Maksim Chmerkovskiy talks 'Dancing With The Stars,' family & future: 15 facts
You may consider Maksim Chmerkovskiy the token "bad boy" of "Dancing With The Stars" - a nickname given to him by the media after he famously lashed out at the judges, namely Len Goodman, following harsh criticism over his performance.
The feisty 32-year-old Ukrainian, known to his friends as Maks, is also one of the ABC ballroom dancing show's most popular pro-dancers. He broke his fans' hearts when he announced last month that he plans to leave "Dancing With The Stars" next year.
Chmerkovskiy recently talked to OTRC.com correspondent Tony Cabrera about his personal life with his family, what (or rather who) scares him, his experience partnering up with Kirstie Alley again for the current "All-Stars" season and what he plans to do with his life after "Dancing With The Stars." He also answered several questions from fans on Twitter.
Check out 15 facts about Maksim Chmerkovskiy.
1. He's leaving "Dancing With The Stars," but reiterates that it won't happen now.
"Contrary to what everybody thinks, that I'm leaving - literally, for the last seven seasons everybody always comes out with an article that I'm leaving the show. I've been leaving longer than anybody else. I'm not leaving [now] - I'm leaving when my contract expires," he said. "I think everybody's going to leave then."
Chmerkovskiy's contract expires at the end of 2013. The bi-annual seasons of "Dancing With The Stars" typically begin airing around late February or early March - after the Oscars - and in September.
2. He still feels the "Dancing With The Stars" judges don't make a whole lot of sense.
Chmerkovskiy made his debut on "Dancing With The Stars" in 2006 during season 2. He has never won a Mirrorball Trophy but has made it to the finals four times. During season 13 in October 2011, the pro-dancer made headlines after getting into a heated argument with Len Goodman, the most acerbic judge on the panel of three, who had criticized his routine with partner and soccer star Hope Solo.
Backstage with co-host Brooke Charvet, Chmerkovskiy said: "With all due respect, this is my show. I help make it what it is." He later told OTRC.com: "I've had it. I've had it a long time ago. I just kind of kept it cool but, look, she doesn't deserve it. That's all it is. Look, whatever helps the ratings. You're welcome show!"
Chmerkovskiy has since appeared mellower on the show. However, the judges still appear to frustrate him at times. Chmerkovskiy recalled the October 22 episode that saw his brother Val and partner Kelly Monaco, a "General Hospital" actress, land the lowest scores among the four pairs who competed against them. Chmerkovskiy and Alley placed third. (read a recap)
"Kelly? Really? Kelly was in the bottom. My outlook is we're in some kind of weird twilight zone. I mean if Kelly Monaco is in the bottom, the world is coming to an end, for real," he joked.
"I don't think Kelly had a worse dance than us," he said. "I've stopped trying to make sense of judges' scores a long time ago. God knows every time I give my opinion of the judges, it never ends well or you know, it creates a big, big splash and havoc."
3. Mom told him to continue to behave himself on "Dancing With The Stars."
"I actually literally just spoke to Mom driving here and she's like, 'You know, you're so poetically keeping your mouth shut, like you have duct tape ... when they talk about the scores.' I'm like, 'No, there's no participant to speak to,'" he said. "I open my mouth when there's someone to converse with and there's no conversation - they just shout out their criticism, their lines and we take it and we move on. It's all part of that show. Kirstie's a good sport, and so she gets it."
"She goes, 'You've been behaving very well for the last two seasons,' he said. "I'm like, 'Do you want me to stop?' She says, 'No no, no no no, no no no no, I don't want you to.'"
4. He feels "Dancing With The Stars: All-Stars" was a "big experiment."
"We got a beautiful email from our production because we passed a half point in this All-Star season," Chmerkovskiy told OTRC.com. "Just having an 'All-Star' season was a big experiment and I think that it's a successful experiment so far. I think the production value of our numbers went up a ton. I think our wardrobe and makeup and just stage production departments have been doing an incredible job."
"And so basically, we got this whole, huge 'Thank you, it's going great, let's keep it up, blah blah blah' and ... I feel happy, I feel part of a bigger picture," he said. "I feel like we're making history, somewhat, over here and honestly, just an overwhelming amount of social media response - Twitter messages about how they're enjoying this, how we're putting a smile on their faces."
5. The "Gangnam Style" group dance was "an historic event" and "freaking crazy."
On the October 23 episode of "Dancing With The Stars: All-Stars," Chmerkovskiy and Alley, Val and Monaco, retired NFL star Emmett Smith and Cheryl Burke and actor Gilles Marini and Peta Murgatroyd - Chmerkovskiy's real-life girlfriend - performed a group dance of Korean YouTube pop sensation Psy's hit "Gangnam Style." (read a recap).
"The 'Gangnam Style' team dance alone is history," Chmerkovskiy told OTRC.com "It's an historic event. Val and I ... we're talking and it was like, first of all, it was a star team. I mean how the hell do we get put together like that? It was just like, it was in the stars, literally."
"And to have Gilles and Peta and Val and Kelly and me and Kirstie and Emmett and Cheryl - I mean this was like the group of tightest friends as far as dances and also, Emmett is an amazing guy, Kirstie's funny, Gilles is kind of like up there, with everybody, but he's kind of with us. The other team kind of all blend in - no disrespect, they are great [dancers] but they are all kind of like from the same background and our team was so eclectic that Gangnam Style was ... exactly what we needed to do.""That team dance was amazing. So, that team dance, 'Gangnam Style' is basically depicting this season. It's fun, it's competitive, it's freaking crazy, completely nuts. We have no idea what's going to be next - curveball after curveball after curveball. I personally watched it around 30 times. I've never seen myself dance that much, ever, in my life. I would watch something once or twice if it was worth it."
"We go against amazing shows. We go against 'The Voice,' which is hitting on all cylinders. It's a great show. We go against other shows that are stepping up their game. I love the fact that we're still up there. We're still immensely watched and people smile and I love that. Why would I want to be a 'Bad Max'?"
6. Kirstie Alley wanted to do something crazy too.
Twitter user LondonAftrMidn asked Chmerkovskiy: "You're incorporating lots of acting into your [choreography] this season. Is this in preparation for transitioning into the acting field or b/c your partner is an actor?"
"First of all - absolutely," he replied. "Without even knowing so, I kind of try to figure out things to ... we're just having fun with this whole acting thing. Secondly, because Kirstie - is it between flips and acting? We choose acting."
Chmerkovskiy said that Alley told him, "Give me a couple of weeks, I'm going to be doing handsprings.'"
"I'm like, 'What? Do you know what you just said, what it is?'" he said. "She's like, 'Yeah it's where you run, you jump, you push off your arms and you do a flip and you land on your legs' and I'm like, 'No, I know what a handspring is. I was just making sure you know what it is' and she's like,' Yeah.' I'm like 'When the hell did you ever do a handspring?'"
"She's like [puts on high voice], 'I used to be an amazing athlete' and I'm like, 'I don't doubt that. But when was the last time you did a handspring?'" Chmerkovskiy said. "She's like, 'In high school.' I'm like, 'Awesome.'"
"Anyway, so she kind of threatened me with practicing on her front lawn and so when her assistant called me and she's like, 'Hey, can you please tell her not to do it?' I'm like 'Not to do what?' I thought she was kidding.' She literally came out on the front lawn, trying to do a handspring,'" he said.
Olympic gymnast Shawn Johnson is one of the competitors on "Dancing With The Stars: All-Stars." She has incorporated gymnastics into her and partner Derek Hough's routines.
"So I had to sit her down and be like, 'Look, we're going to stick with the acting bit," Chmerkovskiy said about Alley. "We're not going to go after Shawn Johnson and try to beat her at what she does better than everybody on the planet and you're trying to incorporate something you did in high school, like 20 years ago."
7. But Kirstie Alley did teach him some valuable lessons about acting ... or rather, communicating, in front of a camera.
"It's amazing to see how knowledgeable she is in her trade," Chmerkovskiy told OTRC.com "We sit and give ... interviews and just the angle and she sets up the entire production, where the light is, where the source is, where it's coming from, how it's hitting her face, where do I look when I talk to her. I'm like, 'I'm looking at you.' She's like, 'Well, where at me?'"
"I'm like, 'Well, does it really make a difference?' She's like yeah, 'cause if you look here, your face turns a little bit more towards the camera, blah blah blah.' So these nuances that you wouldn't know. It's kind of like me teaching her dance, it's not just a step. There's at least 14 muscle groups that are involved in making that one action. It's the same share of information that we have going on and I like it. It's awesome."
8. Maksim Chmerkovskiy has already nabbed himself a role.
"I'm already approved for a big role that's coming up that we're shooting in May," he told OTRC.com "It's going to be a Latin dancing one. They're finalizing the schedule right now. It's obviously very tight between the seasons and we have to squeeze everything in."
9. He finds it hard to just "chill out" on vacation.
"I love going from one thing to the next, to the next," Chmerkovskiy said. "I hate downtime. I hate just not doing anything. Our vacation with family and everybody, like New Year's, Christmas, whatever, has to be two weeks long because first of all, it's the only two weeks that we have to allocate to not doing anything and secondly, because it takes us five, six days just to stop."
"Five, six days later, I see my dad finally lay out by the beach. I see me just wake up and not want to call somebody back in the States and call the office and call the other office and call the manager and call my agent and this and that. I kind of stop bothering people."
"They send me away ... My manager's like, 'Where are you going this year?' 'We're going to that place.' He's like, 'No, go to this one.' I'm like, 'Why?' 'Cause the cell phone connection over here is worse. I'm like, 'So you want to get rid of me?' He's like, 'Yes. I need you to just get off the phone, get off the Internet, I need you to stop talking to people, just chill out.' And it works. Five days later, your body kind of shuts down and you actually get the rest."
10. He was born in Ukraine when it was under Communist rule - and learned English in a unique way.
Chmerkovskiy was born in Odessa in Ukraine on Jan. 17, 1980. At the time, the eastern European country was part of the Soviet Union, or Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. It became an independent democratic country in 1991, after the USSR fell, ending the Cold War. A year later, Chmerkovskiy, his brother and "Dancing With The Stars" competitor Val, and their parents emigrated from Ukraine to the United States.
"I learned English reading street signs in Brooklyn," Chmerkovskiy told OTRC.com "It was the most hilarious thing ever."
11. He may write an autobiography.
"I actually saw that question," Chmerkovskiy told us. I would love to hear people's opinion. Val and I and our family, we have an amazing story. We've lived at least three, four lifetimes as far as what we've come, how far we've come and what we had to overcome and this isn't one of sobbing, pat-myself-on-the-back, make-you-drop-a-tear kind of thing. It's our reality. It's my life."
"Everything that we say that ... people are like, 'Oh my God, that really happened to you?' I'm like, 'Yeah, but why do you look so sad?' And they're like, 'Well, because it's horrible.' I'm like, 'No, it's amazing. It's amazing. Look at me now. Look at us,'" he said.
12. ... but he doesn't want to pull a "Justin Bieber" (although he respects the kid).
"Having said that, I read people's quote-unquote autobiographies and I see how much full of [expletive] they are and it's just a formula of 'I've come from poverty and through [laughs] perseverance and hard work and dedication, I've made it to here,'" Chmerkovskiy said. "They miss the fact that somebody found them and made them type of thing."
So I honestly, I don't know how to depict what we have in a way where there's not going to be someone like me, looking at what I wrote and going, 'That's not true. That never happened.'"
"The other reason why is because I'm 32. I have no idea why Justin Bieber wrote a memoir. I mean, he's what, 16 at that time? So no disrespect to Bieber fans - I think he's a great kid but let him be there for another 20 years and then he will write a story that's so compelling and so powerful that it'll touch not just that generation but all the generations in between."
"I just don't want to be corny. I want to do stuff that's real and so far, this has been a very short chapter of my life. It's & full of everything that happened but it's so not where I'm going to be at the end and there's so much more stuff that's going to happen. Why not wait, and then we'll figure it out."
13. He was afraid to get his tattoo - but not because of the pain.
"I got it when I was 30," Chmerkovskiy told OTRC.com. "We grew up with an idea that if we ever get a tattoo we would first be killed by our parents - 100 percent, 'You will die, somehow and then I will cut it off your body.' Literally."
"So my parents are the most loving parents ever but when the conversations arise about certain things ... They grew up with the notion that tattoo is a tag in prison, so you belong to a gang or you're a gang member. We grew up in a different society, obviously moving to the U.S., everything became a little different. So we Americanized a little faster."
"Our dad transformed himself too to this lifestyle. Mom was kind of, Mom's taking longer. So I was sitting, I was 30, and decided I'm old enough to put my foot down and do what I want, finally. I got it and then I literally I had to not show up at the house for like a month because she had to like, calm down. So yeah, I regret it right away."
14. ...and there was a LOT of pain.
Chmerkovskiy said the side of his torso, down his ribs, was the worst place he could have picked for his tattoo.
"It's the most painful thing ever. You'll regret it. But listen, when I said it to Mom, at least that made her happy - that I went through pain to get it."
15. His tattoo has a special meaning.
Twitter user @Sashasbuzhilova asked what Chmerkovskiy's tattoo means. The large piece of body art, located on the left side of his ribs, is colorful illustration of water, an hourglass and letters.
"It's something that I kind of envisioned in my head. This is a lot of symbolism, water, or time. Clockwork for just constantly going. Letters of my parents and my brother. My brother's letters in the water 'cause blood's thicker than water."
He and Val, who is more "rebellious," got their tattoos at the same time - and shared the same fear over it.
"His says 'Family over everything' here [shows arm near elbow]," Chmerkovskiy said. "His is beautiful. Just wing. And so he went back home. He's a little more rebellious. I'm more like, 'Let's not show it to Mom.' He's like, 'What? No, I'm a grown-ass man. I'm gonna show it.'"
"And so he calls me literally the next day, he's like, 'Abort. Get it off. Don't get it. Don't get it.' I'm like, 'Dude, what do you mean don't get it. I'm already halfway done.' He's like, 'Take it off.' I'm like, 'Are you crazy? What's wrong with you?' He's like, 'Mom is in Panic Mode.'"
Chmerkovskiy's mother has since accepted his tattoo ... sort of.
"She's good now," he told OTRC.com. "But when we're at the beach, she pretends that it's not there."Reporting by Ton Cabrera, co-host of KABC Television's entertainment show "On The Red Carpet" (check for local TV listings).