Family Fun Takes Centre Stage on Come Dance With Me

Talented young dancers pull their clumsy moms and dads out on stage in a new competition series

Talented young dancers pull their clumsy moms and dads out on stage in a new competition series, produced by two NCIS stars

NCIS: Los Angeles co-stars LL Cool J and Chris O’Donnell have more than their long-running hit series in common: they’re both parents to daughters of the same age. “LL’s got four kids. I have five. His youngest and my oldest are the same age, so we were going through daddy-daughter dances at the same time,” says O’Donnell. “What would you not do for your little daughter? I mean, honestly. And getting out there on the dance floor has never been my complete comfort zone.”  Come Dance With MeGlobal

That sentiment now carries into their new reality battle Come Dance With Me, where near-professionally trained kid dancers pair up with their middle-aged, untrained parents to fight for a $100,000 grand prize. Sticking behind the scenes, the two actors serve as executive producers here. “Chris came to me and showed me this teaser, with this germ of an idea about kids that could really dance and them getting with family members,” recalls LL Cool J. “I immediately gravitated towards it. I thought it was an incredible idea. I probably did say, ‘That s*** looks hot.’ And it did.” 

Although a wrench in production schedules, the pandemic actually made their show appear like a stroke of genius. “The timing was amazing, because when COVID hit, all of a sudden TikTok hit and we found ourselves sheltering in place with our families, doing these little dance videos,” says O’Donnell. “Watching my oldest daughter teach her little brothers how to do dances and making bets on who could do it and who couldn’t do it, it just set up a show like this.”   

Come Dance With MeGlobalThe series is hosted by Grammy-winning songwriter Philip Lawrence, and judged by Step Up star Jenna Dewan, professional dancer Dexter Mayfield and hip-hop choreographer Tricia Miranda. For Dewan, this is her third foray into the world of reality dancing competitions. “In my wildest dreams did I see this happening,” the actress muses. “I relate so much to these shows, and especially Come Dance With Me, because I was this kid dancer. For me, to be a part of this is so huge because you get to perform with one of your parents, which is naturally a very bonding experience, and then you’re really highlighting dance in ways that we’ve never seen. It’s a dream come true.” Dewan also believes the show offers exactly what the world needs right now: “We need joy. We need uplift.”   

The expertly choreographed acts are given a yea or nay not by the audience, but solely by the three aforementioned judges—who found the job surprisingly difficult, despite their abundant expertise. “As a mother, you are watching these kids that are giving it their all on the stage, with their parents. So, there’s a protective feeling,” explains Dewan. “When we had to get to the judging and what we’re looking for, it was difficult at times. We are dancers. We have to keep it real. But our hearts are in it. You are on this journey with them. That was a fun and unique challenge.” Come Dance With MeGlobal

Adding to that challenge is that the 12 teams compete in all kinds of different genres—from ballroom to jazz to hip hop. But what they all have in common is a passion to perform and a desire to evolve. “The parents’ journey on this show is incredibly unique,” says Dewan. “We would be in awe of what they were accomplishing and how much growth we were seeing—not just in the emotional element, but the technical element. It really blew me away.”   

For the two exec producers, this competition stands out from others because of its familial relationships. “The chemistry of the judges, the style and class that Philip brings, and these families connecting on a true, authentic level—I think that gives us a real shot,” says LL Cool J. “I think that the love that those parents and those children share, that’s real. And people all over the world will be able to feel that love, and it will mirror the love that they have for their children.”   

Come Dance With MeGlobalFor O’Donnell in particular, the show has been an opportunity to paint outside the usual professional lines. “One thing I’ve learned in my career is that you’ve got to try things that scare you a little bit,” he says. “It’s amazing, watching this show, because here are these parents that want to do anything they can for their dance groups, but the last thing they want to do is get out and dance, so I love seeing all these people get out there, and out of their comfort zones.” And even if ballroom dancing is outside O’Donnell’s daily practices, his NCIS gig does force him to nail plenty of action choreography, giving the actor a sense of what the experience is like for the adults on the show. “I did bust up a Russian gang doing the foxtrot last episode,” he cracks. “It’s kind of similar.”

Come Dance With Me debuts Friday, April 15th at 8 p.m. on Global & CBS