‘Masked Dancer’ Runner-Up Maksim Chmerkovskiy, aka Sloth, on Why He Had More Fun Than on ‘DWTS’
[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for the Season 1 finale of The Masked Dancer, “The Finale – One Last Mask!”]
“Taking off the mask felt like a finish line, whereas had I been ‘eliminated’ a few weeks before that, it would’ve been, ‘I wish I had more of this experience,'” Chmerkovsky tells TV Insider.
Chmerkovskiy tells us how this experience differed from his time on DWTS.
What made you do the show?
Maksim Chmerkovskiy: It was something I would be able to do well, but while on Dancing With the Stars we were encouraged to be as competitive as possible, here the idea was to enjoy the process. I did compete, but not consciously. It wasn’t the point. The point was to experience this project and it was incredible.
How else did it differ?
The nature of the show isn’t that you do your best dance — that would be very telling of who we are — but to keep people guessing. To that point, the very first dance we choreographed was the one I ended up doing in Semifinals, when everyone thought, “This is Maks or Val,” my brother. When we finished [that] choreography, the producers looked at it and said, “Yeah, no. We can’t lead with that.” That’s when I realized what this is not: a dance competition. It wasn’t that I wasn’t dancing well; I wasn’t doing moves that would be recognizable for someone who’s a professional. That’s why you saw the ribbon dance, Bollywood, and other moves.
So the “musical comedy” and leaning into the Sloth character were a kind of misdirection?
Absolutely. I also liked the Sloth. I felt he was my guy, someone I was doing this with: “Alright, Slothy, let’s get to work.” I really enjoyed the comedy, the miming, all that stuff. I was trained in moving. Up until Dancing With the Stars, it wasn’t weird to dance and not say anything. So being in a mask was not strange at all.
The most difficult part of this whole process was doing this in this costume. It was very restricting. The mask was very uncomfortable to spin and do stuff in that I really wanted to do. There were a lot of limitations. But then it turned out to be good because I shouldn’t have been spinning and spiraling and all that stuff.
Which panelist did you think would figure out who you were?
Paula [Abdul], and she did. Paula’s from our world and she knows us and we know her.
What’s your takeaway?
Dancing With the Stars in the very beginning, and the fact we did it twice a year for so many years, felt like a conveyor belt. I wasn’t able to sit back and reflect. I’ve been responsible for myself and every project that I’m part of, [involved in the] production as well as the performances, making a lot of decisions. With this one, I walked in and said I wanted to be told what to do, and just have a little bit of leeway if I want to change steps. It was incredible. It was the best experience I’ve had on a production.
I’m not knocking on Dancing With the Stars. I loved it. We’re the pros and somebody comes in and they’re the celebrity, so that means they show up, they’re told what to do, they do it, and they go home. We’re the ones with the show 24/7 in our heads. I’ve never been a celebrity like this — I didn’t have to go through that process, and it was amazing.