David Arquette sums up his new “Dancing With the Stars” role simply and understandably: “I’m nervous.”
The co-star of the “Scream” movies will face such competitors as talk-show veterans Nancy Grace and Ricki Lake, Chaz Bono, celebrity stylist and fashion designer Carson Kressley, reality-show alum Kristin Cavallari, singer-actress Chynna Phillips and athletes Ron Artest and Hope Solo when the ABC competition starts its 13th round Monday, Sept. 19.
“It’s exciting, but it’s really nerve-wracking and wild,” Arquette tells Zap2it in his first interview about his “Dancing” stint. “I don’t know what to expect. I love to dance, and that’s one of the main reasons I chose to do this. It really is something that I’ve found a lot of joy and happiness in. That’s what I’m looking for in my life in general, so I think it’ll help.”
Arquette says he was first approached for “Dancing With the Stars” last year, but he allows he “was definitely in a different place,” largely because of his then-fresh marital separation from Courteney Cox, his fellow “Scream” star and a television staple (“Friends,” “Cougar Town”).
“I wasn’t ready,” Arquette confirms, “but since then, I’ve done a lot of soul-searching. This seems like it would be a lot of fun. It will give people the opportunity to get to know me a little better, and also to be part of a show that a lot of people love.
“They’re such incredible teachers on this show, and it’s such a fine, focused period of time that you really have to dedicate yourself to. I knew that if I didn’t do it this way, or get a film role where I had to learn dance, I wouldn’t do it on my own. It’s a really great way to give myself some structure, and that’s an added benefit.”
In recruiting the new cast, the producers of “Dancing With the Stars” told contestants they could determine their own rehearsal schedules. “You’re not supposed to take dance lessons before doing this,” Arquette reports, “and I didn’t. I just want to make sure I have enough time to learn as everyone else.
“I want to play by the rules, obviously. I figure that if you rehearse early enough in the morning, you still have time in the day to spend with your family or on other projects. I’m developing a theater in Beverly Hills, and that’s yet another reason I wanted to learn dance.”
Television work has increased in recent years for Arquette, whose movies also have included “Never Been Kissed” and “Ready to Rumble.” He was a producer of ABC’s “Cougar Town” and FX’s “Dirt” with Cox (who also starred in both series), he directed his sister Patricia Arquette in several episodes of “Medium” during its NBC life (and also guest-starred in one of its final-season CBS stories), and he lends his voice to the Disney Channel series “Jake and the Never Land Pirates.”
“I love television,” Arquette states, crediting that largely to his grandfather: Cliff Arquette, alias “Charley Weaver,” the down-home comic who spent years on the classic “The Hollywood Squares” game show. “I still watch a lot of TV today, mainly news, and I understand its power and the reach it has.
“With a show like [‘Dancing’], it has the ability to entertain, and that’s really where my joy comes from. I’m a little skeptical about the reality-show aspect. I understand the drama they like to harvest from people’s lives, but I’m also cognizant that it’s a new element of entertainment that’s something people enjoy. And I respect that.”
Arquette realizes public attention toward him may be particularly intensified while he’s on “Dancing With the Stars,” however long that lasts.
“I’ve always wanted to do the right thing,” he reflects. “That’s also been an Achilles’ heel, because I’ve had to figure out what the right thing is for me. I’m obviously not a goody-two-shoes or any moral compass, but I am a good person who likes good people, and I try not to judge others.
“I try to be open and honest with my life and behavior, and sometimes, that gets me in trouble and allows people to have their opinions about me. As long as I know my truth and I’m honest about it, that’s all I really can do.”