Has Matthew Morrison’s entire career prepared him for this moment? Since making his Broadway debut in 1998, the triple threat has shown off his talents in a variety of shows, transcending genres and dance styles, before landing his latest role: a judge on Season 17 of So You Think You Can Dance, premiering May 18 at 9 PM ET on Fox.
“I have been such a fan of the show for many, many years. I spent a couple of years in London doing a similar show called The Greatest Dancer and I was able to reach the next generation of artists and help them come into their own and find their potential and greatness,” shared the stage and screen actor.
Morrison, whose own reality TV guilty pleasures include Big Brother and The Great British Bake Off, says that exploring different types of dance through his past roles helped prepare him to occupy the judge’s seat. He spent six seasons as show choir instructor Mr. Schuester in the hit Fox musical comedy Glee, and originated the role of the dreamy dance show host Link Larkin in Broadway’s Hairspray. The Tony nominee (for the 1950s-set romance The Light in the Piazza) specifically credited his time workshopping the musical adaptation of Dirty Dancing for familiarizing himself with ballroom dance.
"I'm well-versed in so many different practices of dance, so I am in a good position to give my thoughts,” he says. “I like that the show talks about looking for America's Favorite Dancer and I look forward to seeing all people having to get out of their comfort zone. Like, if they are a ballroom dancer, they must do contemporary and all this other stuff. That is what makes the show so exciting.”
But SYTYCD is not all about the flashy dance numbers. As a judge, alongside season four runner-up Stephen "tWitch" Boss and social media sensation JoJo Siwa, Morrison is most looking forward to watching each dancer’s journey.
“A lot of dancers come on the show, and you can see the trajectory of them getting better and better each week, but likewise, some people come in strong and then you can see the pressure get to them or they are in their head a bit too much. I love to see where a dancer starts and where they end up. That is what makes it for me.”
He continues, “Dance is one of my favorite art forms. It is literally mind, body, and heart. The mind has to comprehend the steps, the body has to execute those steps with the music, and the heart has to evoke the emotion and make it soar. I love seeing all those pieces come together.”
While Morrison is not ready to hang up his own dancing shoes, fans shouldn't expect to see him perform. “I am just in the judge's seat. I have no plans to get up on the stage, but if I am asked, I am sure I would not say no. I am there as an audience member, I just happen to get one of the best seats in the house.”
However, if he was to place himself in the contestants’ shoes, he would audition with a “mashup” (for the Gleeks out there) of different dance styles. “Dancers do well in the show when they put their own unique stamp on their audition. What separates you from the others? What makes you stand out? For me, I grew up breakdancing. I grew up doing hip hop and then I got into ballet, tap, and jazz. I would do a big mashup of breaking, and popping-and-locking and some tours in the air and some scissors. I would make it a big ole’ hodgepodge.”