Marla Maples on Finally Saying "Yes" to 'Dancing' and the Donald Trump "Distraction"

"I soon learned that the press was going to be a big part of this. How silly of me, dodging the media for the last six months."
Craig Sjodin/ABC
Marla Maples

Marla Maples is not what anyone would call a surprising choice for Dancing With the Stars.

Largely out of the public eye in recent years but still a household name, the 52-year-old multihyphenate seems poised for one of the comeback stories that the ABC mainstay built its brand upon — for that reason, she's been offered a spot on the show several times before — but the timing is a first. Her ex-husband is running for president.

For certain, GOP frontrunner Donald Trump's name will be on the lips of many in the ballroom during the March 21 premiere. But Maples, famously married to the business-celebrity for the bulk of the 1990s, is trying to keep her eye on the future. She recently spoke with The Hollywood Reporter about her decision to finally sign up for the show (even though it means fielding a lot of questions about her ex), where she'd like to see her career go from here and the setbacks of having a 22-year-old daughter who may soon require Secret Service protection.

Were you prepared for how much press comes with doing Dancing With the Stars?

I'm happy to talk, but there is a lot of press jumping all of the time now. Even when we did Good Morning America, there were about 20 or 25 in the press line that day. I soon learned that the press was going to be a big part of this. How silly of me, dodging the media for the last six months.

So why now?

I had been approached several times throughout the years. There were always conversations. But this year I felt ready. I recently moved back to New York to try and jump-start my career. The East Coast has always been a good place for me; I think it was easier than it ever was here [in Los Angeles]. Everything happens so immediately in New York, the capacity to meet people and connect the dots. In L.A., it takes months or years. My daughter is a senior in college, and I had taken two years off to take care of my mom, who sadly passed away — and I lost my best friend, also. They were the strongest female influences in my life, so now is about being in the moment and being joyful. I've always been pretty good at that. And then came Deena Katz.

She's the producer who books talent.

My agent said, "Marla, let me just set up a call with Deena." And I thought, you know, me and Dancing With the Stars? I wasn't really prepared for it. I've always had a lot of fear around ballroom dancing. I'll get out there and shake it, freestyle. I've done tap and a little bit of jazz on and off Broadway, but the thought of ballroom put me in a panic. And the timing seemed like it would be too difficult.

What convinced you?

I prayed about it over a weekend, and I asked a lot of people who I've got respect for in the industry, and I came back on a Monday and said yes. My agent said I had to write a nice email, saying I wanted to do it, because the producers really didn't think I did.

A few weeks in now, do you still think it's the right move?

This is the perfect medium to come back into the world and be myself. There's no time to be anything but yourself.

How does it feel coming back to L.A.?

I lived in L.A. for 17 years. I'm happy to be back with a job, let's put it that way. I love to work. And I'm so committed to any job I take on. I'd rather be here working than in any other capacity. New York is more family-based for me.

And rehearsals are going well?

Oh, so good. I would rather be rehearsing all of the time. They're intense. I can't believe I'm saying this, but I am the oldest gal in the show. I worry about remembering the moves, but doing it over and over has helped. The body remembers more than the mind.

I caught you on The View last week. How much does hosting interest you as you plot the next stage of your career?

You know, I love that. I'm in my element when the pressure is on. And I love talk, because I love people. Being in talk would be a home run for me. I'm taking meetings while I'm out here — I mean, I met a manager for an hour, it's not like I have a lot of time — but I am taking measures for what the next step will be after the show. I want to work. Hosting comes very natural. That was sort of like going into the fire with The View, but I've wanted to be on that show since its inception. I actually booked that before Dancing With the Stars, so the timing ended up being sort of perfect.

Your ex-husband's campaign has been the dominant subject in media for months. How is it affecting you?

Well, it's not a distraction now because I truly don't have time to watch it. This is a job, so I'm committed to the work and I can't follow what's happening like I was before. It's a lot. Even my daughter, who's in her final semester at the University of Pennsylvania, she has a lot on her. My daughter, her father and myself, we're all taking on a lot of challenges at this time. I wish I had more time with my daughter, but she supports me. And if I'm happy, she's happy, so my goal is to be a role model for her.

Did you talk to her about the decision?

When she was little, and I was first approached, she said, "Mommy, you can't do that show. Those dresses are too sexy." Our world is so full now with requests from the media, there's so much going on, I actually made the choice and then told her. She was shocked — but when she heard why I was doing it, she was happy. And now, I show her the pictures of the costumes, and she thinks they're hot. She's 22, not 12.

Will she be able to come to the show?

I'm in the middle of that negotiation right now. She's a big part of one of the [taped] pieces we've done, but she'll have to miss one of her math classes. It's every Monday, performance night, and she's only allowed to miss one during the semester. We're feeling out how it's going to work right now. Because I want her to be able to experience it. She'll stop by rehearsals.

Have you had to deal with security issues with her? At what point in her father's campaign is that a concern?

Soon. I'm probably going to talk to her father about it today. I've met some of the Secret Service, and they expressed to me about a month ago that they were watching and there'd be more for her soon. I believe in higher protection. You could have an army around you and things can still happen. There's a point in time where you just have to trust. It's tough, because we're both on social media, and there's a lot of lovers and a lot of haters.

How so?

I'll look at her Instagram page and say, "Delete that one. Delete that one. Report that one." I'm just horrified at how quickly some people are to judge a child if they don't like the political views of the parent. I'm not saying most people are like that, but there are a choice few. And that's hard for me. I've become a bit of a mama bear. But she's 22 now, and it's time for me to let her go a little bit more every day. 

Do you have any nerves about doing live TV?

I'm so used to playing to the fourth wall. And [partner] Tony [Dovolani] says it's 360 degrees of fourth wall. So this is going to be unlike anything I've ever done. Years ago, I co-hosted Miss Universe and Miss USA. I was running around backstage, interviewing contestants. Something happens when it's like, "Go!" You give everything you've got.

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