She may have her own reality show titled Denise Richards: It’s Complicated, but Dancing With the Stars pro dancer Maksim Chmerkovskiy says working with the former Bond girl is anything but.
“She is so kind,” Chmerkovskiy tells PEOPLE. “I am not a morning person … – our rehearsals are early for me, at 9 a.m. Denise brings me a fresh cup of coffee to practice every day. Sometimes she’ll make a nice sandwich for me and bring it from home.”
In fact, her un-Hollywood manner made him “very surprised,” he says. “We’re always joking, laughing. Our conversations are very relaxed.”
That’s why Chmerkovskiy had to roll his eyes when video footage of rehearsals with Richards aired on the season 8 premiere Monday night. The clip showed the two at a rehearsal where Richards cried.
“Those video packages are edited for drama,” Chmerkovskiy explains. “The real thing is that the celebrities in season 6 and 7 and 8 put so much pressure on themselves. They feel like they have to outdo the celebrities from the season before.”
And Richards is no exception.
“Denise is so dedicated to this show,” says Chmerkovskiy. “I don’t see any difference between how hard she works compared to working with past partners Misty May–Treanor and Laila Ali.”
Now that the nerves of the first show are gone, Chmerkovskiy says Richards is ready for her next dance: the quickstep.
“I definitely see a change in her now that the first show is over,” he says. “Now it’s like, ‘let’s compete.’” –Monica Rizzo