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'Dancing with the Stars': Inside the Casting

How Shannen Doherty, Pamela Anderson, Kate Gosselin, and the rest of the celebrity cast was chosen

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We hear the same thing each time a new Dancing With the Stars lineup is revealed: ”This is the craziest cast ever!” But it seems the producers of the hoofing contest have really one-upped themselves for season 10, which premieres March 22 at 8 p.m. on ABC. You’ll soon see moon man Buzz Aldrin and NFL star Chad Ochocinco shaking their booties alongside Pussycat Doll Nicole Scherzinger and Beverly Hills, 90210 spitfire Shannen Doherty. And let’s not forget Kate Gosselin and Pam Anderson! Oh, and Olympian Evan Lysacek! The fact that fans still revel in the show’s contestants 10 seasons in is a testament to the Machiavellian, look-who-we-got casting that goes into ABC’s biggest hit.

So how did such a nutty crew come together? There’s a science to it, says DWTS executive producer Conrad Green. ”Our first thought is always, Who are the people we can book that will make people sit up and notice?” Initially, Green’s team focused on a handful of linchpin gets, which meant locking in Aldrin, Gosselin, and Anderson early on. After those big, buzzy ”pillar” cast members were secured, producers filled out their dance card with smaller, surprising niche stars, making sure not to draw two personalities from the same pool because that ”diminishes the story for each of those two people,” Green says. ”The TV and media world is so broken up, so we have the opportunity to reach out to tons of these little demographics and make it an inclusive show for them.” Here’s a breakdown of how each personality fits into Dancing‘s carefully constructed casting formula.

Pamela Anderson
The Random Hottie
Past examples: Willa Ford, Shandi Finnessey, Joanna Krupa
Why Pamela? Do we need to ask? She’s hot! And hugely well-known! Simply put: A bombshell like Anderson will (hopefully) capture the always-elusive male audience. ”Pam’s an icon,” Green says. ”She’s probably one of the most recognizable women on the planet.” For Anderson, though, it’s all about raising the spirits of the American public. ”The American dream is getting its reality check,” she says. ”Besides helping where I can, I just thought…dance! Enjoy life. It’s never too late to learn.”

Jake Pavelka
The Bachelor Star
Past examples: Trista Sutter, Melissa Rycroft
Why Jake? DWTS is no stranger to corporate synergy: Plucking contestants from ABC’s The Bachelor earns added buzz for both shows, ensuring that fans will keep tuning in after the final rose has been handed out. Plus, Green knows that Pavelka will get the ladies. ”He’s definitely popular,” Green says. For Pavelka, the move from mere Bachelorette suitor to Bachelor to dancing machine has been a whirlwind. ”It still hits me,” he says. ”A year ago nobody knew who I was.”

Shannen Doherty
The Beverly Hills, 90210 Alum
Past examples: Ian Ziering, Jennie Garth
Why Shannen? ”We’re trying to reunite the cast of 90210,” Green says jokingly. ”I think by season 16 we ought to have an all-star cast: Beverly Hills, 90210 versus the football team.” Fans can’t seem to get enough of Doherty, even nearly 20 years after the reports came in about her diva antics on the set of Fox’s teen soap. ”I hope that people realize they’re getting to see me,” Doherty says, ”rather than all the characters that I play.”

Kate Gosselin
The Tabloid Figure
Past examples: Kim Kardashian, Heather Mills
Why Kate? Tabloid figures are a no-brainer because they come complete with insta-buzz, a touch of scandal, and a chance for redemption. Enter Gosselin of TLC’s Jon & Kate Plus Eight fame/infamy. ”Fans feel for her,” insists Green. ”They associate with her dilemmas, and here’s the opportunity to continue her narrative in a different way.” And Gosselin is happy to play the part. ”I feel like I’m filling the ‘Dear Heavens, What Were They Thinking?’ role,” says Gosselin. ”My little Leah said, ‘But, Mommy, you can’t dance.’ Exactly!”

Aiden Turner
The Soap Star
Past examples: Kelly Monaco, Cameron Mathison, Susan Lucci
Why Aiden? First off, daytime stars command a small but very ferocious fan base. Second, it’s not a coincidence that all of DWTS‘ soap stars have come from ABC daytime shows. (There’s that synergy again!) And third, soap stars are downright dreamy! Viewers are all but guaranteed to riot if former All My Children star Turner doesn’t show some skin. ”[Season 5 contestant and costar] Cameron Mathison said, ‘Try not to take your shirt off in the first four episodes,”’ Turner says with a laugh, ”because then you have nowhere to go.”

Niecy Nash
The Funny One
Past examples: Adam Carolla, David Alan Grier
Why Niecy? ”We love having comics on the show,” says Green, but admits, ”They’re very hard to cast because not all comics are funny all the time.” But Reno 911! star and The Insider panelist Nash will deliver, Green contends, because of her big personality. ”What I bring to the dance floor is all my jiggly parts,” Nash says with a laugh. ”I interpret wiggling as jiggling.” It’s clear that bringing the funny won’t trip up Nash. ”I’ll have a nice bunch of people who can vote for me,” she says, adding, ”That is, if they’ve all paid their phone bill!”

Chad Ochocinco, our pick to win
The NFL Great
Past examples: Jerry Rice, Emmitt Smith, Jason Taylor, Warren Sapp
Why Chad? It’s no secret: Football players do extremely well on DWTS. All the names listed above came in either first or second place. The choice to cast outrageous Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Ochocinco was easy: ”He’s the most flamboyant footballer out there,” Green explains. ”He goes out and gets fined for his touchdown celebrations.” Now, says Green, ”he can expand on some of those celebrations and not get fined by the NFL!”

Nicole Scherzinger
The Pop Star
Past examples: Joey McIntyre, Drew Lachey, Mel B, Toni Braxton, Lance Bass, Lil’ Kim, Mýa, Aaron Carter
Why Nicole? ”Music people are good because they have a sense of musicality and they bring a younger audience,” Green says. And as is the case with Scherzinger, they usually have familiarity with dancing. But don’t let that fool you into thinking this leader of the Pussycat Dolls is a shoo-in to win. ”When I take the stage, people see me dancing with the Dolls, but I take the stage with my voice,” she says. ”I’m a singer first.”

Evan Lysacek
The Olympian
Past examples: Apolo Anton Ohno, Kristi Yamaguchi, Shawn Johnson, Natalie Coughlin
Why Evan? Seeing as how they’ve won three out of nine seasons, Olympians rule DWTS. So Lysacek, who just took home gold in men’s figure skating at the Vancouver games, was an easy choice. ”We asked him before he’d won. We were watching the Olympics, thinking ‘God, God, please, God!”’ Despite his seemingly helpful skating skills, it’s still an uphill battle. ”In skating we rotate everything counterclockwise,” he says. ”In dance, it’s clockwise. I’m just trying to ignore everything I know.”

Erin Andrews
TV Reporter
Past examples: Kenny Mayne, Giselle Fernandez, Tucker Carlson
Why Erin? Television reporters have not fared well on the show at all. (Mayne and Carlson were both booted first, and Fernandez was third out.) Enter Andrews, a sportscaster on ESPN (a sister network of ABC, natch), who became a boldfaced name when a Peeping Tom posted a video of her in the nude on the Internet last year. Green thinks the leggy blonde can buck the trend. ”She’s lovely. She’s very attractive and obviously has a male base because of ESPN. I figured she would play well on the show.”

Buzz Aldrin, likely fan fave
The Old-Timer
Past examples: John O’Hurley, George Hamilton, John Ratzenberger, Wayne Newton, Cloris Leachman
Why Buzz? Pure nostalgia rules this category of former icons, but few occupy as hallowed a place in the public’s consciousness as the 80-year-old Aldrin, the second man to set foot on the moon. ”He’s a genuine American hero,” Green says. Plus, there’s the kitschy curiosity factor of Aldrin’s age: Can he really handle the rigors of so much dancing? ”Am I worried? Yeah,” says Aldrin. ”But I had young muscles and young bones at one time.”

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