Alfonso Ribeiro has occasionally mentioned his groin injury on Dancing with the Stars, often in a joking context with co-host Erin Andrews, but one doesn't get the sense of just how serious the condition is until speaking with Ribeiro one-on-one.
"It's been really grueling for me, because it's constantly doing treatment on my body," Ribeiro tells TVGuide.com. "There's never enough hours in the day, because I've got to literally dance all day and then try to do treatment in between. So, I'll either do treatment in the morning or I do it in the evening. I had someone at my house last night show up at 9 p.m., working on me 'til10:30 p.m., working on my body, trying to help make it last. It's really been very frustrating."
With just a few weeks left in the competition, the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air alum is hoping he can power through to the final — but first, he'll be channeling Fred Astaire for Monday's "America's Choice" dance.
Read our full Q&A with Ribeiro for details on the intense therapy techniques he's using, what he and Witney Carson have planned for Monday's show, and why he's sick of talking about The Carlton:
TVGuide.com: Had you been considering Dancing with the Stars for a while? How did you joining the show come about?
Ribeiro: I'd been wanting to do it from the beginning, from Season 1 on. I had talked with them about doing it, but the producers or ABC or whoever it was didn't feel like it was the right time. So we never ended up doing it. But it came to fruition now, and here we go.
What are you and Witney working on for this week?
Ribeiro: We have two dances this week. We've got America's Choice, where America went online and chose the style of dance and the song that we're going to dance to. So, they chose the foxtrot, and we are doing it to "Ain't That a Kick in the Head." And then we have a trio dance, where Witney and I decided we would go with [troupe member] Lindsay Arnold. ... Witney and Lindsay grew up together dancing in the same studio. They've known each other since they were 6 years old. So, it was an obvious choice for us to pick her. Their dance styles are very similar. It almost will look like you won't know which one's Witney and which one's Lindsay during the routine. We are doing the paso doble. It's a really strong dance, and great energy for me to have, to kind of be the man in the situation.
Are you feeling pretty comfortable with both of them?
Ribeiro: I did the flamenco, and a lot of the steps that are in the flamenco are also in the paso. ... I feel really comfortable hitting those steps and it's really strong, so I feel really positive about that one. But [Thursday] we kind of had a breakthrough on our foxtrot. We haven't done a lot of ballroom in-hold dances, and the foxtrot obviously is in hold. And I had a breakthrough [Thursday], so all of a sudden now I'm actually feeling really, really good about both of them. I said to my wife, it's going to be a good mix, because the dances are so different. The energy and the style is very different, and I think it's going to be a really good night for us.
How is Witney as a partner? What's your working relationship like?
Ribeiro: The thing is, I'm pretty much like a clown. I'm constantly being silly and having fun and laughing. It's really light in our rehearsal studio. We don't get bogged down. We don't get upset, we don't get frustrated. We went through that early, but since, like, the third week we kind of just realized, you want to be able to learn the dances in one day, but that's just not the process. ... So, Witney and I have gotten to that place where we're totally comfortable, on Wednesday night, knowing, hey, we don't have the dance yet, but it's going to come. We know it will. So we're much more relaxed and we both just kind of laugh and we're having fun. And I think that I've kind of rubbed off on her, because now she's silly in the studio also. We just have fun. ... We just truly get along. It's really kind of easy. It never gets difficult for us. I'm like her older brother now. It's really great.
Cheryl said she really enjoyed working with you during switch-up week. what's the biggest difference between her and Witney?
Ribeiro: Age and life experience. ... Witney just turned 21. She's new in the industry. She's new to the show. She's kind of learning her way. And Cheryl's been there since the second season. So, she's accomplished on the show. She's been around. She's very comfortable. And, really, the difference is language. (Laughs). Cheryl has just ... language.
Yes, we did get to see a different side of Cheryl that week.
Ribeiro: The more vulgar side of Cheryl. But you know, we laugh. There's no way that she could actually do or say anything that would really freak me out. ... We've known each other since the beginning, because I've been wanting to do the show. When Joey Fatone did the show, we all kind of hung out, because he's one of my best friends. ... So it was really comfortable and really easy. I've just been really lucky, to have both my normal partner and then the switch-up be someone that I didn't have to get to know really did make my life easier.
You have a little bit of dance experience in your background. Has that helped you at all?
Ribeiro: Not really. The dance background was capped when I was 12, so that almost doesn't count. Nothing actually relates. They're so different.
Is the show more or less grueling than you though it was going to be?
Ribeiro: I knew it was going to be physically grueling, obviously having friends who have done the show before. I actually directZendaya. I used to direct her on our show Shake It Up, and I'm scheduled to direct her on her new show. I've seen her. I've watched her go through it. I've watched Joey [Fatone] go through it,Corbin Bleu. So I've known the schedule. I knew it was going to be grueling. And even from the beginning, I felt like, if my body could hold up, I feel like I could make it all the way. I didn't figure it would break down as early as it did.
What's the latest with your injury?
Ribeiro: I feel like I can't do 100 percent. I can't get it to that next level. I feel like I'm delivering 85 percent rather than 100, because I know that if I go harder then I'm going to injure it more. I have to give it half energy until performance night, and then I turn it up. The difference is that, anytime you do something where you don't have the ability to know what that turning up feels like ahead of time, when you get on that stage for performance, it's unknown. So there's a little bit of discomfort in that. ... When you have a tear in your groin, it's not comfortable to take steps.
What type of treatment or therapy are you doing?
Ribeiro: We're not able to do physical therapy yet, because the physical therapy would actually tire the injury out too much, to where I wouldn't be able to dance. ... I do this thing called Cryotherapy. I go into this chamber. It's 220 [degrees] below zero and it basically removes all the swelling out of your body. ... And then I've been doing a lot of treatment with massage but not necessarily just straight massage. It's really just physical therapy without working the muscle on my leg. It's a lot of little stuff. When you have a tear down there it will lock up. When you're getting a massage and you feel a huge knot, it's that kind of thing — all the way down your leg, all the way into your knee. But the injury is obviously up in the groin, so it's really just uncomfortable massaging. It's a bit crazy.
Are you worried about injuring it further or doing permanent damage?
Ribeiro: The good thing is, I look at it like this. There's three weeks left. There's three shows left. I've got two and a half weeks of dealing with this pain, and then I will absolutely have time to let this thing rest and recover. It'll be really nice once that happens, but hopefully I can stay on the show all the way to the end and make it to the final, and deliver a hopefully amazing performance on the finale.
Fresh Prince nostalgia is huge right now, so I assume you knew going into the show that you'd have to bust out The Carlton one week. Did you and Witney have a discussion about when to debut it?
Ribeiro: Yes, I do have a lot of people constantly talking to me about the dance. We knew that we were going to do it. In Week 1, we made the decision when we were going to do it and how we were going to do it. ... We just decided it would be the best thing to kind of get it out of the way, so that I could focus on all the dances and not have to deal with, every time we do an interview, we're being asked about whether we were going to be doing that dance. So we got it out of the way and it was great and it was fun.
Dancing with the Stars airs Mondays at 8/7c on ABC. Which pair are you currently rooting for?