After shaking up its format with new judges, younger dancers, and a battle between stage and street contestants, So You Think You Can Dance is getting back to basics in season 14 — and that starts with Mary Murphy. The mainstay judge returned to the panel this year alongside series co-creator Nigel Lythgoe and new addition Vanessa Hudgens, and together, the trio are gearing up to judge the top 10 dancers in the live performances.
Speaking to EW at the Television Critics Association Summer Press Tour, Murphy said the reception to her return could not have been warmer. “When I came back, the amount of love I felt from so many people and even the crew of So You Think You Can Dance, and the cameraman that had tears in his eyes, it meant so much to me,” said the judge. “It was really cool to know that you’re missed. When you’re in a show for so long, there are self-doubts, and you sometimes wonder, ‘Am I saying the right thing? Am I too loud?’ I always have to push those self-doubts away and be who I am.”
But season 14 isn’t entirely the same as seasons past; the show is carrying over last year’s The Next Generation format, which pairs All-Stars with dancers of their choosing. Murphy calls the concept “cool” but admits it wasn’t easy to sit on the sidelines while the All-Stars picked the top 10. “I love every second of the journey,” she says “and when I watch it back on TV, especially because the auditions and Academy Week were one-hour episodes, you’re only seeing a few people, so you don’t really get to see the vastness of the talent and get to know them really well. I have to admit, I was a little panicked with making sure that, you know, am I going to remember their names?”
That being said, Murphy thinks the All-Stars chose well, and the ballroom dance champion is especially jazzed that two “phenomenal” ballroom dancers made the top 10. “Whether it was that I’m back on the show or not, so many ballroom dancers came to try out,” Murphy says, “and the fact that two have made it into the 10, at that ratio, I thought was amazing.”
And the judge is looking forward to watching more dancers have “that magical moment” on the So You Think You Can Dance stage. “If you’re a professional dancer out there,” Murphy says, “you know that you may only have one of those in your lifetime where you walk off the floor, pat yourself on the back, and say, ‘Everything was amazing. I did a really great job.’ That doesn’t happen very often.”
So You Think You Can Dance airs Mondays at 8 p.m. ET on Fox.
—Reporting by Robyn Ross