"If I have to win this because I'm an amazing dancer, that ain't gonna happen."
Entertainer John Schneider, who calls south Louisiana home, is just being brutally honest about his latest adventure: ABC's "Dancing with the Stars."
And, while he admits he's not the best dancer among the 13 celebrity competitors this season, don't think the performer doesn't have a strategy for taking home the reality competition series' mirror ball trophy.
In fact, the star of "The Dukes of Hazzard," "Smallville" and "The Haves and the Have Nots" outlined to The Advocate several advantages he and professional dance partner Emma Slater might have over the rest of the pack.
Adaptability: While most "DWTS" duos' rehearse everyday in the same space, usually where the star is based, actor/singer/filmmaker Schneider is a moving target. He sandwiched in an indie film shoot, concerts and a ComicCon appearance between the first two weeks of four-hour daily sessions with Slater.
"It moves wherever I am. I don't think anybody is moving around like me, which, oddly enough, I think is going to be to Emma's and my advantage because we haven't become accustomed to any rehearsal space," Schneider said. "We've been in six different rehearsal spaces."
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Age: At 58, Schneider is the oldest of the star dancers for the show's 27th season. How is that going to help him?
"I think it's going to be a factor in that people may discount the older guy, but they don't know that I do P90X and Insanity (workouts). That has helped tremendously," he said. "Of course, I'm exhausted, I'm sore. There's a great deal of impact to what we are doing. None of these dances are low-impact. There's a lot of jumping around.
"It may be the tortoise and the hare thing, where people think he's just going to wear out. But I don't wear out. But I will lay down and make what we are now affectionately calling sweat angels on the dance floor."
The Retton factor: Schneider pinpointed his stiffest competitor well before last Monday night's "DWTS" premiere.
"The person I'm most worried about is Mary Lou Retton because she's an Olympic athlete, and when you're an Olympic athlete, you'll finish on a broken limb," he explained. "There's a thing that clicks in Mary Lou where I want to win, but she is not going to lose and there's a difference. Her mindset is, 'This is mine.'
"She's the one to beat because she's just going to go at it with all her 90 pounds, whatever it is, with her ferocity. I don't think even our Super Bowl winner DeMarcus Ware is ready for the ferocity of Mary Lou Retton. Discounting Mary Lou because she's 4-foot-11 (she's actually 4 feet 9 inches) is a mistake, and that's not a mistake I'm going to make."
The fear is gone: The show approached Schneider several years ago, but, he admitted, he was nervous about dancing in front of people because it doesn't come naturally to him.
"I've done lots of musical theater. I've done lots of shows where there's a lot of dancing, but usually I'm the guy who does a couple of steps while singing a song and then everyone dances around me," he said. "Before we started, that scared me to death. Now, Emma's been working with me for two weeks, and I feel very comfortable. I feel very confident that we are a terrific team, and I'm not going to look silly. I'm not going to look like I don't know what I'm doing. I may be out-techniqued, but I'm not going to be out-performed."
Schneider said day one of rehearsals began by nailing down the foxtrot steps.
"Heel, toe, toe; heel, toe, toe; so slow, quick, quick, slow, quick, quick. So she started with the basic steps and then worked on frame and posture. You start with the big picture and then you get it down to the finer points, which is a great way to learn," he said.
Plus, it's live TV.
"I have no fear of live television because I've done it for 40 years. In fact, live television makes me bigger. … I'm just a big ham."
Magic, man: As a child, Schneider performed magic tricks for kids' parties. As a lifetime member of Hollywood's The Magic Castle, an exclusive club for the magically-inclined, he still has a few tricks up his sleeve.
"Len (Goodman, a judge), as I understand it, is the absolute curmudgeon and stickler for form, for technique. So I'm working on things in particular for him to notice so there will be some things that, hopefully, he won't notice.
"So with Len, I'm hoping for a bit of magical misdirection, particularly with the Charleston. Because there are some things with the Charleston that are just so counter-intuitive to me that I'm hoping that he'll be going, 'Oh wow, that hand gesture was wonderful. Oh, back to feet,' and by the time he gets back to feet, I'll be past the part, or the bits as Emma calls them, that concern me."
Story time: Schneider thinks flamboyant judge Bruno Tonioli will appreciate that he and Slater are bringing something more to their dances.
"Our dances aren't just about the dance steps. Our dance steps are about what story are we telling tonight in this dance, and what story are we telling over the whole 10 weeks," he said. "I dare say nobody else is going to be doing that because, from what I understand, no one else has done that really yet on 'Dancing with the Stars.' So there's another, hopefully, leg up because everybody loves a great story."
Schneider and Slater's first dance on premiere night was a blast from the past — a foxtrot to the "Dukes of Hazzard" theme song.
"It was like a cross-country ride," Tonioli remarked. "Sometimes it was rough, and sometimes it was smooth, but you never ran out of gas."
And that's all part of Schneider's plan.
'Dancing with the Stars'
WHEN: 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Monday and Tuesday
CHANNEL: WBRZ, Channel 2 (cable Channel 5 in Baton Rouge); KATC, Channel 3 (cable Channel 5 in Lafayette) and WGNO, Channel 26 (cable Channel 11 in New Orleans)