Does Nancy O'Dell have a leg up on her Dancing with the Stars competition? You certainly seem to think so, but the Access Hollywood hostess has her doubts. "I don't know if I'm a good dancer or not!" she tells TVGuide.com. "I'm so nervous." O'Dell, who will release a pregnancy book, Full of Life: Mom-to-Mom Tips I Wish Someone Had Told Me When I Was Pregnant, on April 14, is paired with Tony Dovolani on Season 8 of the ABC hit, which premieres March 9 at 8 pm/ET. The statuesque blonde took time out of her busy schedule — she's still shooting Access! — to chat about her parquet concerns, who she considers her stiffest competition and why her husband may be sleeping on the couch.
TVGuide.com: I have to tell you that you are currently leading our poll to win Dancing with the Stars.
Nancy O'Dell: I heard that! Oh my God, how crazy is that?! Do these people know that I have no dance training at all?!
TVGuide.com: That's good because they won't call you a ringer then.
O'Dell: That's true. I'm definitely not a ringer. Never took one dance class. Maybe my stepsons are voting over and over. [Laughs] Refresh the page. Vote! Refresh the page. Vote! It was so funny because Access told me first: "Oh my God, you're leading the polls!" They did a story on Access showing your website and I'm like, "Thanks, guys." It adds the pressure even more.
TVGuide.com: But they're all supporting you. I saw Team O'Dell on Access the other night.
O'Dell: Yeah, that was so cute. But I'm already nervous as it is, so you get emotional when you're nervous. So I'm like, "Don't come out here as Team O'Dell. I'm gonna be bawling all over the place." But it made me feel really good.
TVGuide.com: How are rehearsals going?
O'Dell: We had our first rehearsal [last Tuesday]. I feel so lucky. My first dance is the waltz. I'm like, "Ah, I gotta be stiff. Gotta put my arms up. Gotta hold my head up." I know the waltz is romantic and it's long lines, so I think being 5-foot-9-and-three-quarters will help. With heels, I'm 6 feet. And I have really long legs and it's all about the leg lines, so hopefully that will help. Although I'm sure Shawn Johnson is gonna have, like, perfect lines. [Laughs] But it's scary though! There's so much to remember. When you start doing it, you're like, "So that's why they look so awkward at first in those videos that they show." They are!
TVGuide.com: How'd you get involved with the show? Did they approach you? Did you approach them?
O'Dell: What, do you think I'm crazy?! [Laughs] They called my manager and my manager called me. I said, "No! No! That's insane. Absolutely not." I started telling everybody and they were like, "You're crazy if you don't do it!" And my boss was just over the moon: "Great! Oh my God, this would be great for Access Hollywood! We can show behind-the-scenes stuff that no one's seen before. You can tell us how you're feeling. You can do video blogs!" It took everyone in my camp [to convince me]. My husband [encouraged me] too. But he was like, "Don't let the dancer touch you too much!" [Laughs] I'm gonna send [him and Tony] off to play golf together. They can get to know each other a little better.
TVGuide.com: I saw your daughter dancing on Access. Does she know that Mommy is doing the show?
O'Dell: Oh, [she] loves to dance! She's too young [at 20 months] to comprehend, but she does get it when I'm on TV. She goes up to it and goes, "Mama," and she kisses it. And I thought that would be kind of cool. It'll be like her Elmo video. She'll be watching, like, Elmo Mom. Hopefully it won't look like Elmo dancing!
TVGuide.com: You have a book coming out in April about your pregnancy with her. Did you always plan on writing a book?
O'Dell: It came about because I just had so many embarrassing and terrifying things happen to me that I was, like, "Oh my God, for my fellow women, this would be such a great book to have because you shouldn't have to go through this when you're pregnant." I had red dots appearing on my chest one morning and I thought I had chicken pox or the measles and my doctor was like, "Ah, no, the amount of blood in your body increases when you're pregnant and you're just seeing your blood vessels." It's like, Why didn't somebody tell me that?!
TVGuide.com: You're going to have a full plate with book promotion too. What's a typical day like now?
O'Dell: I get up at 6 am, return some emails, do some press. I'm in the [Access] studio by 8, do the show. Normally we don't get out until 1:30, but they're trying to get me out at noon, so that I can go get to rehearsal by 1 or 1:30 and do it for six hours so I could be home by 7 at the latest.
TVGuide.com: What's Tony's assessment of your abilities?
O'Dell: He said he was really pleased. And I keep asking him, "Are you just saying that to build my confidence?" And he said, "I wouldn't do that." To you, it feels so foreign and new and awkward. Some of the stuff that he's had me do, I was surprised I could do them. They were spins and stuff, dragging your feet on the ground, they were fun.
TVGuide.com: What's your worst fear? Falling? Forgetting?
O'Dell: Definitely whether I can dance or not! [Laughs] It sounds so simple, but it's the truth! It's still so early that I still don't know. I think I won't even have an idea until I videotape it and look at it. I feel like I'm doing the moves and I feel like they look somewhat decent?
TVGuide.com: How well do you know the other contestants?
O'Dell: I know Denise [Richards]. I've met a few of the others through Access. Denise and I have been emailing about how nervous we are. ... I saw her at Tori Spelling's party to benefit Ronald McDonald House for Kids and we both had our kids there and I told Denise, "Did you hear I'm doing Dancing too?" And she was like, "Oh my God! Thank God! Are you as stressed as I am?!" And I'm like, "Yup!"
TVGuide.com: Who do you think is your biggest competition?
O'Dell: Oh, by far Shawn Johnson. I mean, her athletic ability — God help her — and the experience of doing something physical in front of so many people under so much pressure has got to help. She's able to hold her leg up for as long as she possibly needs to.
TVGuide.com: Is her height a disadvantage?
O'Dell: With all the advantages she's got from gymnastics, I think they're going to overshadow her height. I mean, maybe for the waltz, it helps to have the height. But for the others, like the quick-step, the Latin dances, I think it won't hurt her at all.
TVGuide.com: Olympians do really well on the show.
O'Dell: I know! They do. It's so funny. Doing the waltz, I told Tony I understand why Apolo [Anton Ohno] did so well because you have to stay low to the ground. It's like speed-skating.
TVGuide.com: Is there anyone you're not as worried about?
O'Dell: You know, I think you just have no clue. Sometimes you think somebody's not going to be a good dancer and they turn out to be a really good dancer, especially football players. My husband said he might have to give a few votes to Lawrence Taylor. He's like, "I have to vote for Lawrence once or twice." I'm like, "NO!" [Laughs]
TVGuide.com: He can't do that. Is he part of Team O'Dell?
O'Dell: That's what I said! That's what I said! He is part of Team O'Dell. I said, "I don't want you to give him votes just because he's a football player. You don't have to go to bed with him at the end of the night. You have to sleep with me at the end of the night!