‘Dancing With the Stars’: Trevor Donovan Talks Going From ‘Dark Horse’ to Contender

Trevor Donovan and Emma Slater on 'Dancing With the Stars'
Q&A
ABC/Eric McCandless

Judge Derek Hough noted a while ago that Trevor Donovan just might be the “dark horse” in Season 31 of Dancing With the Stars.

Based on last week’s impressive performance, it’s clear that Donovan and pro partner Emma Slater are out of the gate and running! The pair scored an impressed 39 points with their contemporary dance set to the tune of Justin Bieber’s “Ghost.” Donovan and Slater went on to earn an additional 39 points as part of “Team Scream” in the group dance competition. The duo wrapped up the night in the top spot, tied for first place along with Charli D’Amelio (The D’Amelio Show) and Mark Ballas.

TV Insider chatted with Donovan and Slater right after the live stream of DWTS last week about their top score, Donovan’s emotional reaction to his and Slater’s dance, why Slater playfully booed judge Carrie Ann Inaba, and a tease of the duo’s next performance.

Did you think that being slated to dance last (before the group dances) meant that the producers thought you had something special? They have been known to save the best for last.

Emma Slater: I felt that our dance was special. But I did not know if they saw what I was seeing. Sometimes when you’re in it, you don’t think about what other people are thinking. You’re just so focused on trying to make what you’re doing the best it can be. So while I knew it was special, I tried to focus on keeping my head on the game and focus on Trevor.

Contemporary wasn’t done on Dancing With the Stars until Season 10. What did this style of dance bring to the show?

Slater: Oh, it has brought a whole added level of vulnerability and being connected. I feel like the best dances are the ones where you connect with your partner. It’s easy to connect when you can put an emotional story to the dance. One dance to do that with is contemporary. I like rumbas, too. I’m super-emotional myself. I get emotional when doing both of those.

 

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How does it feel to be tied for first place after the Halloween episode?

Trevor Donovan: It has not sunk in yet. It’s surreal. I did not even realize it until they told us. I didn’t consider the possibility of this happening. It’s a huge comeback. It will set in more later.

Derek Hough called this a while back, saying he could see you as the “dark horse” this season.

Slater: It’d be great to see Trevor continue this forward motion and from being the dark horse to seeing him really blossom.

Donovan: I feel like I have bypassed the “dark horse” [stage]. We are contenders. That is a lot of pressure.

Your contemporary dance to Justin Bieber’s “Ghost” was emotional and powerful. What’s the story behind it?

Slater: The story, to me, is about a man who has lost the love of his life and he’s not doing well. He’s lost his wife. I wanted to choreograph a dance of mourning, a dance of loss, and create a night where they could dance together one more time. So his wife was the ghost that came back. She saw that [her husband] was not doing well and that he was suffering.

Donovan: That is absolutely it. I shared some of this when I was up with Alfonso [Ribeiro, host] in the skybox. It connected with me personally on a number of levels particularly with a really good friend of mine, who lost his wife this year. He was in the audience tonight, so it was very personal.

Slater: He’s come a few times and supported you.

Donovan: Several times. I was at his wedding. I’ve known him since we were six years old. I know, too, that this is a story that a lot of people can relate to. Everybody loses someone. It’s a part of life. The idea is that when you lose someone, they are still with you in spirit.

There were some moments of levity in the Halloween show, too. We know Carrie Ann takes a point off for lifts in some dances – but we learned she does not take points off for booing!

Slater: [Laughs] She does not, apparently, and, for that, I’m so grateful!

Donovan: She took it in stride.

Slater: She knows I am the loudest person in the ballroom. If something happens that requires a scream or a boo, I’ll do it! But I did not mean any disrespect.

Donovan: Emma’s an energy. She brings an energy.

Of course, the judges get it when people become emotionally invested. What prompted the boo?

Slater: I booed very lightly over [comments Carrie Ann made to] Koko [Iwasaki] and Vinny [Guadagnino, Jersey Shore]. I have a real soft spot for them. She’s a personal friend of mine and he’s amazing. Also, I love Carrie Ann. She’s phenomenal.

Trevor, you bantered a bit with Alfonso in the skybox.

Donovan: Yes. He called me “Vinny” and I was like, “Well, Tyra…”

What’s the game plan for next week (tonight)?

Donovan: We’re dancing a salsa.

Slater: We’re going to be Barbie and Ken and dance to “I’m a Barbie Girl.”

Dancing With the Stars, Mondays, 8/7, Disney+