Dancing With the Stars is a family affair again! Maksim Chmerkovskiy returns to the ABC competition series' Switch Up Week episode as a guest judge on Monday, April 18, and he reveals to Us Weekly exclusively that he considers Nyle DiMarco to be this season's biggest surprise.
Maks, 36, is back after appearing as a dancer on the show for 14 seasons, including nabbing the Mirrorball Trophy with Meryl Davis in season 18, his last run as a pro. He says that America's Next Top Model cycle 22 winner DiMarco — who is typically partnered with Maks' fiancée, Peta Murgatroyd — is "obviously" this season's standout.
"Nyle — it’s just mind-boggling, the whole thing," Maks tells Us. "And just the fact that, if you just look at him and remind yourself that he can’t hear anything, it’s just silence — it’s just even more impressive."
"The way Peta is with him and how she worked out those little things and sort of gestures that they communicate with — it’s very interesting for me," he continues about the deaf model, who is paired with this week with Sharna Burgess. "It’s very, very hard, I’m sure."
Maks — whose younger brother, Val Chmerkovskiy, is typically paired with Ginger Zee but is dancing with Jodie Sweetin this week — points out that he's not going to necessarily plan to go easy on his sibling.
"I won't keep anything in my head!" Maks admits about whether he might have pointers for his brother and Zee. "There’s a very clear separation in my head between dance and personal, and this is not personal. I’ve never been biased — no matter if I’m related to someone, it won’t affect the way I judge them."
Maks, who also returned as a guest judge last season and is heading out on tour with Val this summer, says he doesn't have any idea which pair will ultimately claim season 22's Mirrorball Trophy. In fact, he calls the competition "a little more stiff than it has been before," given that no one is head and shoulders above the rest of the group.
As for this homecoming, he says "it's very much fun" to sit on the other side of the judges' table: "The only memories I had of that ballroom were related to nervous feelings of 'hopefully this will hold up' at every live performance, and then some backtalk to the judges that resulted in giant drama and other things! So finally when I come back now, it's just positive, fun, happy, smiles."
Dancing With the Stars airs on ABC Mondays at 8 p.m. ET. The Maks & Val: Our Way tour starts June 15.
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