Julianne Hough said the backlash over The Activist served as a teachable moment for her.
“I think the greatest thing that I learned is to listen to what’s happening, to gather information and to really try to learn,” the actress and pro dancer told People magazine. “I think that’s the greatest thing you can do is to just learn and to grow and to be open to different perspectives.”
She added that the controversy has given her “more of a fire to focus on the things that need attention.”
The Dancing With the Stars alum, 33, was announced as a host, judge and producer on the greenlighted CBS/Global Citizen competition series, which was supposed to see six inspiring activists go head-to-head promoting their causes. The success of the contestants was to partially be based on online engagement and “social metrics.” Hough was to share judging duties with Priyanka Chopra and Usher.
However, after the Sept. 10 announcement, there was immediate backlash over the concept of pitting activists against each other for the five-episode series. And the hosts were slammed as unqualified because they’re celebrities, not activists themselves. By Sept. 14, Hough dropped out as judge, admitting she was “not qualified” for the job. It was very messy and she again expressed regret over wearing blackface as part of a 2013 Halloween costume as the photos were resurfaced.
At the time, Chopra also spoke out, admitting, “the show got it wrong,” and producers announced they’d dramatically reformat the show which was to premiere Oct. 22. The competitive element was removed, and it’s being revamped as a one-time documentary special showing the tireless work of six activists and the impact they’ve had advocating for causes they believe in. Filming was expected to begin from scratch with the air date still to be announced.
Hough told People in her new interview that she reached out to unidentified activists amid the controversy to hear the criticism directly. She called it a “time of learning.”
“I reached out to so many people who offered their knowledge and their perspective in a way that was inviting and welcoming versus being judgmental,” she said. “That was kindness at its finest and it really showed that humans really do want to unify and help each other and that touched my heart.”
She added that she had good intention with the show, but is aware that vision just wasn’t carried out.
“Intention is one thing and execution is another, so hopefully we kind find the middle ground of both,” she added.