EXCLUSIVE: Lindsay Arnold Gushes Over 'Perfectionist' Calvin Johnson's 'Best Night Yet' on 'DWTS'

by Desiree Murphy 11:10 AM PDT, September 27, 2016
Photo: Getty Images

Lindsay Arnold and Calvin Johnson are coming in hot for that mirror ball trophy!

The 22-year-old dancer and the former NFL pro slayed the competition during Monday's Dancing With the Stars "Face-Off Week," performing a Viennese Waltz to BJ the Chicago Kid's "Woman's World." The two received a score of 32 -- the highest score of the night! -- beating out Sasha Farber and Terra Jole to receive immunity from Tuesday's elimination round.

While chatting with ET, Lindsay said she "can't wait" to continue to show America why the former Detroit Lions wide receiver really does deserve to "win it all."

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ET: Last time we chatted, you told me Calvin really, really wanted an 8. I think it's safe to say you guys exceeded that expectation last night with 8s across the board from the judges! How were you feeling when you got those scores?

Lindsay: We just wanted AN 8! We literally would have been totally fine with even just one. That was so awesome. I haven't been more proud of Calvin yet. He really worked hard this week on doing something that was a little bit uncomfortable for him. Our dance was more serious, sexy and loving. It showed a softer, gentle side, and that was hard for him -- it didn't come naturally. He really had to show his emotions, and he definitely pulled that off. I was so proud of him!

During your interview package, we got a glimpse of how you were teaching Calvin to be graceful. You were joking about how "it's like holding a football," but not "squeezing" your head. Honestly, watching you two onstage last night, it was hard to tell who was the pro. How did you get him to master that so quickly?

Oh my goodness, I love that! Thank you. I was kind of teasing him in rehearsals this week, and he responds really well to that. If he's squeezing me, I'll be like, "Calvin, why are you squeezing the crap out of my head?" I would just give him little metaphors, like, "This right now, is like you're holding an egg, and if you drop the egg, you get really bad scores." It's more fun that way, and less technical.

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It showed in the judges scoring, but in your opinion, would you say this was your guys' best night yet?

I would say for sure this was our best night yet. He did something that I was NOT expecting! When we stepped out on the dance floor, his performance was better than I've ever seen it. He really turned it on and gave it everything he's got. It was our best dance, not just because of the judges' scores, but because it was a breakthrough for Calvin -- showing he has more sides to him and that he's willing to do what it takes to be the best dancer. He wants to win this thing!

I'm so impressed by how bright his personality shines on that stage. In last week's dress rehearsal, you were telling me he was really hard on himself and nervous. How was he feeling this week?

Calvin is a perfectionist. Even when he's doing a good job, he still wants to be better. It's great because it makes him work even harder, and for me, I don't have to pull that out of him -- he just wants to do it. Last night when he got the 8s he was so happy, and extremely proud of himself. But then immediately he was like, "OK, well, we gotta be better now. Now we have to get better than 8, we can't stay the same."

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You guys are now clear frontrunners in this competition. How do you plan to stay at the top?

I don't think people expected us to be the highest scorers of the night. So, I think if we just keep continuing to do what we're doing, we’ll be fine. Calvin is getting better every single week, and I don't want that to stop -- I don't want him to get comfortable. This week, I'm really going to harp him on that. Yes, we're at the top, but that can be gone so quickly. He does not want to go down, so we're going to stay at the top and to do anything we can to prove he's improving every week.

Love that attitude! I know you had an early morning today, but did you do anything to celebrate your victory last night?

Me and my husband [Sam Cusick] got Mexican food and then we went home and went to sleep because I was so tired! But Calvin has a later call time than me today and it's his birthday on Thursday. He had some buddies in town that came to the show last night, and I think they went out and had some fun.

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Prior to the actual face-off, you and Calvin were showing Sasha and Terra a little peek at what you had coming for them via Instagram. Hilarious! Can you tell us more about him lifting you like that?

😜😜😜πŸ”₯πŸ”₯πŸ”₯ @sashafarber1 @terrajole #DWTS #faceoffchallenge @dancingabc @megatron

A video posted by Lindsay Arnold Cusick (@lindsarnold) on

When we found out we were going up against Sasha and Terra, we were super excited because we're so close with them and knew that it'd just be friendly competition. Because of that, we were like, "We gotta do a serious social media competition." We called them out and were like, "This is going down, bring it on!" Terra sent us a video of herself completely throwing down Sasha, manhandling him. I couldn't even attempt to try and do that with Calvin, so he's like, "Let's show Sasha what's up and I'll lift you."

Literally, it felt like it was no problem for him to lift me like that. Now I'm excited for us for when we get lifts, because I know we can do anything! He can just toss me around.

Viewers don't always get to see these funny, behind-the-scenes moments -- what's another story you can share with us from rehearsals this week?

I actually don't like that very much, that our entire rehearsal week is taken down to one minute and there's so many things that happen that are funny or heartfelt and fans don't always get a feel of that. But something funny that happened this week was, Calvin actually kind of beat me up on accident a couple of times. I got elbowed in the face, scratched and I think it's because we were getting more up close and personal and he's not used to that. Nothing serious, but it was funny because he felt so bad!

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Before week one kicked off, you told me you thought Laurie Hernandez and her partner, Val Chmerkovskiy, were "the ones to beat." Now that we're a few weeks in, do you still think that's true?

I definitely still think they have a serious shot. Laurie is incredible and I think she's going to get better every single week, plus, Val is a great teacher. But I'm starting to really have my eyes on James Hinchcliffe and Sharna Burgess. It's crazy to watch him, because he just has this natural ability. He's such a nice guy with a good personality, and that helps as well. Terra and Sasha too -- there's just something about her. She gives off such a good energy, and you want her to do well. She really is improving and defying all the odds against her.

The DWTS pro will be chatting with ET every Tuesday throughout the competition, and taking over ET's Snapchat (@etnow) each Monday. Got a question for Arnold or Johnson? Tweet me @desireemurphy_!

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