March 19, 2012 11:19pm PT by Michael O'Connell
'Dancing With the Stars': Maksim Chmerkovskiy Isn't Intimidating Latest Partner
Maksim Chmerkovskiy has earned a reputation for many things on Dancing With the Stars, one of them being his rigorous approach to teaching.
Though all of the series pros push their partners, Maks' drive is as much a part of his character as his candid demeanor. And it appears his Season 14 pairing, Melissa Gilbert, is up to the challenge both present.
PHOTOS: 'Dancing With the Stars' Season 14 Official Cast Portraits
The Little House on the Prairie actress said backstage after Monday's premiere that Maks' methods are just fine with her.
"I'm not intimidated by him," she said. "The whole idea is to push me to build stamina, to build muscle and my ability. That takes stepping outside my comfort zone."
And Maks says their work together has already shown him she's better than their scores.
"I wouldn't be Maks if I didn't say she did do better in rehearsal," he said, noting the live show can throw people off their game. "This is something I can't teach. It's something you have to experience."
VIDEO: 'Dancing with the Stars' Season 14 Cast Announcement Interviews
Their cumulative 20, which has them tied for last place going into week 2, is something that would typically draw ire from the outspoken pro, but he was said he was keeping it in perspective. "I think it's good we're in the middle of the pack and we haven't shown our real potential," he explained. "We have room to grow."
Another thing Maks is keeping in mind is Gilbert's previously broken back. The pro says he's keeping it on his mind in their choreography.
"The way bone heals, it becomes indestructible," he says. "The broken parts will never break again. It's the other stuff we have to worry about."