‘DWTS’: Secrets of the New Cast

Some of the cast of 'DWTS' Season 14 (Photo: ABC)

Right after the new “Dancing with the Starscast was announced on “Good Morning America,” the celebrities and their pro partners revealed their hopes and fears about Season 14 to xfinityTV. After last season’s “DWTS” drama — which included the emotional win of war hero/actor J.R. Martinez and controversial behavior by dancer Maksim Chmerkovskiy— we can’t wait to see what the new dancing couples do when the ABC show returns on March 19!

Here’s xfinityTV’s exclusive interviews with the new “DWTS” cast:

Melissa Gilbert: The former “Little House on the Prairie” actress, who wore long country dresses as a child on her classic TV series, now will be a sexy sequined dancing star. “I’ve talked with the show about doing it before. I was either working or the timing was off. Then I was really injured for awhile and now I’ve come back from the injury. They called and I thought, I’m ready. Let’s do it.” Melissa broke her back while doing “Little House on the Prairie, The Musical” and had surgery to correct it a year and a half ago. Now she’s ready to hit the dance floor! “I had a full [medical] workup and my spine is fine. So I’m not really worried about it.” Now divorced from actor Bruce Boxleitner, Melissa is already extremely slim and doesn’t want to lose too much weight on the show. “I’m very concerned about it, actually, because I don’t want to lose muscle mass and I can’t be underweight, I need my strength so I’m actually going to start increasing my caloric intake.” The actress said she’ll have a big rooting section and to look for her remaining “Little House” costars in the “DWTS” audience. Melissa’s partner Maks Chmerkovskiy raised eyebrows last season by calling “DWTS” “my show” and appearing to display unnecessary roughness with soccer player Hope Solo during rehearsals. But Maks insisted to xfinityTV on Tuesday, “Hope and I had a phenomenal season. We were fun. We’re still very close. I’m making plans to go see her during the Olympics in the summer.”

Watch the “DWTS” Cast Reveal Here:

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Sherri Shepherd:The View” co-host has become a hot topic of her own by joining “DWTS.” “This is absolutely a dream come true,” she said. “I’ve wanted to do this show since the first season since I saw Kelly Monaco have her little boob incident, it came out of her dress. And I said, ‘Wow. That could be me one day!’ I love the show. Really, truly, I’ve always wanted to dance.” Sherri, who is teamed with Maks’ brother, Val Chmerkovskiy, isn’t looking to lose weight as much as to get fit. “I’m trying to get healthy. My mom passed away at 41 from diabetes and I’m a diabetic, type 2, and I have a six-year-old son and I want to be healthy for my baby.” Sherri, who has appeared on “30 Rock,” said she’ll bring her strong personality to the show. “My weakness is that choreography terrifies me.” Being sexy on the dance floor will also be a challenge, she admitted: “I’m just used to making people laugh but I know I can do it. I love the outfits and it helps when you have a really hot partner. I’m committed and I want to win.”

Watch Full Episodes of “The View” Here on xfinityTV.com

Martina Navratilova: The athlete has gone from the tennis court to the “DWTS” ballroom. “I just was ready for a new challenge. I’ve been conquering all my fears [lately]. In years past, I was afraid of flying so I got a pilot’s license. I was afraid of drowning, so I got a scuba diving license, and I was terrified of dancing in front of other people, so here I am. I figured, as a health and fitness ambassador for AARP, I’m trying to challenge people to do new things and I have to face my fears and challenges myself.” Martina, whose partner is Tony Dovolani, will first dance the foxtrot. The tennis player, who beat breast cancer, has a clean bill of health. Tony said she has a great chance of doing well on “DWTS,” “She’s an athlete. She understands how hard she has to work. For me, it’s refreshing. It’s my thirteenth season and I finally got an athlete. Now I get to show what I can do with somebody that actually wants to do this.” Martina insisted she’ll be fine with the “DWTS” makeover. “You tell a story and the outfit is part of the story, so whatever it takes — the hair and the glitter and the eyelashes. I draw the line at the fake nails, though. I’m not going to do that.”

Maria Menounos: The beautiful “Extra” host, who is teamed with Derek Hough, told xfinityTV she wanted to be on “DWTS” because “I love challenging myself and I spent the last two years putting myself in the most uncomfortable positions and seeing, sink or swim, how I could do. I never got to take a dance class growing up. I never had a recital. So now I’m living that all out as an adult.” Maria, who deems herself “not real girly,” hopes to learn to look like a ballroom princess under the care of three-time “DWTS” champ Derek. He said, “Her words exactly were she’s a tomboy with girly parts. We’ll be reprogramming that to be feminine. I feel really good after our first rehearsal. She’s very prepared and organized and a super hard worker, so for me, that’s all you really need — that sort of dedication — and the rest is up to me.” “DWTS” celebrities have been injured in past seasons of the show, and Maria admitted, “I was actually scared I wouldn’t be strong enough to do it. It’s not like I work out all the time. I’m an active person but I have really weak hamstrings. I’ve been in line at CVS before and I’ve pulled a hamstring — it was just the way I was bending, so you never know. But I’m a fighter!”

Roshon Fegan: The star of the Disney Channel series “Shake It Up” said joining “DWTS” was a no-brainer–producers asked him “so I’m here! It just happened.” His partnership with Chelsie Hightower is fresh, as they just met the day before Tuesday’s cast announcement. “I’ve freestyle danced a little bit [but] foxtrot and salsa and all that? I don’t do it, so we’re going to see,” he said. Chelsie, who is dubbing their partnership “the Ro and Cho show,” expects the young musician/actor to do well because “he has a really good attitude. He wants to be here and he wants to do well, but he’s not taking it too seriously, he wants to have fun still, which is important.”

Gavin DeGraw: The Chariot singer, who was hospitalized last summer after being assaulted on a New York street, admitted that pre-existing injuries could make dancing a challenge: “I have recovered from that [but] I had injuries before that, just from lifestyle, contact sports growing up. I had a pinched nerve last year that really created a lot of problems for me so I have quite a bit of atrophy in my left side, and even when that stuff happened to me in New York, I was already half a man. I think this show is really going to be a wonderful workout regimen for me.” Gavin said his partner Karina Smirnoff, who took the mirror ball trophy last season with J.R. Martinez, suggested he do “DWTS” after they met at a party. “Karina reached out to me. On top of that, I always had this weird fantasy and curiosity about dancing because my great grandfather was a dance instructor in the Catskills back in the “Dirty Dancing” days, like Patrick Swayze in the movie. So I would hear these legendary stories about him in that way but nobody ever showed me a step. The closest thing I ever got to dance lessons was helping to park cars at a nightclub as a teenager.”

Jack Wagner: The longtime soap opera hunk who has starred on “General Hospital” and “Melrose Place” told xfinityTV his casting on “DWTS” was a long time coming: “They came to me in Season 1, actually, and my schedule wouldn’t permit it and quite a few other times when I was working, so it just opened up at the right time.” Jack said, “I love dance. I’ve always liked Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly. I’ve been around it for years in musical theater and now I actually get to be taught by an amazing dancer.” And that would be Anna Trebunskaya, who said of Jack, “I think he has a lot of strengths. He’s an actor, a musician, he has that whole performance side.” Also, the star said he has “zero” fear about DWTS’s physical challenges. “I’m kind of a gym rat. I’ve played sports my whole life but never really got any bad injuries. I come into this really positive physically.” He also thinks his longtime experience playing golf will come in handy. “Golf takes an incredible amount of discipline and practice, just like dance.”

Watch Full Episodes of “Melrose Place” Now on xfinityTV.com:

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Gladys Knight: The famed “Midnight Train to Georgia” singer couldn’t be happier to hop on the “DWTS” train this season. “It’s an amazing opportunity to grab another side of life.” Gladys thinks she’ll be fine with the grueling schedule because she has been working in the unpredictable music world for years. “We’re up and down all the time so it’s right in my area,” she said. With pro Tristan McManus by her side, the oldest “DWTS” competitor this season revealed she’s looking forward to the exercise: “The better health we’re in, the more we can enjoy life. The challenge for me is going to be the ballroom dancing but I really want to give it my best shot. I’ve been looking in the mirror, trying to hold my frame.”

Donald Driver: The Green Bay Packers receiver, who is dancing with Peta Murgatroyd, is doing the show because he’s a huge fan! “I’ve been watching the show since Season 1. I’ve always said if I ever got on the show, I could win it. But once you get on the show, it’s a little bit different. I think now that I have the confidence in my partner, she’s going to give me everything I need to do to win it all,” the Super Bowl champion said. Donald has no dance experience apart from dancing at clubs. “I can shake a little bit, that’s about it.” Peta, who was eliminated from “DWTS” early last season with another athlete, Lakers basketball player Meta World Peace (aka Ron Artest) revealed Donald’s work ethic is second to none. The Australian dancer, doesn’t sound, er, too fond of World Peace, saying she prefers a celebrity who will “turn up on time and want to be there, without sounding too rude about it.” Donald hopes his football buddies will come to the “DWTS” ballroom to watch him cut a rug: “The thing about it is you got to give everybody tickets. It’s like going to the Super Bowl — you have to choose who you want to come.”

With their partners William Levy and Katharine Jenkins both unable to attend Tuesday’s event, veteran “DWTS” pros Cheryl Burke and Mark Ballas spoke to the media on their own. Cheryl told xfinityTV, “I have not met William yet, but hopefully soon. I hear that he has some moves but you never know.” The male model and telenovela star, who is best known for playing Jennifer Lopez’s love interest in her music video “I’m Into You,” “is definitely very nice to look at,” smiled Cheryl. She joked about the possibility of having a romance with the hunk: “I am very single, but we’re going to try to stick to business. We’re going to have hardly any time to get ready.” Meanwhile, Mark said opera singer Katherine is in Europe and he’ll be meeting her soon. “I’m looking forward to seeing where she’s at mentally and seeing what her goals are and hopefully I can take her as far as she wants to go,” he said.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.


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