Keo Motsepe couldn't be happier to have a place in the ballroom this season!
The 29-year-old Dancing With the Stars pro invited only ET to hang out with him on set on Monday, just hours before showtime. During our interview, Motsepe teased what fans can expect from week two of the dance competition show, and how he's feeling about still being a pro this season, despite not having a celebrity partner.
"I'm a full-on pro, so pretty much the same as someone who has a partner, but without a partner," says Motsepe, who made it to the finals with Evanna Lynch last season. "If you watch Strictly Come Dancing [the U.K. version], they don't have a troupe -- it's just pro dancers all around. So me and new pro Daniella [Karagach] will be doing that this season. We'll be doing special numbers, we'll be doing opening numbers, and obviously, if something happens to any of the pros or celebrities -- knock on wood -- her and I will step in. We're always ready to go, and we'll be in other people's numbers."
"I love it though because it's something different, something new and I get to dance," he continues. "The thing that I just want the fans to understand is, even when someone did an amazing job last season, maybe they had an amazing partner, they won the show or they made the finals. But coming back and you don't have a partner, it doesn’t mean [producers] didn't want to give you a partner. It just strictly means that maybe there was no fit for you out of the celebrities that they [cast]. Maybe no fit personality-wise, or maybe a celebrity that they had for you dropped out or something happened. You never know what it is."
Those who have been watching DWTS over the years may recall that this actually isn't the first time Motsepe hasn't been paired with a celebrity after already competing for the mirrorball in previous seasons. Motsepe consistently competed from seasons 19-22 with stars like Lolo Jones and Jodie Sweetin, but was shifted to a member of the troupe for season 23. He then returned to his pro role for seasons 24-27, with Charo, Barbara Corcoran, Jennie Finch Daigle and Lynch, respectively.
"I'm very positive. I always find a way to see something good in a bad situation somehow," he says. "Not having a partner doesn't change the person I am, and it doesn't make me less than anyone else on the show. It actually makes me better as a person because this is my time now to showcase my dancing with Daniella. We get to show people why we're on Dancing With the Stars, and I'm excited to do that."
"I'll also say that I'm still human," he adds. "It hurts not having a partner, for sure, after making the final. It does hurt, but it hurts in the sense of, 'Hey, what is the reason I don't have a partner?' Whatever the reason might be, I'm cool with it. The universe will do its thing and I'll keep on dancing and enjoying myself. At the end of the day, I'm grateful to be on the show. I want the fans to understand that I'm good, I'm happy and I'm loving to be dancing."
Karagach is also without a partner this season and will be dancing alongside Motsepe in the ballroom. She interrupted our interview at one point to Facetime Motsepe, showing him the final look of their space-themed costumes for Monday night's show.
"I just saw my costume, I'm playing an astronaut tonight," Motsepe explains. "Daniella and I are playing astronauts for Pasha [Pashkov] and Kate [Flannery's] number. The song is 'Fly Me to the Moon.'"
As for all those videos and pics Motsepe and Karagach have been sharing on social media the past few weeks? Motsepe revealed when, exactly, fans will finally get to see what they've been "cooking."
"I think tonight!" he exclaimed. "Yeah, they're gonna throw some in tonight. And guys, listen. Daniella is amazing. I'm blushing even talking about her dancing. She's phenomenal."
ABC announced that Monday night's show will also reveal a tweak to the voting process that will "change everything." While Motsepe couldn't give it all away, he told ET he is aware of what's happening and gave us one interesting tease: "What I can say is… what the judges say, matters."
Read more from our Q&A below!
ET: It's show day! What's your typical routine like before a live show?
Keo Motsepe: It's different each week, but today I woke up at 5 a.m., went to the gym for 30 minutes, grabbed some coffee, food, and got here at 7:30. I have everything right here in my trailer -- a bed, shower, snacks. I spend so much time in here, a lot, actually. And if I have visitors coming to see the show, they always come to my trailer and chill here first, then go inside. I even have clothes here for if we end up going out after the show.
For the fans who are still getting to know Daniella, what can you share about working with her? She's a phenomenal dancer...
First of all, the first time I met Daniella, it was at Derek Hough's tour. I saw her dance and was like, Oh my god, I wanna dance with her! I tend to say things and it happens ... I manifest it.
So after the show, we went to the green room and she passed by. I said "Hey" and she just said "Hi" and walked right past me. So in my head, I'm like, "Rude!" Then they announce she's going to be on DWTS and I couldn't wait to tell her this [story]. From there, we met and she seemed very sweet and chill. But then we started rehearsing, and it was next level [laughs]. But we have a good relationship and love to tease each other. It's just fun and there's never a dull moment.
Let's go back to when the cast was revealed on Good Morning America. There were 14 pros and 12 celebrities, so at that point, did you guys know which pros wouldn't have partners?
No. I found out a week before [premiere night], but I knew I didn't have a partner [at that point] so the call was like, "Hey, welcome back to the show. Unfortunately, we don't have a partner for you this season." I said, "No problem," and took it like a champ like I always do because things happen in life. I said, "I'm happy to be on the show and I'm grateful and I'm gonna kick it. I cannot wait to see you guys, I'm ready and I'm gonna kill it next season!" So whatever the position was at that time, I was just grateful to be back this season and still be able to dance on the show.
That's why I love Dancing With the Stars; because it has so many surprises. It keeps the fans on their toes and also us pros on our toes. It's also making me very creative. I'm in a different light, and just different.
We don't technically have a troupe this season, but fans saw a few familiar faces during premiere night, like Britt Stewart. Will there be more cameos throughout the season?
Yeah, I think they'll come back when we have huge numbers, like for Disney Night or Movie Night next week. I think they'll bring back old troupe dancers to come in and fill it out to make the numbers big, stuff like that.
I think what they're doing, which is awesome, is to focus on the celebrities. When you have a number and you have so many amazing dancers dancing around your partner, it makes your partner very small and it doesn't showcase him/her. You just go, "Wow, that number was amazing," instead of, "Oh my god, [that person] killed it!"
ABC revealed today the cast for the DWTS Live Tour 2020. You and Daniella are both missing from the list, but any chance fans could still see you on the tour?
Oh yeah, you might still see a lot of us! Listen, we never know, because it's subject to change. Last season, for example, they announced four girls, four guys, but when the tour [kicked] off, it was six couples during the season.
We still have 10 weeks to go, so things will change.
It's very early still, but the celebrity guests are such a great addition to the tour. Who could you see joining the tour at the end of this season?
You know who would be great? Lauren Alaina. She would be fantastic!
Dancing With the Stars airs Mondays at 8 p.m. ET/PT on ABC.