Dancer Maksim Chmerkovskiy, who returns to "Dancing With the Stars" for its 18th season premiere Monday night after taking two seasons off, promises he will tone down his tendency for contentiousness toward the show's judges.
"Listen, I'm a sweet guy. I'm just intense at work," the Ukrainian-born Chmerkovskiy, 34, told People magazine in an interview published Sunday. "I have nothing but the end result in mind. My entire career has been like that." However, he acknowledged, "I have come to realize very late in my 'DWTS' career that that doesn't exactly translate in television format. People are tuning in to see the progress and what happens during the rehearsals and don't want to see drama."
He felt, he added, that, "I've given the viewers enough drama in the last nine years. Now I want to give them a season that's drama-free -- nothing but smiles and laughter and a great time. Let somebody else be dramatic."
Chmerkovskiy is paired this season with Olympic ice dancing gold medalist Meryl Davis, 27, whom he spoke of glowingly. "I noticed that I'm not nervous and I'm not stressing out, like I usually would be. I've got somebody who is at the top of their game -- not a retired athlete with aches and pains and certain physical issues," he told People. "She is in great shape. She's in great spirits. I got somebody who doesn't need to prove herself to anyone."
He also admired, he said, that Davis is "a normal person. She is so funny, friendly, hard working and physically capable. She's not dramatic. She's not 'too Hollywood.' I don't have to tolerate her every rehearsal. I like working with her. I don't have to suck it up like, 'Maks -- this is the job. Do your job.' I am just enjoying the time I spend with her."