Hold on to your disco pants: Dancing With the Stars is looking to get a little wild heading into its 13th season. The celebrity cast vying for the Disco Ball is a mix of lightning-rod personalities, reality stars and heroes.
Leading the way, outspoken basketball star Ron Artest (in the midst of legally changing his name to Metta World Peace) joins controversial TV host Nancy Grace, quirky actor David Arquette (recently separated from wife Courteney Cox) and former gabfest host Ricki Lake.
The cast also will feature its first transgender contestant in Chaz Bono, who recently underwent female-to-male gender reassignment, as well as a Hills star known for stirring up trouble (Kristin Cavallari), a women’s soccer star (Hope Solo), a Kardashian (Rob) and an actor and war hero (J.R. Martinez) who was disfigured serving in Iraq.
As the new cycle kicks off on ABC Sept. 19, senior producer Deena Katz says, the audience will quickly learn the stars’ true colors. “There are some strong personalities,” she says. “Any time it gets people talking, obviously that’s a good thing. It gets people watching. This first show is definitely going to be water-cooler talk.”
The forcefully opinionated Grace already is feeling the pain after just a few initial training sessions. “What hurts most? Other than my ego? My feet,” she says.
Though she’s known for her curt interrogative style, the former prosecutor promises not to tangle with the judges. “Who am I going to fight with?” she says. “I am good at one thing: trying murder cases. If they tell me I screwed up, I am going to think they are right.”
Grace, who has earned Headline News viewership (and plenty of critics) over her deeply personalized handling of the Casey Anthony case, knows the woman she branded “Tot Mom” will not be among her fans; “I don’t think she’s going to be calling in for me.”
As a sports star, soccer goalie Solo says, “I have a great fan base. I also have my critics. It will be interesting to see what happens here.”
The Sports Illustrated cover subject admits that while she rocks the net, she’s hopeless on the dance floor. “I’m filled with so much anxiety because I have no moves. I’m a pure athlete who is stiff in the shoulders, not loose. We definitely have a lot of work to do.”
As for Bono, Katz believes viewers will come to see the man behind the story. “There is going to be some controversy,” she says. “But the hope is people will see that this is just a guy out there to have a good time.”
Producers also have revamped the studio, adding two steep balconies surrounding the floor. “It’s going to feel very much like a coliseum, a gladiatorial space,” says executive producer Conrad Green. “It’s going to be intimidating for the dancers to walk out into the room with 750 people peering right on top of them.”