Kate Ward
December 10, 2009 AT 06:04 PM EST

The judges loved her. Tweens adored her. But after her best performance night of the season, our perky jazz dancer failed to collect enough votes to move onto the finale and was eliminated before a dancer who didn’t even dance(!) Tuesday night. So how does she feel about it all? Below, Mollee talks to EW about battling critiques about immaturity, meeting her role model, and how it feels to go home before Ashleigh.

ENTERTAINMENT WEKLY: Are you feeling bummed after last night?

MOLLEE GRAY: You know, actually, I was really bummed last night. I think anybody would be after being voted off their dream. But this morning, I woke up okay. We’re going to start rehearsal soon for the finale, so it’s like I didn’t even have to leave. We’re performing in the finale, so I don’t know. It’s like I got kicked out of the competition, but not performing-wise.

Are you surprised that you went home?

Actually, I’m not at all. I thought I was going to get voted off in the top 10. I packed my bags and was ready to go. One of the main guys [backstage] tells us, “Never expect the expected.” So we always go into that results show just clueless to who’s going to be gone. And I think that’s the best way, so no one gets cocky, no one gets depressed. Everyone is a little nervous, but the same.

You really had your best night on Tuesday. Are you happy you went out with a bang, or are you a bit peeved that America didn’t seem to respond to your Tuesday night success?

I’m very grateful I went out with a bang. I was finally glad that I was able to show my abilities to dance, because I danced a lot of things not in my genre. So when I started to get lyrical jazz or Broadway, it showed off my technique. So I was proud to show America a little bit of who I am before I left.

Are you just the teensiest bit upset that you went home when Ashleigh didn’t dance at all?

No. I wasn’t upset at all because we were prepared in advance. We knew what was going to happen — that she couldn’t dance but people could vote for her. We had a meeting about it, and if we had anything against it, we had to say something. But all of us thought it was fair, because when other people are injured, they get to get to the next week. So we felt that it was perfect that she wasn’t able to dance, but people were still able to vote for her from what they’ve seen on previous episodes. And I feel like she excelled this whole season, because no one expected her to do as well as she did. I’m very proud of her, and the whole top 6.

Speaking of injuries, in Vegas, you had an injury that made everyone wonder whether you would land a spot in the top 20. Were you afraid the injury would keep you down?

Yes. When I got injured in Vegas, I was so nervous, because I was like, oh great. They’re not going to let me into the top 20. Because it was actually really bad. But, you know, I told them it didn’t hurt, and I danced on it, and I made it.

And you were injured during the season, too.

Yeah. I rolled my ankle again during can-can. And so, it was huge and swollen. But I still kept going.

You guys all seem to work through plenty of injuries.

Oh yes. Everybody does.

At first, you and Nathan seemed like a dream team. Were you happy to get paired with him?

Yeah. I was actually not surprised at all. We were both the youngest, and we kind of went perfectly together because of our personalities, our age, our energy. So it was kind of cool to be labeled the dream team at first, and then we went all the way to the top 10. It’s been one of the most amazing experiences. And if I didn’t have Nathan at the beginning of this, I wouldn’t have done as well as I have this whole season.

But last night, Adam seemed to imply that Nathan brought you down early in the competition. I’m guessing you don’t agree with that?

No. I think in any partnership, it’s 50-50. I don’t feel like I can bring Nathan down, and I don’t think he could bring me down. We were both competing and rising to our full potential, and we were trying to do the very best we could. And I know neither of us would want to bring each other down. And we rehearsed continually. Because we got some hard numbers. We got disco our very first episode. And neither of us had partnered before, I hadn’t really danced in heels. So we tried the hardest we could. I don’t think he brought me down at all.

Was that the most difficult thing about the pairing? That you two did have such similar dancing styles, and couldn’t really teach each other certain styles like ballroom?

Yeah, that was hard. Because him being a contemporary dancer, and I was a jazz and contemporary dancer, it was difficult because we kept getting all the weird original styles. We got Bollywood, we got disco, we got salsa—we got all these different random ones. So when we’d go to rehearsal, we had to videotape it, and them come home and watch it to make sure we were doing it right.

So you guys did a lot of research.

Oh yeah.

The judges seemed to often critique you and Nathan on your immaturity. Did you think that was a problem with your dancing, or were you surprised to find that people didn’t think you danced like a woman?

No. I knew it was coming, because we were the youngest in the group. But I don’t feel that we danced immature together. Maybe comments both of us said, or packages that aired before, made us come off as annoying or immature. But that was our personality. I don’t think we wanted to change because America would think we were annoying or something. So I definitely think our dancing was mature, and maybe our actions might have been a little more immature.

Were you upset with the editing of the packages?

Oh, no. I loved the editing. Every package was exactly who I am. Usually, the producer would just ask me one question and let me talk, and I would randomly say funny things or stupid things. That’s when you get the best stuff. And I’m very happy with all the packages, because it showed my personality perfectly.

So you’re really that perky all the time?

Oh yeah. That’s me. I’ve always been just fun and upbeat, because my family is the total opposite, actually. Except for my three-year-old brother, who is kind of loud. My dad’s side of the family and my mom’s side of the family are all very quiet, and they’re all very shy. So it was so strange for me how I’m really loud and outgoing and want to talk to everyone.

Be honest: Were you a little skeeved out when Nigel talked to you about your underwear after the can-can routine?

That was actually really funny! I don’t think he was making a perverted comment or anything. With the can-can, he was just stating a fact about it. [That some women didn’t wear underwear while performing the can-can.] So just to make things funny and not awkward, I was like, “Well, I’m wearing my underwear today.” It was true. The can-can was very scandalous. We got told that prior when we were learning it. Tyce told us the history of it. So we already knew. It was a shock to America I think.

Did you have a favorite dance this season?

Yes, my favorite dance was my Viennese waltz that I just performed. It was — ugh — it was the most magical experience I think I ever had on this show, and that I ever had in a dance experience.

Did you have a favorite choreographer?

Let’s see. I really, really, really loved Joey Dowling. She had been my role model since I was a little girl.

That must have been cool to meet her then.

Oh. My. Gosh. It was amazing. Because I’ve seen her dance, and her legs and flexibility are insane. From what I knew, she was a really nice person. So working with your role model on a huge TV show was the most memorable experience I think I could ever have in my life.

We know you danced in High School Musical. Are you hoping to do more dancing on film? Or are you going to move past that?

I’m actually just hoping to work. Whether it be dancing in a film, or being a lead actress or a singer. I do all three, so I’m hoping that being on the show will expand my horizons and give me the exposure I need to be able to act in big films. I’m hoping people will see all three of my capabilities.

Is there anyone you hope wins the whole thing this season?

Holy cow, I can’t even pinpoint one. They’re all so amazing. Every single person is brilliant at their own style, whether it be contemporary or hip-hop or ballroom. Everybody is so — ugh! I can’t even pinpoint one because I think they all deserve to win.

So you must be looking forward to going on tour.

Oh my gosh, tour is going to be the most amazing thing in my life! Think about it: You’re dancing. You’re performing. That’s what all of us love to do. And you’re with all your best friends, just traveling the United States performing.

So you’ll keep in touch with everyone after it’s all over.

Oh, of course!

Photo Credit: Joe Viles/Fox

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