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'Project Runway All Stars' host Alyssa Milano talks season 4

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Project Runway Alyssa Milano
Patrick Eccelsine/Lifetime

Alyssa Milano admits she was nervous when hosting Project Runway All Stars for the first time last season—but all that’s behind her now. In season 4, which premieres Thursday, Oct. 30, she settles comfortably into her hosting and judging role—she even “gets into it” with fellow judge Isaac Mizrahi over a critique—even though she was eight months pregnant while filming the show. Here, Milano tells EW what it was like to tape the series (in heels no less), who her favorite guest judge was, and what to expect from this season… the best to date, according to Milano.

EW: This is your second season as host. How does it feel to be back?

ALYSSA MILANO: To be a veteran now? [Laughs] It feels really good. I had such an amazing time last year. Obviously I was a little nervous going into it because I had never really hosted anything before, but I had a great time. It was so… just a fun job to be surrounded by such creativity, every day, all day.

Is there anything you approached differently this time?

I was just more comfortable in the role—and more comfortable with [fellow judges] Isaac [Mizrahi] and Georgina [Chapman]. The chemistry is a lot stronger. Obviously we’ve known each other a year longer, so it made for good television to be able to feel like I could stand up to their opinions a little bit more. Isaac and I really get into it this season. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that I was pregnant the entire time.

How was that, taping while being pregnant?

It was great, actually. I had the best time because we didn’t have to hide it. On Mistresses, I was hiding my pregnancy the entire first six months. It got to be kind of a bummer because you just want to celebrate your body, but instead every single week when you get bigger, bigger, bigger, it becomes more about how hard it is to cover it up. And that just never feels good. But when we were doing Project Runway, it was really just about celebrating it.

My stylist clearly had her hands full [laughs], because by the time we wrapped, I was eight… almost eight and a half months pregnant. I was enormous; I don’t carry small. I was like 170 pounds the day I gave birth, so you can only imagine what I was like two weeks before that. She had her hands full, but she did such an amazing job. I’m so excited for people to see how she styled this pregnancy because it’s really incredible. I think we only did two maternity looks the entire season and the rest were just clothes that either worked if we bought them bigger or things that we altered. Also, a lot of the designers from last season, like Viktor Luna and Seth [Aaron Henderson], actually made stuff for me.

So you gave birth two weeks after the show wrapped?

Yes. I was having contractions basically during the finale. And we were like, “Oh God, is this it?” They were just Braxton Hicks contractions. But I still wore those heels!

Is there any chance we’ll get a repeat of the season 6 maternity challenge?

Oh, no. I wish! But during the episode that Snooki and JWoww judged, they were both pregnant, too. So the three of us… It was like the swollen ankle panel. They actually did an amazing job. We have a lot of great guest judges this year, my favorite being Laverne Cox. She was unbelievable—so smart, so into fashion, and so gorgeous.

Who was the most fun guest judge?

Betsey Johnson. She’s amazing. She cracked me up. And then we also have [regular Project Runway judges] Nina [Garcia] and Zac [Posen]. They’re always great because—obviously—they’re such pros at what they do. Just to be able to sit with them and really be able to learn their techniques for judging the show is pretty great.

What are you most looking forward to viewers seeing this season?

I think we have the most talented group of designers that any season of Project Runway has ever had. It was so hard to judge. Normally you can sit at home and watch the show—whether it be All Stars or regular Project Runway—and you understand the eliminations because something is glaringly obvious. With this season of All Stars, it’s literally like you’re picking the least best. Because these designers turned it out every week, made our jobs so difficult. It’s a competitive season—way more than last year.

People are really excited about Chris March returning. Did the other designers think he was the one to beat?

I think that we all felt that way. I was a huge Chris March fan. He is so good at what he does and he has such a creative way of thinking about clothes and fashion; his clothes tell a story. He is so character-driven, as far as his design goes. Any time you have a group of designers and you see someone doing something that is so unique, I think it’s probably very intimidating for the other designers. We also had two winners—Dmitry [Sholokhov] and Michelle [Lesniak]—so I think that people went into it scared of them.

Do you think Dmitry and Michelle felt more confident coming in because they had won before?

I think that they felt, in the beginning, probably more confident, but we put so much more pressure on them and expect so much more from them as judges that that confidence probably went away after the second or third episode. That’s the thing that makes Project Runway All Stars so special: These guys have been through this before. They know the drill, they know the pressure, and being more prepared allows them to be more creative in the challenge.

That’s part of the reason why Amanda Valentine did so well in the past season of Runway. As the “Runway Redemption” returning designer, she had done this before, and knew to keep true to her voice and not get swayed by the competition aspect of the show.

Right. That first time around, I think you’re really trying to create while guessing what the judges want to see. And then with All Stars, [the designers] are established enough that they have their own aesthetic and they’re confident within that aesthetic. It becomes more about creating for them rather than creating for the judges… This is what I want to say: They’re not creating from a place of fear in All Stars. Because they’re not afraid to be eliminated—it’s happened before [laughs], and they were fine. Really they’re just creating from a place of passion.

When Amanda returned, a lot of the designers were upset that she got a second chance on their season. With All Stars, you have Kate Pankoke, who is returning for a third time. Do you think any of the designers resented her?

Here’s the thing that’s interesting: In front of us… I never saw them react any way but lovingly—really supportive and with love and kindness. And I remember saying to Fabio, when the cameras weren’t rolling, “Are you guys always this nice to each other?” And he laughed. And he goes, “Yeah, but the truth comes out during the interviews.” And that was just really interesting to me. Because when you see them in person, they put on this facade in front of the judges, like, “We’re strong, and we’re not rocked by anything, and we support everybody.” Really it’s those interviews that the truth comes out and you get to know the dynamic between the characters. But [as judges], we never get to see that. And I’m glad we never get to see that because I think it would affect how we judge.

In this season’s trailer, it looks like there’s a Wicked challenge and you get to come down in Glinda’s bubble.

Yes, I came down in a bubble, eight months pregnant, in heels. We had exclusive access to Wicked, and it’s a couture challenge. It was probably one of the most special challenges that I’ve been a part of.

It also looks like you married someone on the runway.

Yeah, I got ordained and I married a couple on the runway in the Marchesa bridesmaids dress challenge.

Wow. It seems like there’s a lot of drama this season.

Yes. Well, it is Project Runway. [Laughs]

Project Runway All Stars airs Thursdays at 9 p.m. ET on Lifetime.