KEY POINTS

  • Julianne Hough said she now has "more of a fire to focus on the things that need attention" in the wake of the pushback over "The Activist"
  • She was initially set to serve as a judge on the show alongside Usher and Priyanka Chopra Jonas
  • CBS repackaged the show as a documentary special after its reality competition format sparked backlash

Julianne Hough is opening up about "The Activist" and what she learned following the intense backlash the proposed reality program had received.

On Saturday, Hough spoke with People at the Environmental Media Association Awards at Gearbox LA in Van Nuys, California, where she weighed in on the reality show that CBS has now repackaged as a documentary after its format received massive criticism.

According to the "Dancing With the Stars" alum, who was poised to serve as a judge on the program, the backlash gave her "more of a fire to focus on the things that need attention."

"I think the greatest thing that I learned is to listen to what's happening, to gather information and to really try to learn," Hough told the outlet. "I think that's the greatest thing you can do is to just learn and to grow and to be open to different perspectives."

"The Activist" was originally designed to be a competition-based show like "X-Factor." It was set to pit six activists against each other in an effort to "bring meaningful change to one of three urgent universal causes: health, education and the environment," according to CBS.

Hough, Usher and Priyanka Chopra Jonas were set to judge on the show, which was supposed to measure contestants' success on social media engagement.

However, the show was met with criticism, with social media users labeling it "tone-deaf" and claiming the format distorts the true nature and mission of activists. Some even likened it to "Black Mirror" and "The Hunger Games" and claimed the judges were not qualified to assess activism.

CBS announced in September that the show would no longer follow the reality competition format but instead will be a documentary special. It will not premiere on Oct. 22 as originally scheduled.

Addressing the criticism toward the show and the judges' lineup, Hough told fans via Instagram at the time, "I do not claim to be an activist and wholeheartedly agree that the judging aspect of the show missed the mark and furthermore, that I am not qualified to act as a judge."

In her statement, Hough also once again apologized for dressing up in blackface at a Halloween party in 2013, when she showed up at a Beverly Hills bash as "Crazy Eyes," a character played by Uzo Aduba in "Orange Is the New Black."

Initially, CBS had hoped that "The Activist" would be an inspiring program that would show "the passion, long hours and ingenuity that activists put into changing the world." But following the backlash, network officials agreed that the competition format distracts from the incredible work of the activists. 

"The push for global change is not a competition and requires a global effort. As a result, we are changing the format to remove the competitive element and reimagining the concept into a primetime documentary special," CBS said in a statement obtained by The Guardian.

Julianne Hough Dancer/actress Julianne Hough attends Freestyle Releasing's world premiere of 'Bigger' at the Orleans Arena on September 13, 2018 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Photo: Getty Images/Ethan Miller