After learning that the show will have plenty of format changes when it returns to ABC on Monday, Sept. 16, we now have an update on one of the major elements that will make season 28 different from what we've seen in the past. During the dance competition show’s panel at the D23 Expo in Anaheim, California, on Friday morning, executive producer Andrew Llinares revealed a change in the voting process.
"I think, first of all, we’ve been off-air now for a year, so we want to make this season really, really special," he hinted during the panel, which was moderated by Ginger Zee and featured host Tom Bergeron and former Mirrorball champions Rashad Jennings and Jordan Fisher. "Bigger, more exciting, and more fun than it's ever been, which is hard."
"One thing we are going to do, we’re going to introduce live voting throughout the season, which is something we haven't done before," he continued. "You’ll see a show, so you might see the Disney show, and then you'll see the result at the end of that show, based on what happened that night. So, we get the immediacy of the results."
Within seconds of his reveal, one fan in the crowd yelled out "West Coast!," which prompted Bergeron to ask Llinares how the live voting element will affect viewers in the Pacific time zone.
"The West Coast can still vote, but it will be voting when the show goes on for the first time," Llinares clarified. "What we love about it is, if someone comes and does a great dance that night, but say they didn't have a great dance the week before, they can come back, they can redeem themselves... We're voting based on these dances that actual night."
Bergeron told ET on Wednesday that judges would have a "little extra oomph" this season. Llinares said at D23 that fans will find out what that means "in the next few weeks."
Llinares also confirmed that nobody on the show knows who their partner is yet... except him. Naturally, it's been an incredibly difficult secret to keep.
"Well, we wanted to do something a little different this year… We want to keep it fresh for you guys," he explained. "No one knows their partner but they’ll find out within the next few days because they start training soon."
"I know [the pairings]," he added, "but we’ll reveal it on premiere night. Everyone keeps coming up to me trying to trick me."
Earlier in the panel, while discussing the unique tie-in DWTS has with Disney, Llinares also revealed the date of this season's Disney night. The magic-themed episode will officially take place Monday, Oct. 14, and he said fans should expect plenty of "surprises."
"It's one of the peak shows of the season; we know you guys love that night," he said. "There's a magic with Disney that works with this show ... [and] when you put them together [it just works]."
"It’s like creating a childhood dream," Llinares added. "You want the whole show to be magic, especially for Disney night. We’re planning something for this year that we’re very excited about … we’re super excited about what we have planned."
Unfortunately, none of the aforementioned fan concerns were addressed during Friday's DWTS panel at D23 Expo.
ET reached out to ABC for comment earlier this week following the cast reveal in regard to Burgess and Chigvintsev's absence from the show this season, along with casting Spicer.
"We’ve got a great and diverse cast," Llinares told ET in a statement at the time. "We are excited about the season."
Some longtime fans of the dance competition show have started using #BoycottDWTS on social media, and even started a petition in hopes of getting Spicer removed from competition. However, one person who proudly supported Spicer this week was President Donald Trump, who tweeted on Thursday, "Just heard that Sean Spicer will be on Dancing with the Stars. He will do great. A terrific person who loves our Country dearly!"
When ET exclusively spoke with Spicer, he was unaware that Trump had tweeted about him. "Really? Wow, that's fantastic!" he exclaimed after ET broke the news to him. "It's always nice to have kind words said to me by anybody at this point, especially the President of the United States. So I welcome everybody and anybody's support, but it's extra special to have the President of the United States."
"We have a lot of new people behind the scenes, new executive producer, and so there was a feeling, a fairly widespread feeling among our viewers and among us on the show that we needed to take a look at things and tweak things a little bit," he shared. "And you'll see the result of those deliberations on Sept. 16."
Dancing With the Stars returns Monday, Sept. 16 at 8 p.m. ET/PT on ABC.
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