s just a great format. It gives us great ability to do different things. We have got two results shows for the first two weeks this season, which is great. There’s a lot of entertaining and interesting stuff in there.

But then again when we do get to one day a week, the great thing about that is that you make it an event once a week. Both things are good. You have to adapt and use change for your advantage.

“Dancing With the Stars” premieres Monday at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.