July 27, 2012 11:57am PT by Michael O'Connell
TCA 2012: 'Dancing With the Stars: All-Stars' Bristol Palin Talks Partners and Politics
After announcing the 12 (ultimately 13) cast members returning for Dancing With the Stars: All Stars, ABC trotted seven of them on stage at the Television Critics Association summer press tour to speak with reporters about the new spin on the veteran competition.
They were joined by executive producer Conrad Green, who attempted to explain the evolving model for the series, while dodging a slew of casting questions about who said no and how much everyone was making.
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"We've talked about doing All-Stars," he said. "We wanted it to be a special season, we wanted there to be enough heritage to it. One hundred-thirty-plus celebrities have participated, and we wanted to pick from the best of the best. We felt we needed enough time to build up the stock to do that and this felt like the perfect time to do that. I'm astonished with the people who have agreed to say yes."
Another reason for an All-Stars season is the noticeable wane in viewer interest after 14 cycles. Dancing With the Stars saw series low ratings during its recent run, something Green was candid about.
"We did have some ratings dip but for the first time we were against The Voice, which is similar terrain as our show," he said. "I think that explains a lot of that dip. This is about giving a treat to our audience. How would Mike Tyson fare against Muhammad Ali... ."
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Maybe not Muhammad Ali or Mike Tyson, 2010 competitor Bristol Palin drew more questions of any other cast member on stage.
"I couldn't tell you what would have happened if I just went home," she said, defending her decision to seek out television roles since her mother's vice presidential bid in 2008 made her family famous. "This is a fun gig, I'm not whining or complaining ... I like supporting my son."
Palin also gifted the show with its first dose of controversy, two months before the season premiere. One reporter asked how she would handle having a gay partner, prompting her to go on the defense.
"I like gays," she said. "I'm not a homophobic. I'm sick of people saying that. Just because I'm for traditional marriage, doesn't mean I'm scared. I don't hate anybody ... It's not about politics or traditional marriage. It's just about dancing and fun and that's all I have to say about it."
Palin's partner, gay or straight, will be announced Aug. 13 when the cast get their official assignments.
Lesley Goldberg contributed to this report.