'DWTS' Finalists on Their 'Surreal' Journeys, the Moments That Made Them Cry and More (Exclusive)
By Desiree Murphy
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The Dancing With the Stars finale is upon us, and only one dance duo will be named the season 29 mirrorball trophy champions!
The four finalists were revealed at the end of last week's Semifinals Night, and they all spoke to ET's Lauren Zima about the exciting news just moments after the show wrapped.
"I can't believe it! It just feels so surreal," said Kaitlyn Bristowe, who secured a place in the finals with Artem Chigvintsev. "I keep being like, 'What? It all flew by! It happened in the blink of an eye.'"
"It's super surreal for me," added Artem, who before this season has never made it into the show's U.S. finals (he won Strictly Come Dancing with Kara Tointon in 2010). "I always watch from the sidelines, and I find that actually being here and experiencing it, it is actually surreal. I'm just so happy for Kaitlyn to be here and living her dream, her dream coming to reality."
As for their strategy going into the last week of the competition? Artem told ET that he and Kaitlyn plan to do "exactly" what they have been doing over the past 10 weeks -- working hard and not giving up!
"I keep telling people, the finale is like a celebration," he explained. "We worked so hard to get here and now we get one final week. Let's have a blast."
Nev Schulman, who's partnered with Jenna Johnson, also used the word "surreal" when asked to describe how it feels being a finalist on DWTS.
"Somehow the last 10 weeks are just this blur. Now I'm just looking at this one more week of dancing and thinking, 'I can't believe this is gonna be it. This is the end,'" he said. "So it's a combination of I'm thrilled and obviously honored and excited, but I'm also kind of bummed out because I don't want to stop, ever."
"I've imagined and sort of manifested this my whole life, but every year as I got older and wasn't dancing, I kind of just thought, 'It's too late for me, I'm not gonna start dancing now,'" he continued. "Now here I have this incredible opportunity, and I got to see if I actually could do this thing that I've always wanted to try. It's just been such a thrill."
Jenna shared that she, too, was feeling a bit bummed about having only one week left of rehearsal with Nev.
"I'm so happy, first of all, that we made it to the finals. Like, this is incredible!" she raved. "I'm also devastated because we have seven days left together, and then he goes on a plane back to New York. It's just crazy. We've spent so much time together, I really love him as like a best friend, older brother."
"But I'm so excited for us to do the freestyle," she added. "I wanted to make it to this coming week, so I cannot wait."
Justina Machado and Sasha Farber are also more than excited to compete, after being saved from elimination last week by judges Carrie Ann Inaba, Bruno Tonioli and Derek Hough.
"I can't believe it! Yes, I'm in the finals," Justina exclaimed. "When I said yes to this journey, it was in the beginning of a pandemic, and it was something that I really needed, to just bring joy to myself. What I didn't realize was the journey it was really gonna take me on."
"I kinda just was like, 'Yeah, I'll do it,' not knowing how hard it was, not knowing all of these things, and really not thinking about going too far," she added. "But once I started I'm like, 'OK, yeah, I wanna make it to the finale.' So it's wonderful when you're not attached to the results, and it's been wonderful because of that."
Sasha, meanwhile, confirmed to ET that despite suffering a severe back injury during rehearsals last week, he's going to do everything in his power to dance with Justina during the finale.
"I hope so, I really, really do. I don't know how it happened," he said of the injury. "It was in the morning when we had rehearsals and then after I danced it was all good. Literally, when we went back to the trailer, it kept swelling and swelling, my lower back. I've never had any lower back problems so it was a little scary, but we got through it."
Last but certainly not least, Nelly and Daniella Karagach told ET that they are ready to give it their all in hopes of securing the coveted mirrorball. Nelly revealed that Daniella -- who has never been paired with a celebrity partner until this season -- was "crying the whole night" after learning they had made it into the finals.
"She's so tough when she's teaching, and here she is backstage crying," he joked. "I'm happy for myself, and I'm happy for the work that we put in, but I'm happy for her because this is her first first time [as a pro], and she really loves this show. She puts a lot in her job and she's such a loyal person, too. And dedicated to this whole thing."
"I love to do what I do, not just for myself, but for the people that I care about," he continued. "So to watch Daniella get those 10s was great. A lot of those [past] dances we had, I feel like we did them better in rehearsals and I kinda may have dropped the ball sometimes on performing them. So to watch her finally get it, it's just dope."
In addition to his freestyle routine with Daniella, Nelly will also be taking the stage during the show's finale to perform a medley of his greatest hits.
"There's no extra pressure. That's definitely Nelly's comfort zone, I could do that in my sleep," he teased. "I don't know quite yet which songs I'mma do, we're still figuring that out, but we're definitely gonna Nelly it up."
"And hopefully I can get a lot of great energy from these pros and a lot of the dancers to help me out," he added. "We'll see if we can have a fun three minutes and some change."
The season 29 finale of Dancing With the Stars airs Monday at 8 p.m. ET/PT on ABC. Be sure to tune into Entertainment Tonight the following evening to hear more from the mirrorball champions. Check your local listings here.