Dancing with the Stars: 5 Casting Secrets Revealed
Season 23 of the ABC reality dance competition premieres Sept. 12
With the full cast expected to be announced Tuesday, DWTS executive producer Rob Wade – who casts the show alongside casting co-executive producer Deena Katz and ABC’s Rob Mills and Joey Tague – talks to PEOPLE about what it’s really like putting together a cast of dynamic pro dancers and captivating celebrity contestants.
1. "It’s like planning a dinner party."
“We obviously have a list of people that we begin to reach out to months in advance,” says Wade. “We’ll get one or two people locked in and start to build around it. It’s like planning a dinner party. Once you’ve invited some friends, you start to work out which other friends to invite that will balance out the table.”
2. They’ve gone after some big names since the very first season.
Katz recently revealed that she has reached out to Bill Clinton almost every season, and Wade admits there are some stars they had to ask multiple times before they said yes.
“There are jewels that everyone has heard of – Jennifer Grey, Kirstie Alley, Paula Deen, Patti LaBelle – those are the people we asked almost every season until the timing was right,” he says. “Suzanne Somers was a work in progress for 20 seasons.”
3. The pro dancers are not picked to match the stars.
“Normally, we just have our pros and then once the cast is booked, we decide the pairings,” says Wade. “I personally get bored with seeing the pros with the same types of people season after season. It is fun to tell a different type of story when you pair them with different people.”
4. Current events play heavily into the casting process.
PEOPLE has confirmed that Olympian Ryan Lochte will compete on season 23 and it has been reported he will be joined by his fellow Olympian Laurie Hernandez.
ABC does not comment on casting rumors, but Wade does admit that what’s going on in the news is taken into account when they’re putting together a cast: “It plays in hugely,” he says.
5. There’s a surefire way for stars to win over the casting team.
“The people who excite us most are the people who come into the room and say ‘I love the show and I want to learn to dance,’ We’ve had a lot of people like Alfonso Ribeiro, who you can tell are fans,” says Wade. “In a way, it’s irrelevant how famous someone is. What matters is that they want to go on this journey, learn a new skill and grow as a person.”
Season 23 of Dancing with the Stars premieres Sept. 12 at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.