'Legendary' Judges Talk Ballroom Competition: 'This Is Going to Be the Shadiest Season' (Exclusive)
By Stacy Lambe
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Legendary, HBO Max’s addictive ballroom competition, is back with a third season -- and returning judge Leiomy Maldonado tells ET’s Denny Directo, “This is going to be the shadiest season yet.” Shaking things up are a new judge, with Keke Palmer replacing Megan Thee Stallion, new rules and untested houses as the reality series moves from New York to Los Angeles.
Palmer joins Maldonado, Jameela Jamil and Law Roach as well as host MC Dashaun Wesley as they determine which house “did what needed to be done” in order to win the legendary grand prize of $100,000.
This time around, the panel isn’t playing around as they throw out some of the lowest scores seen so far and make the houses work for their “gag flag,” a judge’s ability to grant any group with immunity that week and a spot in the next ballroom.
Among the houses competing this year are Ada, Alain Mikli, Alpha Omega, Du'Mure Versailles, Juicy Couture, Lyght, Makaveli, Yamamoto and Revlon, the competition’s first international performers, as well as LaBeija, led by former RuPaul’s Drag Race contestant Aja LaBeija. And within those teams, there are a number of voguers making their ballroom debuts.
“When it comes to ballroom, there are so many different houses. But because of the show, now people are inspired to create their new houses,” Maldonado says. And as a result, “they want to get their time onstage.”
That said, “they know what they're looking for,” Wesley says of the panel, which is easily the toughest yet. “Fight is the energy of Legendary. Wait till you get into the guest judges that we have,” he adds of Issa Rae, Kelly Rowland, Leslie Jones, Dominique Jackson, Bob the Drag Queen and others.
Unfortunately for some, that means being on the receiving end of some harsh critiques, which don’t always land with the houses. “The contestants this season are not holding back when it comes to their criticism from the judges,” Palmer says, with Jamil revealing that “one contestant literally threatened Law.”
And as seen in the trailer, that performer calls out Roach’s biting commentary. “I don’t like miss thing,” they say, prompting the judge to take the stage in a shocking moment. Unfazed, Roach later tells ET, “That’s fine… Catch me outside.”
The houses aren’t the only ones being tested, with Palmer having to prove herself as a worthy replacement of the “Savage” rapper while the panel often finds itself at odds with each other over scoring various performances.
“I feel like for me, for my first experience, the category is fiery,” Palmer says. “Just me coming into the scene… there’s a lot of reading down. And there’s a lot of energy.”
“She had to prove that she was worthy of sitting in a Legendary chair,” Roach says, with Maldonado adding, “Keke has really done her thing.”
In the end, “She was a dark horse,” Jamil says. “I thought she was going to come on and just be sweet and soft. But she came back at you hard.”
Meanwhile, Jamil’s favorite thing about this season is not just the contestants, “but mostly all of the fighting between the judges,” she says, with Maldonado confirming that all the shade this season is “because of the judges.”
“We do our jobs,” Roach says, revealing that “there has been a few squabbles” among the panel. “We leave our chairs, but we also leave it in the chairs… And we still love each other.”
As Wesley sums it up: Legendary season 3 “is everything that you need it to be. So, I think the kids are definitely going to be entertained with all the reading that’s going to be thrown around.”
Legendary season 3 premieres Thursday, May 19 with three episodes, followed by three episodes a week until the finale on June 9.