Smooth moves: John O’Hurley finds celebrity dancing fits him fine

Nobody has smoother moves this summer than John O’Hurley, the familiar character actor (he was J. Peterman on “Seinfeld”) who’s sweeping viewers off their feet on ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars.”

Who knew a reality series that pairs an eclectic mix of celebrities with professional ballroom dancers would be a TV ratings hit? O’Hurley’s wife, apparently. She told him it would change his life.

Well, it’s certainly increased his fitness regimen. “I’m touching parts of my body I haven’t seen in 25 years,” O’Hurley joked from Los Angeles before a rehearsal with his prime-time dance partner, Charlotte Jorgensen.

Q: You’re considered a favorite to win. What’s your secret?

A: Early on, we discovered it wasn’t about putting the steps on the floor, it was about leading with your heart. We decided we were going to make a performance out of it that had a story – a beginning, middle and end.

Q: How many hours a day are you practicing?

A: I’ll be there six hours today. I was there six hours yesterday. I was there Saturday and Sunday six hours. No days off. This is boot camp for me.

A: : What’s your biggest fear on the dance floor?

A: : That I won’t relax. You can’t appreciate the way the dance comes out of the music unless you relax.

A: : You’ve lost 15 pounds so far. Did you really promise to wear a Speedo if you lose 20?

A: : I wanted to get rid of some extra weight that was creeping in. I said if I drop 20 pounds, I’m doing my last dance in a Speedo. Unfortunately, the New York Post was there at the time, so the promise developed a life of its own. I have a collection of red Speedos on my doorstep right now that people have sent me. I don’t know if there are any left to buy in the L.A. area.

A: : Your moves and expressions on the dance floor are reminiscent of J. Peterman, his swagger and flair. Is that on purpose?

A: : Each dance has had a character that I portray. If it looks like Peterman, I’ll take that, and I don’t take it in a bad way.

A:: You’re the voice of King Neptune on “SpongeBob SquarePants.” You spent a dozen years in daytime soaps. You’ve done movies, sitcoms and stage shows. You’ve even hosted a televised dog beauty pageant. What’s your most unusual job ever? This one?

A: This is so unusual, in terms of the physical and mental demands. … If, God willing, we move on to next week, we’ll have maybe 10 minutes to raise a glass of wine. Then you go home to bed, wake up the next morning and start learning new steps.

Q: What’s the best thing about this experience?

A: The physicality of it. … I feel infinitely more sensual, that my body responds to music in a way it didn’t six weeks ago. I’ve rediscovered my hips. Now that I’ve found them, I must use them for good and not for evil.

Q: Do you miss boxer Evander Holyfield now that he’s been eliminated from the competition?

A: I do. … Evander was just like this big old huggy bear, as sweet as can be, a real gentleman. More than anyone, he was the one who helped sell this show. The idea that you tune in and watch one of the true legends in the sport take a chance on something he didn’t have to do – I will always admire him so much.