Derek Hough is returning to Dancing With the Stars, but this time he won't be dancing.
The former pro—who danced for 17 seasons and won a record six mirrorball trophies—is coming back as a judge this time. He's taking the spot of Len Goodman, who is staying in the UK due the pandemic, and joining Carrie Ann Inaba and Bruno Tonioli at a socially distanced judge's table. That extra space will be helpful, the dancer tells E! News.
"I genuinely get excited. I can't contain myself. I can't hide it," he says in the video above. "But it's probably a good thing that Bruno and I aren't sitting too close to each other this season because we're very physical in the way we talk and I feel like one of us would get hurt. Or Carrie Ann would be dodging arms left, right and center."
Derek isn't yet sure of the kind of judge he's going to be, but he's hoping to be a helpful one.
"The biggest thing that I want to look for is, "What's the thing that I could say?'" he says. "'What's the thing that I could help them with or be tough on that will make a big difference?'"
As for that wild and crazy cast for season 29 (which features everyone from Nelly to Chrishell Stause to Anne Heche) Derek is definitely most interested to see how Carole Baskin does.
"I'm just fascinated and curious and secretly hoping she just comes out and crushes it," he says of the Tiger King star, though he knows preconceived notions aren't necessarily accurate on this show.
"It all changes on the first night," he says. "All the things you thought go out the window."
Derek also weighed in on how he thinks the pandemic will affect the dancing this season, particularly the isolation aspect.
"They're just gonna be with their partner for this amount of time, so it's either gonna be a good thing or it's gonna create some tension," he says. "I think that either way, it'll be entertaining. But that can be difficult."
Hit play on the video above for more from Derek!
Season 29 of Dancing With the Stars premieres Monday, Sept. 14 at 8 p.m. on ABC with new host Tyra Banks.