ABC’s ballroom-dancing competition “Dancing With the Stars,” which started a new season on Monday, March 18, is known for a fairly high rate of injury to participants, both celebrity contestants and professional dancers — from pulled muscles to foot fractures to tendon tears.
But Joey Lawrence, star of ABC Family’s sitcom “Melissa and Joey,” who competed on “Dancing,” says that risk is nothing compared to that faced by the contestants in “Splash,” the new reality-competition show he’s co-hosting for ABC.
“These are serious injuries,” says Lawrence. “We have things going on I’m not going to tell you about, as these episodes roll out. But it is crazy stuff these people are experiencing.”
Premiering on Tuesday, March 19, “Splash,” based on a Dutch concept, pairs 10 celebrities with diving mentor and Olympic legend Greg Louganis, then has them compete in regulation platform and springboard diving in front of two judges: London Olympics gold-medalist David Boudia, and Australian Olympian and USA Dive Team director Steve Foley.
In the first episode, half the ten celebrities — NBA legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, comedian Louie Anderson, actor/musician Drake Bell, soccer star Brandi Chastain (substituting for the injured Chuy Bravo (“Chelsea Lately”), extreme skier Rory Bushfield, actresses Nicole Eggert and Keshia Knight Pulliam, NFL star Ndamukong Suh, model/TV personality Katherine Webb, model-author Kendra Wilkinson — take their first on-screen plunge into the pool.
Bravo’s injury — a broken heelbone, which happened during horseplay while taping of the first episode — wasn’t directly related to diving, but that doesn’t mean similar mishaps couldn’t happen to the competitors.
“You think about propelling your body 32 feet into the water,” says Lawrence, “you’re hitting that water at about 25 miles an hour. You don’t hit the water correctly, you could break bones. These are serious injuries that could last a lifetime.
“This isn’t a twisted ankle or a back pull or something like this. It’s really dangerous; it’s no joke. I give them courage for doing it. I could never do it. I could never dive off the board. I stand up there and do interviews, I can’t even look down. It’s so far down; you have no idea.”
Lawrence especially admires 59-year-old, 400-pound-plus (or at least he was when he started training) Anderson.
“To see somebody like Louie Anderson,” Lawrence says, “who literally, nine weeks ago, could not even fall off the side of the pool into the water, because he couldn’t see his feet … that’s the truth. He’ll be the first person to tell you that.
“To where this man will attempt tonight a swan dive 25 feet off the water, to see something like that, what this man has gone through on a personal level, to get himself up to be able to do something like that … that, to me, is where the show lives. That’s what I like about the show.
“For him, he’s at a point in his life where he needed to do something drastic, even for health purposes. I think this presented itself to him, and he felt it was just a gift from heaven above, that he’s got to jump and and change his whole life around.
“From what I see, he’s succeeding at that.”
Lawrence had to overcome his dislike of flying to be transported by helicopter from Los Angeles, where he shoots “Melissa & Joey,” to neighboring Riverside County, where “Splash” is being filmed.
“I’m not a big fan of flying,” he says, “but man, I did it once. The first time, you’re looking down at the 5 Freeway, and it’s parking lot, and you’re going 125 miles an hour — you get spoiled real quick.”
But he won’t be taking the plunge, even in fun.
“I have tried diving in the past,” says Lawrence. “It’s crazy. I’m in really good shape, and I ripped my shoulder to shreds, one try, at a dive. So, hell, no. Nope.”