Jennifer Grey’s “Dancing with the Stars” debut may have stirred up a wealth of emotions in the “Dirty Dancing” actress – but she wasn’t the only one moved on Monday night.
Patrick Swayze’s widow, Lisa Niemi, tuned in as Jennifer and partner Derek Hough performed to “These Arms of Mine” – a song that Jennifer and Patrick danced to in “Dirty Dancing” – and the feelings tied to the performance caught Lisa off guard.
“What they showed of Jennifer in rehearsals, I was not quite expecting so much connection to Patrick,” Lisa told Billy Bush and Kit Hoover during an exclusive interview on Tuesday morning’s Access Hollywood Live. “And, of course, it makes total sense. It was a little tough, but how could [Jennifer] not remember working with him?”
Prior to Jennifer and Derek’s dance, they showed footage from inside the duo’s rehearsal sessions, where Jennifer broke down when she thought of her late co-star.
“I was an emotional milkshake,” Jennifer told Access Hollywood’s Shaun Robinson after the show. “It never even occurred to me that that would happen. I was stunned by my reaction. Because it just made me feel that it’s all so fleeting. One minute you’re young filming a movie in Virginia, and the next thing you know, you’re 50 and your partner is gone and how’d this happen? That’s just it. We’re just here for a minute.”
The raw emotion translated into dance floor magic, as the pair’s Viennese waltz scored a 24 out of 30 – the highest mark of the night.
For both Jennifer and Lisa, the pair’s ballroom success was a bittersweet moment.
“It can’t help remind you — remind me — of how much I miss him,” Lisa revealed. “But when it came to the actual dance, I was with her. I thought that dancing to ‘These Arms of Mine,’ she did every bit as good a job as I thought she would and then some. Jennifer is a natural talent and she brought this kind of special sensuality. She’s such a great actress… And then with ‘These Arms of Mine’ playing, it just added that extra magic and I was just super thrilled.”
After the show, Jennifer talked about the similarities between Patrick and Derek and what it was like working with both men.
“An enormous amount of similarities,” she told Shaun. “I have a very similar feeling that I had then with what I have with [Derek]. Both incredibly wonderful men. Really kind, really protective, really loving guys. It’s a very special energy.”
As for Lisa, she hopes that the comparisons don’t add any extra pressure on the “Dancing” pro.
“When I was thinking about Jennifer going on the show, I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, I hope it doesn’t cause any additional pressure for her partner,’” Lisa told Billy and Kit. “But I thought it was all about the dancing and the magic of the moment instead of putting [Derek] under the gun and saying, ‘Is he as good as Patrick or not?’ I don’t think that was an issue at all. I thought they were beautiful together.”