Kym Johnson-Herjavec on Her Pivot from 'Dancing with the Stars' to 'Hunting Housewives'

Kym Johnson-Herjavec

One of the certainties of a career in dance is that at some point one’s body requires a career change as the demands of a dancer’s life are quite strenuous. For Kym Johnson-Herjavec that time came in 2017 after 10 years and 17 seasons on Dancing with the Stars.

“My hamstrings are messed up and I wanted to leave when I did,” Kym, who won two Mirrorball trophies in the U.S. and another on the Australian version of DWTS, tells Parade in this exclusive interview. “Dancing with the Stars has been amazing to me. I met my husband [Robert Herjavec] on the show. Thank you, Dancing with the Stars. And I’ve had my babies—they’re not babies anymore, they’re 5 now [twins Hudson and Haven].”

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So, when the time came to find a new direction, Kym managed to do it as gracefully as any of her dance performances with a move into acting—her current project is a starring role in Lifetime’s Hunting Housewives—and producing.

“It’s a nice little pivot that I’m doing,” she says. “I’ve been working with the production company that made this movie and we’re in development. We’re developing a couple of other movies and a children’s scripted series, which is my passion project. So, it’s nice to make a pivot in my career. I’ve been a dancer for so long that it’s challenging to start from the bottom and learn the ropes and make a change. But also, it’s great and I’m excited about it.”

While Kym was a little nervous when she was invited to join the cast of Hunting Housewives, she found a bit of comfort in the fact that she already knew two of her co-stars—Denise Richards and NeNe Leakes.

“This is my first big role that I’ve had so I was a little nervous going into it,” Kym admits. “But I know Denise and NeNe from Dancing with the Stars. I knew them really well, so that felt comfortable going into that with them. It was nice, since I was thrown into their world now, to have their support and watch them work and learn from them.”

Related: Here's a Look Back at Every Dancing with the Stars Winner, Including the 2023 Mirrorball Champ

Hunting Housewives is a bit of a satire on the Real Housewives franchise as it tells the story of four friends Karla Dodds (Richards), Rebel Carron-Whitman (Leakes), Joli Symons (Johnson-Herjavec) and Sharell Bouvier (Melyssa Ford) who head for a spa retreat weekend away from their husbands, children and busy schedules when the plane that they’re on crashes in a forest and they are forced to use their wits to survive —and whatever they had packed in their designer bags.

“Working on this particular movie, I really tried to react to how Denise or NeNe or Melyssa were playing it,” Kym says. “That was really fun. They’re so natural. I just tried to really be present and, in the moment, and work off them, which in dancing you do with your partner, but you’re very rehearsed in your steps and your choreography. I did know everybody’s lines back to front, that was the dancer coming out in me, but I had to throw that away when I got onto set and just be present and in the moment.”

Kym Johnson-Herjavec<p>Courtesy Rebecca Hitch Photography</p>
Kym Johnson-Herjavec

Courtesy Rebecca Hitch Photography

Following is more of our chat with Kym in which she talked about making the switch to acting, how she got into character for Hunting Housewives, returning to DWTS for the Len Goodman tribute and more.

I didn’t realize that you were an actress as well as a dancer. But I looked it up. This is not your first credit. What came first, your desire to be an actress or dancer?

Since I was 3, I was in dancing. I was working when I was 14. I used to play Penny in Inspector Gadget at the equivalent of Disneyland in Australia. I’ve always loved acting and dancing and being creative in that way. My dancing really took off and then obviously Dancing with the Stars came about. That was such a huge show and so great to be a part of. I think I put limits on myself a little bit. I think my dance teachers were like, “you’re a dancer.” Everyone had their box that they were in. I sort of didn’t really get to explore other things that I really wanted to.

Actually, before my husband and I moved to Canada four years ago, I did a little movie called Love Alaska. That was my first acting gig. I was lucky enough they took a chance on me in that little role, and I loved it. I got an acting coach since then. I’ve really enjoyed branching out doing different things creatively.

Haunting Housewives is a drama, but it’s actually a satire to me because it makes fun of the Housewives shows. Was that part of the appeal to you?

I loved the premise of it. It’s kind of ridiculous, but it is possible it could happen. It’s so funny, it’s like the ultimate girls’ trip goes terribly wrong. I like the relationship between the girls. It’s got girl power in it. It’s funny, it’s sad but it is a bit of a satire. I did Celebrity Survivor myself in Australia, so I’ve actually been out in the wild. I think that’s how I got this job. I think the casting director saw some footage of me on Survivor and I think they thought, “Yeah, that’s what we want.” I voted myself off the show, actually. I didn’t like it. I was channeling myself in a way being stuck out in the woods trying to survive for my life.

What drew me to it was, first of all, Denise being in it. I love her. I think she’s a great actress. I know her really well. Then, I just thought it was such a funny premise and I love the Housewives, as well, I love that franchise. I’m a fan of the show. I thought, “Yeah, I can live my life of being a real housewife.” I sort of channeled the Housewives and then myself being on Survivor.

Related: Kym Johnson Recalls Coaching Jerry Springer Through His Daughter’s Wedding Dance

What was it like on set? Did you have to rough it at all?

Well, we did have some night shoots stuck out in the woods around a fire. We were battling the elements of the bugs and stuff like that, but it was absolutely fine. We had more fun than anything. In between takes, us girls caught up and told stories and had fun. It was a really fun time, and I think you can see that chemistry with us. We all felt very natural. We were like, “Hopefully we can do a sequel and let’s make the next movie on a yacht or something, not in the woods.”

Melyssa Ford, Kym Johnson-Herjavec, Denise Richards<p>Courtesy: Lifetime</p>
Melyssa Ford, Kym Johnson-Herjavec, Denise Richards

Courtesy: Lifetime

Let’s talk a little bit about Joli. Is she anything like you? Of all the housewives that were in this, why her?

I think I’m a little like her in the fact that I don’t like being out in the woods, in the elements. I personally did a terrible job on Celebrity Survivor. I didn’t like it at all. So, I channeled my own experience from Survivor. But then I also was channeling the movie Beverly Hills Troops or a little Goldie Hawn in Overboard, that kind of princess vibe. And then the housewives, I was kind of imagining Luann [de Lesseps] and her funny sense of humor mixed in with a little bit of a Dorit [Kemsley]-type of vibe.

I think Joli’s a really fun role. She has quite a complex relationship with her husband. She’s really not very happy. She loves her friends. She’s a great girlfriend and I thought that the character was great. She is a bit of a princess, but there’s some substance to her and she wants more out of her life, which she’s discovering as she’s stuck out in the elements, which was nice to see.

One area where you’re totally different than Joli is you like your husband.

Exactly, yes. I am very different to Joli in that regard. She does not like her husband at all. I love my husband, I’m very lucky. He’s so supportive. He was so excited when I got home from set, like, “What happened?” He was loving it. It was really nice. We shot up north in Canada, which was great. We were actually staying at our lake house in Muskoka when we were filming it. We filmed it while we had some guests over. My friend Carson Kressley was staying with us and it was fun. I’d get home from set and they’d be like, “What happened?” It was really fun.

So, is there more acting in your future?

I’d love to. I really enjoyed throwing myself into this. Obviously, I’m a dancer, so I’m used to performing, I’m used to rehearsing. Acting’s very different to that because you have to know your lines and rehearse, but then they can change it just before, which they did.

Kym Johnson-Herjavec<p>Courtesy: Lifetime</p>
Kym Johnson-Herjavec

Courtesy: Lifetime

What other projects do you have in the works?

I’m also focusing on my cabaret show, as well, which I’m wanting to do. I’ve always loved cabaret and singing and performing, so I’m hoping to do that later in the year in Palm Springs. That’s been really, really fun to work on. It’s a bit of going back to my childhood and what led me from Australia to America and Dancing with the Stars with songs that I love, that I grew up with. It’s very old-school, though. I grew up on all the MGM movies and Judy Garland. It’ll be a very old school cabaret.

Related: Derek Hough and the DWTS Pros Share Their Feelings on Dancing in the Len Goodman Tribute

You did go back to Dancing, though, for the tribute to Len Goodman. What was it like to return for that, because you had been gone for a couple of years?

When they called me and said would you come back, of course, because of who it was for. We all love Len so much. It was so moving. The piece was just so beautiful. Len would have loved it. Being back there with the OGs was really special. We reminisced; we were having so much fun telling stories.

We were there from the beginning and this show’s evolved so much. We’re so proud of it and so grateful to have been a part of the show from the beginning. It was nice to be there and have that moment and be back in the ballroom because it’s such a special place. It’s like you’re going home. Once you’re a part of that family, you’re always a part of it. I think that’s what makes the show so special is that it is this family there and it’s a family show. It’s amazing. I loved it. But I did feel quite old compared to the other pros there, I was like, “Oh, my gosh. I feel like the golden dancer.”

What do you think about the new format with Alfonso Ribeiro and Julianne Hough, who have a really strong connection to the show?

I think it’s perfection. I feel like the show is back to where it was in its heyday. I think they are absolutely brilliant. I love Julianne, I love Alfonso, they’re both really good friends. As a fan watching from home now, it just feels right. The show’s incredible. It just keeps getting better and better, it’s unbelievable. Especially last season, I just loved last season. I thought it had that great feel to it.

Hunting Housewives premieres on Saturday, March 9 at 8 p.m. ET/PT on Lifetime.