Credit: Craid Sjodin/ABC Photo: Nancy Grace and Dance Pro Tristan Macmanus

The upcoming season of Dancing With the Stars is not only bringing us one of the most interesting and colorful casts in years, but it’s also introducing America to some seriously talented new professionals.

Wetpaint Entertainment caught up with the hottest import from Ireland since Colin Farrell, Tristan MacManus, who has graduated from the dance troupe to the big leagues since being partnered with Nancy Grace for season 13.

When did you and Nancy start rehearsals?
We started last Wednesday, I flew out on the red eye from L.A. and we’re doing the rehearsals  in Atlanta until a few days before the show, and then Nancy is moving her family out to Los Angeles for the duration [of DWTS] and she is going to do her Headline News show from there.

It would be too hard for her to leave the kids and too grueling to fly back between the shows so this is the perfect balance.

For the time being, it’s nice to be in Atlanta for rehearsals because we can just concentrate on our selves.

Did you know anything about Nancy Grace before you were partnered with her?
I had no idea who she was! I’m from Ireland so I’m not familiar with the TV stars here so I wasn’t aware of her at all.

Everyone is new to me on the show, which is a good thing. There was no kind of preconceived notion of what they are going to be like, so I was able to meet her and see her for who she is.

I’ve seen her Headline News show a few times here in Atlanta, that’s Nancy in her element, she brings the focus to what she wants and brings the attention to the case. She’s very meticulous and thorough and she’s like that when she’s dancing.

She’s great to teach because she’s very respectful and very willing to learn. She’s not coming in with an ego at all.

She’s great, she can move and has learned the choreography, I’ve dumbed it down to the layman terms but she’s picked it up quickly. Nancy’s a funky chick when she wants to be. She’s definitely not boring! She has an open mind and everything I’m asking she is accomplishing.

How has it been teaching a celebrity for your first time competing on DWTS? Has it been going smoothly so far?
There has been no major hiccups so far! At the start I was introducing her to stuff but you can’t start on routines straight away because you don’t have the music. Then when that comes it kind of falls together, so we’re working on routines now.

At the moment Nancy rehearses five hours a day and fits in work and looking after the kids around it. She’s a working mother and a professional dancer, and a TV star at the same time.

What do you think will be Nancy's biggest disadvantage this season? And her biggest advantage?
A lot of people haven’t seen the Nancy I've seen, they have made their opinion of her from the Headline News show, which is either good or bad. They cover very serious topics on it and viewers see her cutting people off, and you can’t do it with a smile and a laugh. But she is a very nice person, and she gets to be herself and viewers get to see that on Dancing With the Stars.
I think that gives her an advantage over contestants like Ricki Lake, who is a lovely girl, but exactly what you see is what you get – she’s the exact same on her show as she is in real life.
Nancy comes across as certain kind of person on TV but she’s nothing like that so there’ll be a lot for viewers to learn about her.

The disadvantage is that people think she’s harsh and serious from the show, so when she gets to the stage where she’s really concentrating then people might take that as being cold and stern.

She also puts herself down and thinks she’s not the youngest or prettiest, and that gets into her head. But it’s not a popularity contest, it’s about showing that you’re working hard and showing your personality off. It doesn’t matter how old you are or pretty you are.

Which pair is going to be the biggest competition for you and Nancy this season?
You just don’t know until you see them dancing because everyone is so diverse and they all bring something different to the table. Everyone is going to be competitive for different reasons. Who knows what’s going to happen!

Don’t miss the second half of our interview with Tristan on Monday, September 12.