Jaleel White and Maria Menounos
"I'm not going out there in a thong," says soap star Jack Wagner (The Bold and the Beautiful). "Anything else, I'm good to go."
And so are 11 other stars, who will strap on their dancing shoes for the 14th season of ABC's Dancing With the Stars. Call it the Season of Nostalgia, with actors like Wagner, Melissa Gilbert (Little House on the Prairie) and Jaleel White (Urkel from Family Matters); the "Empress of Soul" Gladys Knight and tennis legend Martina Navratilova taking top billing.
PHOTOS: Meet the Dancing with the Stars Season 14 cast!
Perhaps still smarting over backlash from casting Chaz Bono last season, DWTS executive producer Conrad Green says the goal this time was to cast celebrities the audience has known and loved in the past "and want to see again in a new context. In particular, we wanted to look at some of the fans' message boards, the people they suggested. Because, over the years, some of these names [like Gilbert, Wagner and White] come up again and again."
Don't assume those three will automatically have an unfair advantage; there is also dance ability and competitive drive to consider, as well as injuries to overcome. Gilbert is recovering from major back surgery less than two years ago to repair a ruptured disk and cracked vertebra. "It was intense," she says. "I've been in hibernation for a while."
And White is a surprisingly reluctant contestant. "One of the things that has intimidated me in the past about this show is that it seems like they've had people who are trained in dancing," he says. "Actors have competed against ice skaters, and I wasn't too thrilled about that."
He won't be going up against ice skaters. But there will be a football star, Green Bay Packers wide receiver Donald Driver. And a Disney kid, Roshon Fegan (Camp Rock). The View's Sherri Shepherd and Extra's Maria Menounos have strong viewer recognition. Possible dark horses include musician Gavin DeGraw, Welsh mezzo-soprano Katherine Jenkins (the show's first opera singer), and Latino dreamboat William Levy, who recently played the love interest in Jennifer Lopez's music video "I'm Into You."
Still, they all should look out for Wagner, a self-described "gym rat" who may have nixed the thong but is more than ready to samba sans a shirt. "Fortunately, I've been written on television shows shirtless all these years," he says. "As a leading man, you've gotta be ready to peel it down and look good."
Subscribe to TV Guide Magazine now!