When “Dancing With the Stars” returns with a new season later this month, it’ll have a new host at the helm, but Tyra Banks says she isn’t looking to reboot the show entirely.
“‘Dancing with the Stars,’ this is an American icon of a show,” Banks said in a conference call with reporters ahead of the new season. “So it’s not like I’m coming in and saying, ‘Oh, everything has to change.'”
Banks, a veteran host of “America’s Next Top Model” and “America’s Got Talent,” was brought in for the Season 29 to take over for longtime host Tom Bergeron and Erin Andrews. Banks was also named executive producer alongside showrunner Andrew Llinares, with ABC touting a “new creative direction” for the series inspired by Banks’ involvement.
“It’s just about some rejuvenation, some things that we’re adding to kind of spice it up,” she said. “But by no means am I coming in with a sledgehammer.”
Banks said she hopes to find ways to “bring the young audience” to “Dancing With the Stars” when the show premieres Monday, Sept. 14.
“It is my job to endear America to not just me, but to this show,” she said. “Because it is the same show. It is a different ringmaster, but it is still the show that they know and love.”
But that show fans “know and love” will return with a slew of new COVID-19 safety protocols, perhaps making for a slightly different setup than they’re used to on the ballroom floor.
“It’s a pretty thick manual of a lot of precautions that the team is taking into effect,” Banks said.
The new season of the dancing competition will be shot in-person on the show’s usual soundstage, but couples will be isolated from each other and outside guests will not be allowed on-set, including the show’s usual studio audience.
Among the show’s roster of professional dancers for the season there are three couples, all of whom will be split up for the duration of the season in order to protect their partners. The judging table will similarly face some reconfiguration to comply with social distancing.
“The lighting team is doing a fantastic job of making sure that the room looks effervescent, energetic, but without the audience,” Banks said, promising that the show won’t look or feel too different from past seasons from a viewer’s perspective.
One thing that might change, though, is the involvement of head judge Len Goodman, who has been with the show since its inception. “We’re really trying to figure out how to incorporate Len in the season,” Banks said, noting that international travel restrictions complicate the U.K.-based Goodman’s involvement. “There are challenges, but we’re trying to figure that out.”
“And then of course there’s the masks and the fumigations and the shields. The list is long,” Banks said. “A lot that people are familiar with and a lot that they’re not.”