The "Dancing With The Stars: All-Stars" cast was announced Thursday after much speculation about who would be included. The star-studded lineup includes past contestants Kirstie Alley, Emmitt Smith, Bristol Palin, Pamela Anderson, Joey Fatone, Helio Castroneves, Melissa Rycroft, Shawn Johnson, Kelly Monaco, Drew Lachey, Apolo Anton Ohno and Gilles Marini.
The final contestant will be determined by fans, who can vote for Kyle Massey, Sabrina Bryan or Carson Kressley to round out the "Dancing With The Stars: All-Stars" cast.
Select members of the cast were on hand for the "Dancing with the Stars" panel at the Television Critics Association Summer Press Tour, including Monaco, Marini, Lachey, Anderson, Castroneves, Palin, Rycroft, hosts Tom Bergeron and Brooke Burke-Charvet, and executive producer Conrad Green.
Green talked about the rationale behind doing an All-Stars season, admitting that it's something they've wanted to attempt for a long time. "We wanted there to be heritage to it. We wanted to be able to pick the best of the best and make something that celebrates the range of the dancing and the humor [of the show]," he said. "I think there's a genuine warmth and appetite from our audience to see these people again."
When asked whether any All-Stars would be paired with their original dance partners, Green pointed out that given the overlap between some of the returning stars, that won't be possible, but they're choosing based on "who we think will make the most intriguing partners and the most intriguing season."
Green also promised that despite the returning stars, audiences won't be treated to the same choreography. "We won't rehash exact routines from previous seasons -- we might revisit music," he said. "There will be a lot of references to other people who've been involved in the show. We want this whole season to be a celebration of the wide range of people who've taken part and the positivity they've brought [to the competition]."
Though Green couldn't be coaxed into discussing who they approached but declined, he said, "We wrote out a wish list and we basically got the wish list ... This is our version of the Avengers. These are all the superheroes of their seasons, and they're back!" Drew Lachey subsequently nominated himself to be Thor.
Though there were a number of stars on the panel, many questions from reporters were directed at Bristol Palin, who rationalized that "[the media] will be talking about me if I'm in my little life in Alaska or if I'm in L.A., so I might as well have fun. God provides these opportunities for me."
She was also challenged on some of the controversies stemming from her own reality show, especially relating to her son's alleged gay slur and whether she'd be comfortable being paired with a gay dancer. "I like gays -- I'm not a homophobic and I'm sick of people saying that," she insisted. "I support traditional marriage ... that doesn't mean I'm scared of anybody else and I don't hate anybody. I'm gonna go dance and have fun. It's not about politics, it's not about traditional marriage... that's all I have to say about it."
"Dancing with the Stars" returns Monday, September 24 at 8 p.m. ET. See the full list of ABC's premiere dates here and check out the full cast of "Dancing With The Stars: All-Stars" below!
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