October 17, 2011 3:16pm PT by Michael O'Connell
'Dancing With the Stars': J.R. Martinez Wants Viewers to See More Than a Solider and Soap Star
Up until this point, J.R. Martinez's traumatic past has come to define his tenure on Dancing With the Stars.
Introducing the relatively unknown All My Children actor to its wide audience, the show has given a lot of attention to the landmine explosion that burned over 40 percent of his body while he served the United States Army in Iraq. Even Martinez's personal dance, during story week, focused on the 2003 accident.
But now the 28-year-old is ready to move on.
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"It's great," he says of the support. "I appreciate that everyone's pulling for me in regards to my story and what I've done, but this is a dance competition. And, quite honestly, I want people to see the other side of me and not just April 5, 2003."
Martinez is happy that the show has afforded him so many new fans, and he acknowledges that the soap opera viewers and military enthusiasts have afforded him an edge in voting.
"The judges give us whatever score they give us, but it's up to America," he says.
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And now that America is familiar with his story, he wants everyone to get to know the rest of him.
"I want them to see the humor and the fun in me," he says, "and, at the same time, see that I'm putting a lot of work in like everyone else."
One person Martinez recognizes put in a lot of effort is felled competitor Chynna Phillips, who got a surprisingly early dismissal after she forgot most of her moves in week 4.
"To see that happen in front of all those people, it broke our hearts," says Martinez. "There's a lot of potential in her. She's a beautiful dancer. It's getting tough."
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His partner, Karina Smirnoff, agrees. And she knows there's no worse feeling than being dismissed after an off night.
"Last season I remember when it happened to me and Ralph [Macchio]," she says of the barely-rehearsed routine they performed after the Karate Kid actor had to take time off after a ruptured cyst. "I was hoping and praying hard that we weren't going to go home. You want to prove yourself. You want to leave on a good note."
More than that, you don't want to leave.