maria menounos getty 'Dancing With the Stars' Maria Menounos: 'I want to have fun'Maria Menounos knows it’ll be much different to be on “Dancing With the Stars” than to cover it.

The co-host of the syndicated magazine program “Extra” isn’t the first person from that show to be a “Dancing” contestant. Host Mario Lopez finished Season 3 as the runner-up, so she’ll have even more incentive to bring home the mirrorball trophy when the ABC competition’s 14th season begins Monday, March 19.

“I want to have fun,” Menounos tells Zap2it. “I’m so excited to be able to focus on this and my work at ‘Extra.’ I do so many things, I remember some of my happiest times being these little sabbaticals where I could just focus on one thing. When I shot my roles in ‘Fantastic Four’ and ‘One Tree Hill,’ there was just that.

“Ninety-nine percent of the time, I don’t love that … but to get those couple of months where it will just be ‘Extra’ and ‘Dancing With the Stars,’ it’s exciting. I’m looking forward to challenging myself and doing something that I never thought I would do or could do, and seeing where it takes me.”

One place it will take Menounos — whose partner will be three-time “Dancing” champ Derek Hough — is the other side of an interview than she’s usually seen on. She’ll be giving post-performance debriefings to “Dancing” co-host Brooke Burke Charvet for as many weeks as she’s on the show.

“For most of my career, I’ve been playing both sides a little bit,” Menounos reasons, “being interviewed and interviewing, so I’m pretty comfortable with it. Sometimes, I’m a little shy.”

One might not believe that upon seeing Menounos in one of her most public appearances lately, doing “Extra” in a bikini on the streets of Manhattan … the result of losing a Super Bowl bet. “I had divine intervention that day,” she maintains, “because the weather was almost 50 degrees. It was still cold to be wearing a bikini, but the next couple of days were in the 20s. I was so lucky.”

“Dancing With the Stars” premieres Monday, March 19 at 8 p.m. ET/PT on ABC.

Posted by:Jay Bobbin