Julianne Hough Returns to 'Dancing With the Stars' as Fourth Judge

The prodigal pro will have to weigh in on brother Derek's performances
Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP
Julianne Hough

It was the week's worst-kept secret, but Julianne Hough made it official on Thursday morning.

The former Dancing With the Stars pro appeared on Good Morning America to announce her return to the series — though she's not taking it to the floor with any pseudo-celebs. Hough has graduated to the role of judge.

Dancing With the Stars, entering its 19th season, has always boasted the same dance tribunal: Len Goodman, Carrie Ann Inaba and Bruno Tonioli. And nobody is getting the boot. Instead, Hough joins as a fourth judge for what is expected to be a season of several big changes.

The show made many tweaks in the past year. With the results show folded into the live weekly performance telecast, viewer voting has been a work in progress. The band was also switched up for a more contemporary feel, and the most recent season saw co-host Brooke Burke-Charvet let go to bring Erin Andrews on board.

All of those changes were under the old guard of former showrunner Conrad Green, but he announced his departure from the series in April when he nabbed a job at Fox's upcoming Utopia. Season 19 finds veteran reality TV producer Rob Wade stepping in to run the aging ABC hit.

Hough, historically, is one of the franchise's brightest stars. She danced as a professional partner for five seasons, coming in at first place twice. Also working as a recording artist and an actress, she's returned several times — most notably reuniting with her sibling. Brother Derek Hough has stayed on, becoming the series' winningest dancer. He's taken the mirror-ball trophy five times. (Mr. Hough is also confirmed for the upcoming season.)

“I’m so excited to be back with my Dancing With the Stars family again on a regular basis," Hough said in a statement. "I've always aspired to be an all-around entertainer, whether I'm acting, dancing or singing, and I’m thrilled for this opportunity that will allow me to continue all of those pursuits. Derek and I just finished our Move Live on Tour, which reminded me how much I miss the interaction with the dance fans that have been so supportive of me in my career. I am warming up the paddles and the sass, and I’m ready to have fun in this new role.”

Wade added that Hough's "blend of ballroom dancing experience and unique judging ability make her the ideal choice for the show."

On GMA, Hough said it was "the right time and the right kind of opportunity" for her to return to the show.

In terms of what people can expect from her as a judge, she said, "I am known to be a little bit honest and a little bit direct, but I think that's kind of my role as a judge in all of this. I want to see people improve. It's never with any malicious intent, but it's because I've been on the other side and I do want to give criticism that they can take and learn from and grow from."

Dancing With the Stars will return to GMA on Sept. 4 to reveal the next crop of semi-famous feet that will hit the hardwood this fall. The season is set for a Sept. 15 launch.

Aug. 21, 5:52 a.m. This story has been updated to include Hough's and Wade's comments about her return to the show.

Hilary Lewis contributed to this report.