Dancing With the Stars judges are used to backlash from fans. Still, this season, judge Carrie Ann Inaba took the brunt of complaints for a week over her perceived harsh criticisms of Artem Chigvintsev and his celebrity partner Kaitlyn Bristowe. The situation seemed to cool off in the Nov. 9 episode, when Inaba gave the duo a perfect 10. In an exclusive interview with PopCulture, pro Jenna Johnson, who is teamed up with Nev Schulman this season, said she sometimes feels for the judges, particularly for Inaba in the past week.
Johnson said she feels for the judges because "very passionate fans" come after them, although she definitely appreciates how much they support the dancers. "I love when they always have our backs and are rooting for us or defending us - us being the dancers and the celebrities," Johnson said. But as Johnson pointed out, part of Inaba's job is to critique the performers and analyze their dancing. "So I fell for her this week," Johnson continued. "But I think that's the reason why she's been on the show for so long is because she can handle that."
Inaba's critiques came under the microscope from fans, who suspected her past relationship with Chigvintsev might be playing a part. In an Us Weekly interview, Inaba said she understood that theory, but she also suggested the backlash may have to do with Bachelorette fans strongly supporting Bristowe. She also admitted to pushing female dancers a little harder, since she was a dancer herself.
This season's judge's panel looked a little different since Derek Hough was brought in to replace Len Goodman, who could not travel to Los Angeles due to coronavirus restrictions. Johnson said she "absolutely" loves having Hough on the show. "When I joined the show, Derek was still a pro," Johnson recalled. "He was still dancing. I feel like I got to learn a lot just watching him and his creative process. He used to be my colleague. Now having him on the other end of the judges' table is so epic because he knows exactly what we're going through. He knows what the process is like, at the moment. He knows how stressful the weeks are. And what it takes to show up on Mondays and do this routine with your celebrity."
Johnson and Schulman reached the semi-finals, which start at 8 p.m. ET on ABC Monday. The two will be dancing the Foxtrot to Harry Styles' "Sign of the Times" then a Contemporary to "If The World Was Ending" by JP Saxe and Julia Michaels. "We're really going to try to bring it," Johnson said. "And hopefully meet all [the judges'] critiques."