Len Goodman dropped a bombshell during Monday’s “Dancing with the Stars” semifinal: He’s retiring after Season 31 concludes next week. The announcement was as surprising to the pros as it was to fans.
“It got me in my feels, if I’m honest. It caught me off guard. I didn’t expect to feel as emotional as I was,” Emma Slater told Page Six after the show, during which she and Trevor Donovan were eliminated. The former champ has known Goodman since she was 10 when judged competitions in England. “I went to every competition that he judged and my parents were elated every time he was on the panel. I remember going up to him as a kid and thanking him for believing in me. Twenty years later, I did the same thing tonight … and I cried my eyes out again.”
Goodman has served as head judge on “Dancing” since its 2005 premiere, missing just two installments (Seasons 21 and 29). Known for his tough love, the 78-year-old, who plans to spend more time with his family, said it’s been a “huge pleasure” judging the show.
“It feels like a chapter closing,” Val Chmerkovskiy said, adding that he was “genuinely sad.” “I started thinking, like, ‘Well, if this time has flown by so fast for him, it’s flown by so fast for me as well.’ That’s kind of the inevitable reality for all of us. So, it really put me in a place of appreciation and gratitude.”
Despite his sometimes harsh critiques, Gleb Savchenko said everyone always took Goodman’s remarks to heart and worked hard to improve and impress him. “All of the critiques and all of the little points that he always said to us, we all took on board and we all worked on it because he is the representation of ballroom dance,” he said. “So for him leaving the show, it’s heartbreaking. I got emotional just hearing it. We just all love Len so, so much, and not having him, it’ll be a missing piece.”
It is unclear if Goodman will be replaced on the judges’ table, which includes Carrie Anne Inaba, Derek Hough and Bruno Tonioli. Hough joined the panel in Season 29 when Goodman was unable to travel to Los Angeles due to COVID-19 restrictions. Slater believes Goodman would want to see his seat filled.
“I also am a big believer in respecting what people have done, but then embracing new personalities and making way for people that would shine just as much,” she added. “So I think [let’s] pave the way for somebody to make Len proud and have the show just embrace somebody new as well.”
“Dancing with the Stars” airs Mondays at 8 p.m. ET / 5 p.m. PT on Disney+.
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