Fox’s So You Think You Can Dance has garnered 45 Emmy nominations over 11 seasons, with host Cat Deeley now up for her fourth nomination for emceeing the popular dance competition. The UK-born Deeley started her career across the pond before joining the show in 2006 and wears many hats on the program – wrangler of judges, audience ambassador, and big sister to the aspiring SYTYCD hoofers who pour their hearts and souls onto the stage each week.
DEADLINE: Is live TV intimidating at all after ten consecutive seasons?
DEELEY: In the UK I did a live show every single week for 52 weeks a year, three hours, sketches, games, 5 to 7 live bands and 300 screaming kids in the studio audience, for eight years. Anything that could happen to me live has happened. I’ve fallen over, I’ve dropped the mic, I got my first migraine on TV. When you mess up, how you handle it is a real sign of your character. What do you do? How do you pick yourself up and carry on? If you just handle it, and you kind of make a joke out of it, the audience loves it because everybody messes up during everyday life. We wouldn’t be human beings if we didn’t.
DEADLINE: So what’s the secret to Emmy-nominated hosting?
DEELEY: The biggest thing is to be in the moment and just listen. I don’t mean going in unprepared. You can’t be spontaneous if you’re thinking, ‘Where’s my camera? What’s my script? Where should we be and what should we do?’ You’ve got to know all of that. It’s about preparation, preparation, preparation, so when it gets to the actual show, you just let it go.
DEADLINE: Has your role as conduit between the contestants, the judges, and the audience evolved during your years as host?
DEELEY: I don’t know if it’s necessarily changed. My background is not dance, as I’m sure you can tell sometimes when I throw out some of those naughty little moves that just sometimes happen. I see my role to be big sister and cheerleader – ‘Come on, we’ve got this! We can do this, go team!’ And it’s to keep the judges in order, keep them fair, and keep the criticisms constructive. It’s also for the person on the couch that doesn’t have a dance background, just watching an entertainment show, so we don’t get lost in the terminology of the dance moves.
DEADLINE: How do you keep the judges fair?
DEELEY: I think that my natural affinity’s always towards the contestant, because they practiced and they’ve danced on live TV. They’ve basically ripped out their heart, and have it bleeding in their hand in front of millions, going, ‘Was that okay?’ I try to make sure that the judges are fair and sometimes to vocalize things that people at home might be thinking, or maybe the dancers aren’t brave enough to say. Sometimes it’s to be their voice when they don’t have one.
DEADLINE: Are there moments when you feel the magic yourself when you’re onstage with the cameras rolling?
DEELEY: Occasionally you get the right dancer with the right choreographer, hair, makeup, music, lighting, and costume, and something amazing happens, and it makes the hairs on my arms stand on end. Who would’ve thought on primetime Fox you’d have dancing that can physically move you like any great piece of art should? It’s nuts, isn’t it? Sometimes I turn around and just pinch myself, and go, ‘This is crazy.’
DEADLINE: You’ve now hosted for 11 seasons over eight years and have begun branching into acting, most recently on Hulu’s Deadbeat. How long are you contracted to stay on as host?
DEELEY: I’ve just signed a contract for another three years, but that depends if we get another pick-up. You never know from season to season. If they keep offering it to me, I’ll keep doing it, because I just enjoy it. And I like dancers as people, they’re little toughies with big, massive hearts. I’ve seen kids dance on broken ankles and split feet and they just somehow do it. If you’re a dancer, you don’t do it to become rich or famous. They’re normally always the team player, they’re never the person in the spotlight. They’re paid pennies, not pounds; cents, not dollars. Their careers are normally very short. They’re constantly injured. Why on Earth would anybody choose to become a dancer? And the answer to that question is, because they can’t imagine their lives not doing it.