Maks: 'Dancing With the Stars' asked me to come back as a judge

Image: Maksim Chmerkovskiy Getty Images file
Maks is back! But he almost had a different role on the dancing competition this season.

Could there have been a new judge on "Dancing With the Stars" this season? Seems like it was almost a reality. 

Maksim Chmerkovskiy, who's back after a two-season hiatus, told TODAY that he almost returned to the show this year not as a pro dancer, but as a member of the panel.

“I had that option,” he said of his season 18 role. “I can’t reveal a lot, but I was offered a judge's position on the show. This was my decision (to return as a pro).”

If Chmerkovskiy had accepted that gig, it would've been the first time "Dancing With the Stars" had anyone other than Carrie Ann Inaba, Len Goodman and Bruno Tonolio as a regular face on the panel. The three have been waving their score paddles since day one of the show. 

The bad boy of the ballroom is qualified for the judging gig, though. In addition to coaching many of the show's celebrity hoofers, he had a memorable stint as a guest judge in the semifinals last season. He gave honest critiques and heartfelt compliments, didn’t hesitate to score differently from the other judges and bantered well with the trio despite having had heated disagreements with each of them in the past.

(Though an invite for Chmerkovskiy to sit at the judges' table might indicate a change for the panel this season, a source close to the show said all three original judges will be back this season. ABC did not comment.)

So why did Chmerkovskiy decide to sign up for another grueling pursuit of the coveted mirror-ball trophy instead? After all, despite making it to the final three four times in his 13 seasons, he's never won.

“There was a moment when I asked myself, ‘Why? Why? Why? You’ve done enough! Another 10 weeks of routines and stress and pressure?’” he said.

Turns out his assigned partner for the new season played a big factor in his decision. The pro is teamed with Meryl Davis, who won gold in ice dancing at the Sochi Olympics, and the pairing may up Chermkovskiy's chances for glory. Competing with an ice skater as a partner certainly helped pro Mark Ballas in season six, who went on to claim ballroom gold with figure skater Kristi Yamaguchi.

“I got (Meryl Davis) and said, ‘OK! That’s why!’ We’ll see what happens," Chmerkovskiy explained. “I’m very grateful to the show."

And on the subject of being grateful, Chmerkovskiy said he's quoting a very recent Oscar winner on the subject: “As Matthew McConaughey — who’s now my new favorite person — says, ‘Gratitude gets reciprocated.'"

  • Slideshow Photos

    'Dancing With the Stars' season 18 cast

    The show goes retro this season with contestants including Danica McKellar, Billy Dee Williams and Candace Cameron Bure.

  • 'Dancing With the Stars' season 18 cast

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    Sean Avery -

    Sean Avery played professional hockey for teams including the New York Rangers and Los Angeles Kings. He retired from the sport in 2012. His partner is Karina Smirnoff.

    Ilya S. Savenok / Getty Images
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    Candace Cameron Bure -

    Candace Cameron Bure starred as DJ Tanner on sitcom "Full House." She's paired with pro Mark Ballas.

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    Drew Carey -

    Drew Carey is an actor and host of "The Price Is Right." He's partnered with Cheryl Burke.

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    Meryl Davis, Charlie White -

    Olympic ice dancing pair Charlie White and Meryl Davis won gold at the Sochi Games. Charlie's partner is Sharna Burgess, and Meryl's is Maksim Chmerkovskiy.

    Michael Kovac / Getty Images Contributor
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    NeNe Leakes -

    NeNe Leakes is a TV personality who has starred on "Real Housewives of Atlanta," "Apprentice," "Glee," "The New Normal" and more. She's partnered with Tony Dovolani.

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    James Maslow -

    James Maslow stars on Nickelodeon's "Big Time Rush," and is also in a boy band of the same name. He's partnered with Peta Murgatroyd.

    Michael Buckner
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    Danica McKellar -

    Danica McKellar played Winnie Cooper on "The Wonder Years." She's partnered with Valentin Chmerkovskiy.

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  • 'Dancing With the Stars' season 18 cast

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    Diana Nyad -

    Diana Nyad, 64, successfully swam from Cuba to Florida without a shark cage in 2013. She's partnered with Henry Byalikov.

    John M. Heller / Getty Images Contributor
  • 'Dancing With the Stars' season 18 cast

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    Amy Purdy -

    Amy Purdy, a member of the US Paralympic Snowboard Team and co-founder of Adaptive Action Sports, has two prosthetic legs. Her pro partner is Derek Hough.

    Doug Pensinger / Getty Images
  • 'Dancing With the Stars' season 18 cast

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    Cody Simpson -

    Cody Simpson is a 17-year-old pop singer from Australia. His partner is Whitney Carson.

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  • 'Dancing With the Stars' season 18 cast

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    Billy Dee Williams -

    Actor Billy Dee Williams played Lando Calrissian in the "Star Wars" movies and has also voiced the same character for other "Star Wars" projects. He's partnered with Emma Slater.

    Angela Weiss / Getty Images

"Dancing With the Stars" kicks off season 18 on March 17 at 8 p.m. on ABC.

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