Tom Bergeron Remembers Len Goodman and Reflects on His 'DWTS' Legacy (Exclusive)

Goodman died Saturday after a battle with bone cancer. He was 78.

Tom Bergeron is remembering the late Len Goodman following news of his death. 

ET's Kevin Frazier spoke with the former Dancing With the Stars co-host on Monday, where he reflected on working alongside Goodman, and the legacy the longtime judge leaves behind.

"I woke up this morning to a text from my sister, and it said, 'Sorry to hear about Len,' and that's the first that I had heard or read about it, so then I went online and saw the numerous stories of his passing," Bergeron said of how he found out the sad news.

Goodman died Saturday following a battle with bone cancer. His manager, Jackie Gill, confirmed the news to the BBC on Monday morning.

"It is with great sadness to announce that Len Goodman has passed away peacefully, aged 78," Gill said in the statement to the BBC. "A much-loved husband, father and grandfather who will be sorely missed by family, friends and all who knew him."

According to the BBC, Goodman was on hospice at his home in Kent, England, and was surrounded by his family at the time of his death on Saturday.

ABC and Disney+ released a statement to ET on Monday, saying, "Len Goodman will always be an icon in the world of ballroom dance, and we were lucky to have him as part of our Dancing With the Stars family for 31 seasons. He was warm and caring, and always delivered genuine guidance. We are devastated by the news of his passing and our hearts are with his family during this very difficult time."

As for his first thoughts on Goodman's tragic death, Bergeron said a number of thoughts and memories instantly came to mind.

"That smile, that twinkle in the eye. Grouchiness that he would kind of ratchet up for TV. I would think of times when -- 'cause his critiques were always 100 percent honest, but he would ratchet up when doing a commercial break," the TV personality recalled. "He'd call me over and go, 'That was good, wasn't it?' 'Oh yeah, that was good, yeah.' The grouchy part was really more show than his actual personality, I think."

Goodman not only kept it 100 with the contestants, he also brought his years of ballroom dance knowledge to the judges' table with his critiques, and it was often what was valued most by his fellow judges and those on the dance floor.

"I think that over the years of the show, you can see that it was his critique that would tend to be the most specific in terms of ballroom style, and as the show kind of morphed over the years and ballroom style kind of got lost in the shuffle sometimes, Len would always bring it back to that," Bergeron said.

He continued, "I think that's why his opinion, and no disrespect to Bruno, Carrie Ann, Derek, or Julianne back to when she was a judge, but I think they too would agree that it was Len's critique and opinion that everybody valued most."

Goodman's impact wasn't lost on the dance pros on the series either, many of whom worked with Goodman over the years.

"Coming from outside of the dance world and meeting all of the -- they were kids at the time, and realizing how they had grown up competing against each other at Blackpool and other competitions, and knowing Len throughout their childhood, really, so I felt like in some respects, even though the show created a family feel of its own, I was walking into an already established group of friends and family who had known each other for years," Bergeron said.

Bergeron and Goodman appeared on the show together from 2005 to 2019, seeing changes both at the judges' table and in the co-host lineup. Even still, there was a sense of family created with that DWTS group.

"Going back to 2005, and I'd say the first really the first 10 years of it, with a particular focus on the first five, it caught us all by surprise," Bergeron said of the show's early success. "I think we kind of locked arms and realized, especially those of us who've been in the business a bit longer than some of the young dancers, you realize this doesn't happen often, if at all, and let's enjoy it."

"And we did. We really did," he added. Those early years will always be very special to me."

Goodman appeared as a judge on DWTS from 2005 until 2022. He also served as a founding judge on the British dance competition, Strictly Come Dancing, from 2004 to 2016. He announced his retirement from DWTS in November 2022, saying at the time, "I've decided I'd like to spend more time with my grandchildren and family back in Britain. I cannot thank you enough, my Dancing With the Stars family. It's been such a wonderful experience for me."

When it comes to Goodman's legacy, Bergeron said it's to find that perfect balance of being serious about what you do, but not take yourself too seriously at the same time.

"I think it'll be defined many ways, by many people, but I think for me, it's be serious about what you do, but not take yourself too seriously," Bergeron shared. "I think Len and I have had that in common. Be respectful of your craft, but have at the same time, and again, I'm thinking of him right now and all I see is the twinkle and the smile."