Dancing with the Stars is back and who better to discuss the new show than Ian Ziering, member of the new cast. Ian is most often recognized for his performance as Steve Sanders on the long running drama “Beverly Hills, 90210”. While he loved every moment of that experience and continues to be amazed by the show’s appeal, he’s now stepped into an entirely different venture as a ballroom dancer. Ian was kind enough to take time from his practice schedule to talk to BuddyTV about his experiences on 90210, his initial hesitation to join Dancing with the Stars, and the pressure of being paired with two-time champion Cheryl Burke.
BuddyTV: Before we get started with Dancing with the Stars I have a few requisite 90210 questions. Being a member of such a long running show, being such a recognizable character, how much has that affected your career since 90210. How difficult is it being so closely associated with the one character?
Ian: I’ve got a lot to be thankful for. I’m associated with a show that ran for 10 years, that has left me with a lot of options. Just after the show, still very familiar in people’s minds, I wasn’t so anxious to get back in the game because I knew that I was imprinted that way. So I took some time off, went out to Colorado, spent some time out there and you know, decided to come back into the game. Since then I’ve done some movie work, some episodic work and started developing my own products to create work for myself. Seven months ago I finished a short entitled Man versus Monday and produced and directed it and also acted in it, and have been submitting it around to various film festivals. It was recently in the Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival and it got the Audience Favorite award. And I’m kind of using this as a calling card to show people that I can direct, that I can produce, and maybe even use it as a back door in to a pilot series.
Is that something you want to do a lot more of in the future; directing and behind-the-scenes?
Yeah, I love it, I love it. Producing is really difficult; there’s a lot to pull together. But directing is very similar to acting except you get more colors to paint with.
Are you looking to get more into TV or to branch out into film?
You know I think that’s what is so great about my industry: there are so many different mediums to perform in and I enjoy them all. I’ve been on Broadway, when I was a little kid, radio, animated cartoons, television, and movies. I’ve been down on Venice Beach, telling jokes down there, you know, but I like it all. What’s of interest to me is really the character. That’s more important than the actual medium that I’m performing in.
Just one more 90210 question: looking back on your whole time there, what are the big moments for you?
I think when Brian and I visited Spain and there were 11,000 people waiting in the airport for us. I mean, you know, we work in a studio and go home at the end of the day and you know the show is successful and you see the ratings but you don’t really get an understanding of the impact – how much it affects people not just here in this country but all over the world – until you travel out there. Brian and I were just blown away by the reception we got there. We went to Italy and it was the same thing. I’ve been to Japan and it’s nuts, it’s really very flattering. I’m really very proud to be a part of a project that has touched so many people in such a positive way. I’m very lucky.
It wouldn’t have been possible in the past but now with Soap Net around are you finding that you are getting some younger, newer fans, who are just discovering it?
Yeah. People still continue to watch 90210, it’s still very relevant, very watchable. The show has got legs for a long time, people enjoy it. And for people that have already seen it, it’s like going back and visiting old friends.
Let’s move on to Dancing with the Stars! Can you tell us how you got hooked up with Dancing with the Stars, how they contacted you, how that all worked out?
Well they informally made an inquiry to a friend of mine, to see if I had any interest and I said, “Well you know, I’m really not interested in doing reality television.” I’ve always felt that there was a stigma associated with it and I never really cared to use my celebrity to walk through the jungles or eat bugs or date on television or any of those things. It’s not really what I’m about. I’ve always felt that I’m an actor first and foremost and a performer. That kind of stuff is like sideshow circus kind of stuff. And then if I wanted to that, I could probably still do it in ten years, you know, and I felt that those things are pretty much career killers. But then after speaking to my agent and some more friends, you know I came to understand that Dancing With the Stars is none of that. It’s more of a dancing show, it’s a dance competition. So where there’s artistic expression, I have interest, I have passion and it’s something that I can really get behind. And I kind of changed my mind, thinking that this would be a lot of fun and I know it would really make my family and friends proud if I could do this.
Were you a fan of the show at all, beforehand?
Yeah. I had watched it before and was very impressed with the competitors, how they were able to put their dances together in such a short time. I was actually quite amazed by that. And you know, it’s so beautiful. Yeah, I thought it was an excellent show right from the start. But again I had this preconception that, well, it’s reality television. So it already had a curse on it for me from the beginning.
How would you describe your dancing experience, how are you up there?
How am I up there? I’ve been blessed with some rhythm, you know, certainly no ballroom skills. But I’ve got a great teacher. Cheryl Burke is amazing. She’s very patient – which, thank god for that because I keep stepping on my own toes – and is able to communicate in a way that I understand and to show me. I learn best by seeing. She could tell me left right left right right, but until I see her implement what she’s telling me about, I don’t get it, but once she does I am able to grasp onto it and you know, ultimately I’d like to gain mastery of it and make it look easy and I’m not there yet that’s for sure (laughs).
You’re training right now right?
How long have you been doing that for?
We’re about 8 days so far, 8 or 9 days, we’ve had one day off.
Can you kind of just explain that process to everyone?
I’m not sure how I came to be lucky enough to be dancing with Cheryl Burke, that’s the producers, they matched everybody up. My first day, I walked in meeting my partner and boom, there’s Cheryl Burke and it blew me away. But what was so funny is that she’s won twice and I always thought maybe the producers would stick Cheryl with somebody who was a little less apt at dancing, thinking that it would give a chance to the other dancers to really flourish. So my first thought was, “Yeah Cheryl Burke!” And then my second thought was like, “Oh my god, I’m that guy!” But you know what, we’re having a great time. And it’s coming together slowly but surely. I swear to God, we’ve been dancing and it’s been a bit of struggle, but there are moments where I am looking into her eyes and I’m not thinking about the dance, I’m just completely delighted that my body is moving to the music and you know, and that I get it. And then I trip.
Have you gotten to see any of the other dancers, any of the other contestants?
Yes, we had a little “getting to know you” party with several of my opponents and the other dancers. And that was really nice, they’ve never done that before. In years gone by they’ve only allowed the other dancers and the celebrities to meet on the day of the first filming. So this was like a real nice “hey, how are you doing, getting to know you.” And Paulina Porizkova is as beautiful now as she ever was, just gorgeous.
Did you get to see Vincent Pastore before he left the show?
No, I don’t know where he was rehearsing. I did not see him though.
You don’t have any idea who is going to be replacing him, do you?
I really don’t know.
Of all the other competitors, who do you think is looking like the toughest competition out there for you?
Of the women I think it’s got to be Layla Ali. I mean the girl is used to doing footwork. You know, she’s athletic. I met her the other day and she like, was sizing me up and she says, “Look, don’t think that just because you got Cheryl that you’re going to win this thing.” And then she walked away and I said to her partner, who I believe his name is Max [Maksim Chmerkovskiy], I said, “So is she throwing you around, is she boxing you?” And he said, “Well actually she’s very feminine.” So you know, that was a very classy response by Max and gave me some insight into the fact that you know what, she’s definitely a bulldog in the ring but she’s very feminine on the inside and she’s going to be able to bring that to her dance. And I think from the guys, the toughest competition for me will probably be Joey Fatone being that his N’SYNC experience, even though it wasn’t ballroom dancing, it was certainly dancing and connecting moves to the music.
Any parting words or predictions for the show?
You know, I’m putting all my predictions on the Internet. I’ve got a myspace page going up shortly. I’ve got a little exploratory page up now but I’m getting ready to put out a real page and then a website and you know, I’ll have a blog and some behind the scenes pictures and insights and little video jpegs of what’s going on inside my head at the time so you can look for more there.
(Interview Conducted by Oscar Dahl)
Photo Courtesy of imdb.com