Cat Deeley on 'So You Think You Can Dance': "It Can Change People's Lives"

The host of the Fox series praises reality TV for offering "people an opportunity to springboard to something else, no matter what you do."

"When it comes to actually being in the moment, you can tune in and tune out of the person in your ear, and you don't even think about it, and you're just in the moment with the person," Cat Deeley, host of So You Think You Can Dance told The Hollywood Reporter during the Reality Roundtable. She credits her onscreen finesse during live television broadcasts to her tenacious preparation. "It's my lines that I know. I know where I've got to be. I know what I've got to do. I've written script, we've gone through it. We know absolutely everything."

She notes how horrible it is to watch her counterpart hosts struggle under the pressures of live TV. "There's terrible times when you see people onscreen and you know [producers] are screaming into their ear. Knowing what I know, I just know that people are screaming and [producers are] saying they're running out of time, and [the host] can barely get their words out. And some 14-year-old kid will drop to their knees because they're leaving the show, and [the host will] pat them on the head."

Deeley sees teamwork as essential to bringing a show like So You Think You Can Dance together successfully. "Your producer on the show, they've also got to trust you too. Otherwise, they're two seconds behind. If they're sitting in a gallery watching all the screens and they're trying to tell you a question to ask, they're behind already, whereas you're in the moment with the person."

She also thinks being a good host requires authenticity, which elicits trust from her audience. "I won't lie on camera," says the four-time Emmy nominee. "I won't. I'll find something else to say, if I need to, but I'm not going to lie. [The audience will] turn around and go, 'There's something that's not quite right.'"

But the most humbling aspect of her job, Deeley says, is the opportunities it offers to its contestants. She argues that all reality TV is really a platform to jumpstart any type of career, if the person wants it enough. "I think all the shows, they offer people an opportunity to springboard to something else, no matter what you do. It can change people's lives if [they] see the opportunity and grab it with both hands and turn it into something that's going to make a difference."

She tells the story of a contestant from the past season who "had never been on a airplane before, until [the show] flew her to Vegas. She had never been out of the Bronx before. She looked after her handicapped mother, and her father was an alcoholic …"

"Yeah, we are looking for America's favorite dancer," Deeley says, "but in actual fact, that girl's life could be completely changed, beyond recognition. Her wildest dreams could come true if she wants it and if she's prepared to work for it. This could completely transform someone's life."

Deeley joined Nigel Lythgoe (So You Think You Can Dance), Mark Burnett (Survivor, Shark Tank, The Voice), Julie Chen (Big Brother), Craig Piligian (The Ultimate Fighter) and Bertram van Munster (The Amazing Race) for the Roundtable, where the producers and hosts shared what it takes to create content that has endured for more than a decade in a genre that once seemed like a fad.

The full Reality Roundtable can be seen on Close Up With The Hollywood Reporter when it premieres Sunday, Sept. 13, at 11 a.m. ET/PT on SundanceTV and HollywoodReporter.com. 

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