Even if you were a fan of spiky-haired Travis Wall, you have to give props to toothy, hip-swiveling Benji Schwimmer, who took home the So You Think You Can Dance title last night. After not much sleep and brushes with a crazed fan or two, Benji called EW from his hotel room in New York City to tell us about dancing sexy with his cousin Heidi, playing Fred Astaire, and why he might not be claiming that Celine Dion contract prize.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Benji, have you slept yet since you won?
BENJI SCHWIMMER: I’m a little tired. I didn’t sleep too much. I was on the plane as soon as I finished the show. Then our plane got delayed. I kept waking up and going in and out of sleep and having recurring dreams about not winning the show. I’m here in my hotel room thinking about what just happened to me.
Did people recognize you at the airport?
It hadn’t aired on the West Coast yet, so people came up to me and kept asking what was going on: ”Did you win? What happened?” And I’d say, ”You just have to watch.” They were like, ”Ohhh, you lost. That sucks. You’re going home.” Finally it aired, and some people in the airport bar were watching, and they saw me and were doing double takes, like, why is he here right now? It wasn’t until I got off the plane this morning that this lady jumped on top of me and was like, ”I voted for you!” It was hysterical.
Dancers don’t normally get that kind of star treatment. It’s usually the singers and actors that have the rabid fans.
They should. Dance is the most underappreciated art form there is. We work just as hard as everyone else does. We have to be on point. Also there’s the physical aspect and the athleticism. If you think about it, we’re putting up so much more effort than other artists. When we get injured, we go to the hospital. When a singer gets injured, they take a throat lozenge.
Was it strange to be competing against your cousin Heidi?
Never once did Heidi and I feel like we were competing against each other. She’s the girl version of me, and I’m the guy version of her.
Yeah, your family clearly does not have anything tying your hips to your bodies. How do you two move like that?
I was born half shark, Pure cartilage. I just wiggle around.
You and Heidi did some sexy moves together. Was that creepy and strange?
There’s only one time we did that. During the time in the dance it gets hot and sultry, when Heidi and I would practice, we would just laugh hysterically, because obviously it was something we weren’t feeling. People ask us, ”Are you guys a couple?” I’m like, ”We’re cousins, for crying out loud!” When you’re in the moment, though, you’re just worrying about the dance and the technique.
How cute was your Dad with his LED sign in the audience? And what on earth did it say?
Yeah, it changed every week. I think this week it was ”It’s all about the Benji-man.” My Dad’s awesome. Both my parents got that paternal and maternal pride when their child was up on stage. It was just awesome having them there.
When they showed flashbacks of auditions, I was surprised how emotional you got every time you advanced. Did you really not think you were good enough?
I didn’t at all. I’ve never auditioned for anything in my life. I really did come as the underdog. I never expected to win this show. I was the alternate — first boy alternate. Then when someone had to back out, I was in. I wasn’t expecting to make the show. I used to watch the show like a fanatic. I downloaded all the dances on my computer. I became almost obsessed with the show. My friends were like, ”Yeah, we know Blake’s an awesome soloist.” ”Yeah, we know Nick’s a great dancer.” ”Yeah we know Melanie’s hot.” It got to the point I was almost a maniac about it. It would be like if I was stalking Britney Spears and all of a sudden she turned around and married me.
NEXT: Playing Fred Astaire or backing Celine Dion