Gilles Marini is one of the frontrunners on the current season of "Dancing with the Stars: All-Stars" (Mondays and Tuesdays at 8 p.m. ET on ABC) and this week, for a group dance to Psy's "Gangnam Style," Marini is heading up what some viewers have dubbed "the old team." But the 36-year-old French actor doesn't care and below, he told HuffPost TV why.
Find out who Marini has deemed his biggest competition, who he calls "the biggest diamond of all," which fellow all-star inspires him, what karma might have to do with Bristol Palin's elimination last week and what he thinks is one of the sexiest things a man can do for his partner, which most Americans fail to do, he says.
Was it difficult to get back into the grind and the schedule of "Dancing with the Stars"?
Yeah. The hardest part is the schedule -- it's probably 16 hours a day when it comes down to it. You get five hours, six hours of sleep. This is grueling. Yes, it is difficult. But I'm doing something that most people in the world would love to do so I'm taking it all with a big smile and I'm making sure that I'm working really hard so that the end product, whatever happens, people enjoy it. I want people to smile. I want people to go to bed thinking, "Man, that was awesome. That guy is good." That's all that really matters to me.
What was it like having to dance with your new partner Peta Murgatroyd this season and competing against your former partner Cheryl Burke?
It was difficult. In my mind, for the first week, I was like, "What's gonna happen?" I didn't meet her. She was on vacation. I didn't know how she was going to move, how she was going to treat me and whatnot. Luckily, I ended up with the biggest diamond of all. She is just a perfect human being -- sweet, extremely patient. She understands that this is not my job, this is not my comfort zone, but she also knows that I'm completely devoted to doing the best job possible. She really feels like no matter what happens next, I gave it my all and I always will be that way with everything that I do -- it could be cooking a pasta dish or it could be "Dancing with the Stars" or it could be picking up the eggs from the chickens in my yard. Everything that I'm doing is important.
Who do you see as your biggest competition this season?
The football hall-of-famer [Emmitt Smith]. Whatever he does, he's going to get 3 zillion voting for him, no matter what it is. I mean, everyone. Look at Sabrina Bryant. She's been performing her entire life. For her, this is her comfort zone. That is what makes her an incredible dancer. She's so good at it. No one can dance like Sabrina. So everybody is incredible in this cast. There's absolutely no chump. And I'm telling you, what Kirstie [Alley] does at now fifty-something years old is to die for. She is my inspiration. No matter what she does, she works her butt off. And she puts up with Maks [Chmerkovskiy] picking dances that are not easy. She understands the concept and in the process, she still has fun. She's my hero. I love her with everything I've got.
What's it like competing against Shawn Johnson again since it was so close in the finals during your first season together?
I don't pay attention to that. I know other people do, but I'm not paying attention to it. I can feel the vibe is very different. For me, really I'm coming out there and I'm gonna work my butt off. I want to dance to my best abilities because that's the purpose of this show. If I had a choice, no one would be eliminated, all the proceeds would go to a charity. But there's a lot of drama. A lot of people get very competitive. I put that aside and I'm really trying to not focus on how much they want me out, but how much I want to be able to entertain you guys.
Last week, there were a lot of dances we'd never seen on the show before. And you got Bollywood, which is known to be an incredibly difficult style of dance. How did you feel going into last week?
Clearly, we were the first ones to get picked on and [Bristol Palin and Mark Ballas] gave us the hardest dance. So we knew right away we were going to be in trouble. Forty-eight hours before the show, we did not have a dance at all. We couldn't get it. But if there's one thing I believe in, that's karma. When someone wants to make sure that you don't go through because they threw a rock a you, it turns against them. If tomorrow you gave me a dance from Kazakhstan and no one has ever seen it before, give me four days and I will give it 24 hours and make sure I dance exactly like they do. There's nothing I can't do because my mind is so set to do it. A lot of people might think I should relax, but what I'm doing is for the people who watch the show. I'm not going to give them a bad dance. I'm going to give the best I can.
What can you tell us about your next performances, which are a freestyle dance and a group dance? You're on Team "Gangnam Style" with Kirstie and Maks, Emmitt and Cheryl and Kelly Monaco and Val Chmerkovskiy. Is it difficult to dance with your competitors?
Actually, the truth -- and I would never say it before and I better not say it afterwards -- I pulled the team that I know is not there to take out anybody. I'm with the team that is there to enjoy. And Kelly Monaco and obviously Kirstie is there. I want those people. I know they call us the old team, but I don't care. I have a fun, down-to-earth team that doesn't have the dancing experience that the other team has clearly. And guess what? Who cares? We're there to entertain and that is what we're going to give them.
And what about your other dance? Can you tell us what your guilty pleasure song is?
I'm going to dance a rumba to a song that is very dear to me because I started to date a lady back in the day and it's the song that we used to listen to. My first time going to a movie theater with a girl was to see "The Bodyguard," so I'm dancing to Whitney Houston's "I Will Always Love You."
You mentioned loving to cook earlier. Tell me about how you started cooking with Buitoni.
I'm from Europe and the first thing I ever ate was pasta. My grandma used to actually make it from scratch. I've been baffled by the fact that most of the guys in the American community don't even know how to make an omelet. But I'd love to make them understand: You boil some water, throw some pasta in there and five to seven minutes later, it's over. It's one of the simplest things to do. It's very tasty and it makes ladies crazy about you. So they really should pay a lot of attention to that.
We're actually giving away $10,000. It's a very simple concept: Someone has to tape her boyfriend or partner or whatnot cooking a Buitoni pastas and sauces dish. Then they will have to post it on Facebook and on Nov. 7, a winner will be picked and someone is going to win $10 grand. It's also incentive for people to start to cook for their partners because I think it's a beautiful and sexy thing to do.
Have you convinced any of the other "Dancing with the Stars" guys to start cooking?
They should, but with our schedule, it's a bit of a problem. It's very difficult to cook anything. When I'm not working, I make it a point to make food for my kids and to actually teach them how to cook. My son can make food for himself and can actually make a dessert. He's 13, but he's been doing that since he was five years old. I have to teach him how to be a man and autonomous.
Watch Gilles Marini on "Dancing with the Stars: All-Stars" airs Mondays and Tuesdays at 8 p.m. ET on ABC and on "Switched at Birth" on ABC Family. The Season 1 finale airs Mon., Oct. 22 at 8 p.m. ET and Season 2 will make its debut on Mon., Jan. 7 at 8 p.m. ET.