Ralph Macchio was the Dancing with the Stars cast member that almost wasn't this season. "I came in very late. Literally, the Friday before the Monday announcement was when we locked it, so I think I was the last guy in," he tells TVGuide.com. "But the truth is, if it was four weeks earlier, I don't know if I would've jumped." Now that he's fully immersed in the Dancing world, see what else the former Karate Kid, who's paired with Karina Smirnoff, has to say about rehearsals, why he might kill his reps one day and his ageless looks.
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I think everyone wanted to see more of you after your Funny or Die video last year.
Ralph Macchio: [Laughs] Wax On, F--- Off! That's one part of [why I joined]. It's getting a surge right now ... I was also on Ugly Betty and ABC has always been friendly to me, even way back from Eight Is Enough. Then the remake of The Karate Kid, not the least of which was a resurgence for me and the legacy of what we did still sustains itself and is part of people's upbringing. That seems to be the demo of or close to the people who watch Dancing. I felt when I saw that video blow up and the remake did well that there might be some people who might want to see me in some form. I have to believe I'm going to be embraced in some way. And my wife and kids and parents have always said I should do it. It's easy for them to say; they can just watch it!
You're our readers' second favorite to win. How does that make you feel?
Macchio: That feels great! It's such a journey and I think that's important. Even if you're picked early or you come out of the gate really fast, that doesn't mean you're going to be the last person standing. The process is a horse race. It's not a sprint, although it feels like a sprint right now. My back, knees, eyes and everything are saying, "Yo, we're done!" They're crying as we speak. It's definitely been tough on my body. That's the hardest part.
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You're one of the older contestants, but you certainly don't look it.
Macchio: [Laughs] Don't let the gift-wrapping fool ya! It's just good genes. But the working parts are chronologically the age you look up. I'm not 50 yet, but man, am I close! [He's 49.] My lower back has bothered me a bit the past 15 years. Cardiovascularly, I'm going to be in the best shape I'm going to be in a long time, if not ever, but the joints and the muscles — you're doing stuff to them that a physical therapist would probably say, "Don't do that!" It's grueling in that way and I expected it.
Do you take a lot of breaks in rehearsals?
Macchio: It depends. We're putting in anywhere from five to seven hours a day. [If I go] seven hours one day, I know I need to take longer breaks the next day. If I was 21 years old, I could probably hold the pedal down to the metal the whole way, but you do have to pace yourself. At least I feel I am doing my best. As soon as the show starts and the longer you stay on, you're going to have more dances and basically four days to turn them around. I've heard that when you get to two dances is when you want to kill everybody who's ever represented you and say, "This is probably a good thing."
How's the foxtrot looking?
Macchio: The foxtrot turned out to be a bit harder than I expected with the framing and structuring of it. It's all posture. And if you've seen pictures of me, you see my posture is bad. I get into that framing position and I'm hurting just standing there. That's the truth. I feel it in my upper back and my shoulders just standing. And then moving in concert with someone else and not stepping on them. But it is a beautiful and an elegant dance when it gets to that point. I don't know if I'm there yet, but I'm working on it.
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Karina gave The Situation a posture bar last season. Did she pull that out for you?
Macchio: No, but the first day, she took a broomstick handle and you wrap your thumbs over it, almost like a stockade in the old Westerns. Mainly she's been yelling, "Elbows! Frame!" I love Karina. She makes me laugh a ton. We have a lot of fun. I think she respects my work ethic and that I really want to do well and I want us to do well. She cracks the whip, that's for sure!
Are you nervous for the first show?
Macchio: I'm totally nervous. To be honest, not that I wasn't a fan, but I didn't watch the show very much, so I have to YouTube the way it works. I don't think I've ever watched the elimination shows. I don't stick around for the hour; you just have to tune in for the last three minutes. "Oh, he's gone." Unless I want to see whoever the guest is sing. I get why it's so popular. It is not train-wreck reality television. It wants everybody to do well. I think that separates it from most in the reality-competition category. There are a lot of positives to take from it. I can only focus on myself. I'm working hard and I know I can present myself in the best way as I can as far as packages go. I've always been, for the most part, what you see is what you get.
Like "nice guys finish last"?
Macchio: Exactly. Well, in that [video's] case. Hopefully, not for the show!