EXCLUSIVE: Lindsay Arnold Talks Calvin Johnson and James Hinchcliffe's 'DWTS' Bromance, Go-To Rehearsal Snacks


Lindsay Arnold and Calvin Johnson are continuing to heat up the Dancing With the Stars ballroom, with a little help from their biggest competition -- James Hinchcliffe and Sharna Burgess.

Following their elegant Cats-themed waltz to "Memory" on Monday night, ET caught up with the 22-year-old dance pro, where she spilled all on the former NFL pro's bromance with "Hinchtown."

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In addition to their individual couples performances, Johnson and the IndyCar racer also teamed up for a Paso Doble "Team-Up Challenge" during Showstoppers night, and according to Arnold, their rehearsals were far from boring.

"These two guys! James and Calvin in the room together, it's laughter 100% of the time," she dished. "Sharna and I were a little bit worried, because in dress rehearsal, they couldn't stop laughing and we weren't sure if they were going to be able to pull it together for the live show. But when they did, they were SO into it!"

"Watching Calvin get into that beast mode made me think, 'Wow, I would have been terrified playing against him on the football field because he's terrifying me with the Paso Doble,'" she said of the former Detroit Lions wide receiver. "It was also really cool to see James and Calvin's chemistry go from buddy-buddy, all happy to this intense, manly, sexy side."

Although Burgess had to step out of performing the team piece due to an injury (Jenna Johnson has been filling in the past two weeks), she helped Arnold create the fun, energetic choreography, which their celebrity partners apparently loved.

"These boys were so determined to be clean and look good, which is so hard to find in a celebrity. Sharna and I would step out of the room to go get some water, and when we came back, we'd see them practicing by themselves," Arnold said. "They were practicing the counts together, giving each other corrections like, 'Oh, I think you could do it a little bit more like this.' It was so cute to watch that, because for two people who are probably each other's biggest competition, to see them working together to succeed was very endearing."

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And after putting their hearts and souls into the two numbers, we can't blame them for wanting to grub out post-show, as Arnold documented via Snapchat.

"Chick-fil-A is one of my guilty pleasures for sure," she joked. "The problem is, me and [my husband Sam Cusick's] apartment is literally just around the corner from it, so eating that happens more often than it should. Fat Sal's [Deli] is also around the corner, so I have all these temptations. They have a salted caramel shake that I just die for!"

"But lately, I'm traveling a lot with the show, so it's extremely hard diet-wise for me," she said of her normally healthy diet. "I try to focus on constantly eating throughout the day. I try to bring snacks to rehearsal and eat more frequently, rather than just eating two or three huge meals. I've found that helps keep me energized throughout the day. Anytime I eat too heavy of a meal it slows me down."

As for her and Calvin's beef jerky obsession?

"We've actually slowed down on that, which is probably a good thing!" she joked. "We've moved onto Tim Horton's donuts, which Calvin brings in. I'm like, 'You can't do this, because we'll eat them!' That's the new food, because it's cold here in [Calvin's hometown] Detroit, so we're all about the coffee and donuts."

Hear more from Arnold's exclusive interview with ET below.

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ET: You and Calvin got to travel to New York City and meet the cast of Broadway's Cats. What was that experience like?

Lindsay Arnold:
Last Monday after the show, we were told we were given Cats and that we'd get to travel and meet some of the cast members. We were at first a little bit hesitant because it was a very quick trip. We flew in on a red-eye and went straight to the theater, we rehearsed all day with them and hopped right back on a flight like, "Oh, this is going to be tough, we're going to miss some hours of rehearsal and we're going to be tired," but Calvin and I were both so happy we did it. It was one of the funnest things we've gotten to do together. For the most part, we're just in the studio rehearsing all day. We don't really get to go out and do fun things, and have new experiences together, so this was a great experience!

How long were you actually with the Cats crew?

When we first got there we were in hair and makeup for about an hour and a half. We were onstage with the cast for about an hour. They taught us some of their moves, we chatted with them, we took pictures, so we were probably at the theater for close to three hours. It was fast, but amazing!

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Fans loved seeing Calvin all dressed up in the Cats costume. It's amazing how far he's come, seeing as he wasn't so fond about wearing anything glitzy at the beginning of the competition…

Oh my gosh, yes. It's so funny because during the first week, he was hesitant to even put rhinestones on his costume. Now he's on national television in a spandex cat suit. I mean, that's what I love about this guy. He seriously surprises me every week with his willingness to just go for it.

He put it in his own words Monday night, he said he's recognized that this is something you'll never get to experience ever again. He's never going to be asked to come on Cats on Broadway and get dressed up so he can practice a dance for Dancing With the Stars. All of these experiences are so once-in-a-lifetime that he has to go for it 110% and take advantage of everything that comes his way, and I love that about him, I really do.

It's opened my eyes to making sure that I'm doing that in my own life as well. A lot of times we can get caught up in just doing the same thing over and over and not actually appreciating all the cool things that happen. I've been really lucky to learn that from him.

Following your performance with Calvin Monday night, you received incredible compliments from judge Julianne Hough and guest judge Idina Menzel. Co-host Erin Andrews called you a "holiday Barbie," and one fan on Twitter said you looked "pretty like Elsa." How were you feeling on that stage, hearing those raving reviews?

I felt amazing. The DWTS wardrobe completely overdid it with my dress, I mean, there were pretty close to 30,000 rhinestones on my dress. An insane amount, and it was so beautiful, I felt so good, I loved my hair. Everything came together so nicely.


Calvin was so strong and elegant, and I felt very beautiful, which obviously helps when you're dancing. If you feel confident and you feel good, your dancing is going to be beautiful. And that's what happened. We both felt so happy about our routine.

As for Idina, the first experience I had with her was when she was on Wicked, the original cast with Kristin Chenoweth. I went to that show when I was in New York. I think I was 12 years old. That was the most magical night of my life at that point. I was just so mesmerized by them, so it was wonderful to have her there critiquing us.

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Aside from your costumes, your dance with Calvin was very impressive! As an athlete, the waltz is one of the most difficult styles to master, but Megatron looked like a natural.

That is exactly right. And not only that, but the waltz we were given was so hard, even for me as a choreographer. Obviously "Memory" is an iconic song, but to choreograph to it was seriously so tough. When I first got it I was like, "OK, this is amazing," but the tempo changes like five or six times and that's difficult. Also, a lot of the timing wasn't waltz timing, so we had to kind of create our own waltz within the song.

Another factor was that Leona Lewis sang live, and the first time we heard her version was the day of the show. So we rehearsed to someone else singing it the entire week. Singers have different inflections in their voice, they take different pauses, different breaths, so a lot of the dance was choreographed to the lyrics. It meant that Calvin and I really had to trust each other and our bodies to be as in sync as possible. He completely did that. When I watched it back, I was shocked by how in sync we were, it truly looked so beautiful on camera.

Only a few more weeks of the competition left. What would a win mean for you?

It would be huge. Two seasons ago I got third place with Alek Skarlatos, last season I got fourth place with Wanya Morris, so I feel like I've gotten so close. I've tasted the win, but haven't quite gotten it.

Getting the mirror ball trophy with Calvin would be such an honor. He didn't come into the competition being an obvious frontrunner -- we really had to work hard to get him up there. He's proved each week that he wants to be here and he hasn't had it easy.

He never complains, never whines, he is always so willing and ready to be there. I am so grateful to have a partner like Calvin.

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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