It's the season of the lookers, the fighters, a rapper, a Super Bowl MVP and a former Fat Actress — but not a one-time candidate for the U.S Senate. Emmy winner Kirstie Alley (Cheers) leads the cast of celebs who'll kick up their heels for Dancing With the Stars'12th season, which begins March 21 on ABC. "We've wanted Kirstie from Day 1," says executive producer Conrad Green. "She's enormously winning and an absolute hoot."
She'll be going toe-to-toe with one of the most popular boxers of all time, Sugar Ray Leonard; the Karate Kid, Ralph Macchio; former WWE bruiser Chris Jericho; and Hines Ward, the Pittsburgh Steelers' wide receiver who was on the losing side in this year's Super Bowl. "He's won two [Super Bowl] rings," says Green. "So I said to him, 'To get over the pain of not winning that third ring, you need the mirror ball trophy.'"
But that's only if Ward can paso doble better than some famously pretty faces. Among them: Czech supermodel Petra Nemcova, who overcame personal tragedy after losing her fiancé in the 2004 tsunami in Thailand; Hugh Hefner's former squeeze Kendra Wilkinson, who's made a cottage industry out of reality shows like The Girls Next Door and Kendra; Mike Catherwood, the handsome cohost of the radio call-in show "Loveline" and a former body builder; and the season's obligatory Disney kid, Chelsea Kane (formerly Chelsea Staub), who gained fame on the sitcom JONAS L.A.
The youngest dancer is rapper Romeo (formerly Lil' Romeo), who was first signed for the show in Season 2. But when he got hurt playing basketball before the premiere, his father, rap mogul Master P, stepped in — to disastrous results, as he could barely shuffle his feet. Green says he jokingly warned the young performer the expectations on him will be high. "I did say to him, 'For the honor of your family, you're going to have to struggle to match the competency of your father.'" But he adds that the young rapper is unfazed. "I think he's fairly confident he'll be able to reach P's level."
And lest we forget — and we know she won't let us — the self-proclaimed "Queen of All Media," syndicated talk-show host Wendy Williams. "Is she out to be Queen of the Dance Floor?" asks Green. "I think that is absolutely her intention. She's wonderful. You don't get a bigger personality than Wendy."
Green wouldn't comment on whether or not the show reached out to Tea Party candidate Christine "I'm not a witch" O'Donnell. Dancing puts a premium on secrecy, and Green sounded none too pleased that O'Donnell was asking her Facebook followers whether or not she should do the show. "The only people you know we've approached are the people on the show," says Green, "Generally, the most professional way to deal with offers from a show is if you don't want to do it, you just decline, and that's private between us. And in the same way, when people approach us, we don't say, 'oh, so and so wants to do the show.' That would embarrass them by not picking them. It's an absolutely private thing until the point where it becomes public. Which is why we never release any names until we have a signed contract."