Melora Hardin Looks Back On Her “Dancing With The Stars” Journey

 MELORA HARDINPhoto Credit: ABC/Maarten de Boer

Melora Hardin may no longer be competing on Dancing with the Stars — she and partner Artem Chigvintsev placed sixth on the ABC series’ 30th season — but she DID go out with grace. Here, the 54-year-old actress best known for her portrayal of Jan Levinson, Steve Carell’s former boss and love interest on the critically acclaimed NBC seriesThe Office and her Emmy-nominated role on Amazon’s Golden Globe-winning comedy Transparent; Freeform’s series The Bold Type; and the ABC series A Million Little Things shares the bumps and beauty of her DWTS journey with Haute Living. 

Melora Hardin and Artem Chigvintsev

Photo Credit: ABC/Christopher Willard

You absolutely killed it on the latest season of Dancing With The Stars. What was your favorite moment?

There are so many favorite moments because there are so many small victories along the way. I loved dancing the Paso Doble because I was feeling so free in the dance that night. It felt like I had arrived at a place that was not full of nerves and self-imposed expectations. Being at the top of the leader board and getting perfect scores that night was fun too!

What has it been like working with your partner, Artem Chigvintsev, who won season 29? Did you have high expectations of winning it going in?

Artem has been a wonderful partner in every way. I didn’t have any expectations of winning, but I knew I would be all in, all the way, and that Artem was the type that would be all in with me. So, it was an excellent pairing. I always give whatever I’m committed to my all and so my eye was always on the prize, but I really got so much out of it even without winning the mirror ball trophy.

Who was your stiffest competition?

Definitely myself! I had to get out of my own way a lot and learn to just do it for the joy of dancing and not be so hard on myself and that was definitely a wonderful part of this process.

How did you prepare? Did you start new workouts/diet/etc/cryo/etc?

I have always been consistent with my workouts three times a week and dance classes here and there when I can fit them into my schedule, so I didn’t really amp up my workouts. I was aware that I wanted to lose a few pounds, but knew that once I was dancing for a few hours every day that would happen and it did! I also made sure that I saw my chiropractor every week and I got a massage about once every week and a half. Being in touch with my body and keeping it healthy and well has served me well. I didn’t get any injuries that were of any significance and feel super strong and capable in my body, so that was the awesome news and I feel very proud of myself for always prioritizing my health and well-being all my life and never really letting go of that since I was very young.

Melora Hardin and Artem Chigvintsev

Photo Credit: ABC/Christopher Willard

You’ve played some iconic roles (on some iconic shows!) over the years, from Jan Levinson on The Office and Tammy Cashman on Transparent to Jacqueline Carlyle on The Bold Type. Which character do you:

A) Identify with the most? I guess Jacqueline is the character I identify with the most because she is a strong woman who has many balls in the air and does her best to keep a balanced lifestyle.
B) Has been your favorite to play? I actually fall in love with all my characters. Especially the ones that I get to play for a long period of time. You get such an intimate relationship with your characters that they become friends.
C) Wish you had never agreed to do? The only reason I would ever “wish I had never agreed to” play a character is if the working conditions are bad or if the people I’m working with are not pleasant. So far, I’ve been very lucky and have had some wonderful working experiences with wonderful people so I really cannot think of any character that I wish I’d never agreed to play.

Along with directing a feature and an episode of The Bold Type, you recently directed a documentary series Thunder, Hunter & Me. Give us an overview of the project.

Thunder, Hunter & Me is a four-part documentary series that I directed and I’m also in, that explores what it actually takes to heal trauma. In 1977 I played Cindy Prescott on an NBC Saturday morning show for kids, called Thunder. Hunter Austin, who had been raped at 7 by a stranger in a park bathroom, found her only solace and connection as a little girl through “Thunder” and wished that I (Cindy/Melora) would come through the TV screen and help her. Hunter & I serendipitously met 4 decades later and formed a beautiful friendship that, initially, centered around helping Hunter find her voice, her womanhood, and how to break free from the violent sexual trauma that kept her suffering in silence for so long. Hunter’s courage and willingness to be so raw and honest in front of the camera challenged me to be vulnerable as well, and we created a deep sisterhood which becomes a beacon of light to dissolve Hunter’s shame and hopefully serve as an inspiration for others to do their own healing.

What do you hope audiences will learn from it?

Thunder, Hunter & Me is an invitation for others to do their own healing and the series is incredibly intimate because it is mostly self-shot, so you feel like you are looking through a keyhole into our, unique, way of going into the dark to find the light. I hope people will be inspired to shine light on the shame in their own lives and find their, unique way, to go about healing or helping someone in their lives who could use their guiding hand.

MELORA HARDINPhoto Credit: ABC/Maarten de Boer

With the holidays rounding the corner, do you have any fun/unique holiday traditions in your household? Or how have your holiday traditions changed over the course of the pandemic?

My parents have been throwing a Christmas Eve party for their friends for over 40 years that revolves around renaissance traditions. I grew up with this party and it has become part of my family tradition as well. Now that my parents are older, my husband and I throw a Xmas party every year that incorporates some of my parents’ party traditions as well as some new traditions that we have picked up along the way. We always sing carols and have lots of food and holiday drinks called “Wasil” as well as “Gin Fizz.”

What has the pandemic taught you?

During the pandemic, my husband, Gildart Jackson, and I realized that there are a lot of people who could be lonely and, so, as a gift, he started doing something called Fireside Reading where every day, for free, he reads classic books live at 5PT on Instagram @fieresidereading in front of the fire. Past books are also up on YouTube channel ‘Fireside Reading’. It began as a way to keep people company with the simple pleasure of being read to and I guess what the pandemic taught us is that by doing something genuinely to help others, amazing things can happen. Now I am directing several Fireside Readings of some of the great classic books. We have just released our first Fireside Reading of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz with Dreamscape Media LLC. There are 15 more books on the way to market by the end of 2022. Check it all out at

Was the art of ‘living again’ the impetus to do DWTS?

No, the impetus to do DWTS was that I love to dance and that I was free and my schedule finally allowed for it for the first time, even though they’d been trying to get me to do it for years.

What to you is the greatest luxury in life and why?

I love the simple pleasure of good food. If it is not abused or overused, food is just a delightful human experience, our sense of taste and smell and the experience of sharing a meal with family and friends is one of my favorite and greatest luxuries in life.