ABC’s Dancing with the Stars has been a television staple since 2005, with even the announcement of a new cast becoming a media event of its own. The show is returning again this fall, and kicks off tonight with a lineup that includes a mix of actors, athletes, models, and more. While he might not be among the series’ household name, one of the people helping to produce this season is Film graduate, and Hall of Fame inductee, Troy Devolld.
Troy is senior story producer for the show, and a master of reality TV – having worked in the genre for well over a decade on such hits as The Osbournes, The Surreal Life, Basketball Wives, and many others. This current stint with Dancing will mark his second time with the show, having previously worked on its second season back in 2006, and he’s enjoyed returning to work with many of the same collaborators that made it such a memorable experience during his first run.
“It was really like a chance to go back to high school, and I’m having a wonderful time,” he says. “The thing about Dancing with the Stars is that it’s such a nice environment. A lot of the producers have been there for a very long time, and there’s people who used to be on my story team eight years ago who are running the ship now. It’s obviously a lot of work and a lot of moving parts, but everybody that does it is just great.”
While a show based on performance and competition may seem like it would write itself, the series has always thrived on the personal stories that lead up to each week’s dances. Troy’s job is to find that material in the hours of footage the field team captures during rehearsals, then piece that narrative into a tight package. That work is often the heart of the show, adding emotional context to a stars’ performance.
“What’s always made Dancing with the Stars are those little moments, they key you up for the live dance,” he says. “Maybe someone has an injury and can’t perform one week, or they’re dancing to a song that was very important to a family member. I think what we do is an interesting addition to the show for the viewers, rather than just having people come out and perform. You get to know them on a deeper level and it makes for a better experience.”
You can see Troy’s story contributions when Dancing with the Stars premieres at 8 p.m. on ABC. This will mark the 19th season of the reality hit, and being back on the crew Troy sees that longevity as a testament to the inherent good nature of the show. The celebrities and dancers build close relationships and support each other through good and bad weeks as they stray outside of their comfort zone – allowing the audience to get a more intimate portrait of these public figures.
“I think the people on the show have so much fun that a lot of times they let their guard down and you get to see the person in a way that you wouldn’t on another show,” he says. “So at the core of it, it’s about fun and them having a sense of achievement at the end. People have a good time and it shows, and that’s why it stays so popular – the public gets to have fun along with their favorite celebrities. To be able you say that you get to work on something that is so positive like this is a rare opportunity, and I really love it.”