As one of the cohosts of Dancing With the Stars, Alfonso Ribeiro is having the time of his life. “Julianne Hough and I have incredible chemistry together for the show,” he exclusively tells Closer. “We really work well together. I’m truly enjoying everything I’m doing.”

Hosting the popular celebrity competition is a natural fit for Alfonso, 52, who won first place on Season 19 of the series in 2014. He began working professionally as a youngster in the Broadway musical The Tap Dance Kid. On TV’s The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, his character’s adorably goofy Carlton dance became a sensation in the 1990s. Today, in addition to Dancing With the Stars, the charming performer hosts America’s Funniest Home Videos and Jack Hanna’s Passport on ABC on Saturdays.

When you were young, what did you want to be when you grew up?

“I was always interested in show business, but I loved baseball. I was a little too small to play professional baseball. I used to always say I wanted to be a doctor, too. Now, looking back, if I wasn’t going to be in show business, I think I would have been a good lawyer. I’m a pretty good debater!”

What do you consider your big break?

“Clearly, The Tap Dance Kid. Playing the title character in a Broadway show was a big deal. Then I got a second big break when I did the Pepsi commercial with Michael Jackson in 1984. That really broke me out of the New York area and gave me some worldwide notoriety.”

What was it like working with Michael Jackson on the campaign?

“It was amazing. I was a huge fan and ended up becoming friends with him. It was quite special. The funny story was when we were doing rehearsals, I couldn’t understand why it was taking Michael so long to learn such simple choreography. Then, I realized, ‘Oh, he’s not learning it. He’s perfecting it.’ Every movement, every fingertip, had to be exactly what he wanted it to be. I learned that it’s not about how quickly you do something, it’s about getting it right in every detail.”

That led to your role on the TV series ‘Silver Spoons’ with Ricky Schroder. Can you share some favorite memories of it?

“My favorite memories were hanging out with the other castmates and having fun off set. Ricky and I were tight for a while. One of my favorite things was learning to play racquetball with my on-set teacher. I became a competitive racquetball player while doing my schooling for Silver Spoons.”

You also costarred on ‘The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’ for six seasons. What did you enjoy most about it?

“It was about the cast and spending time with them. Before every show, we would go into Will Smith’s dressing room, and we’d play music and dance and just have a great energy buildup to get ready for the show. Those are some great memories of just being together.”

Alfonso Ribeiro Says ‘Fresh Prince' Was a Career ‘Sacrifice’
Getty Images

Did you have to make any sacrifices for your career?

“Playing Carlton on Fresh Prince became a sacrifice. I used to always say doing Carlton was the greatest and worst thing that ever happened to me. It was one of the greatest roles that I ever was fortunate enough to play, but it was also the role that stopped me from acting again because people couldn’t see me as anything else. The sacrifice was not having an acting
career anymore.”

Would you ever return to acting now?

“I’m enjoying being a host and am very happy with it. But, yes, I would go back to acting if it was exactly the right thing.”

What are your proudest accomplishments?

“I’m most proud of my children and proud of my relationship with my wife — proud of being a good husband. For me, my pride comes from others, not from my doing stuff.”

Alfonso Ribeiro Says ‘Fresh Prince' Was a Career ‘Sacrifice’
JC Olivera/Getty Images

But how about the things you’ve done?

“My happiest moments, career-wise, are winning Dancing With the Stars and now becoming host of Dancing With the Stars. And after winning Dancing With the Stars, I got the opportunity to do the show that I always wanted to do — America’s Funniest Home Videos.”

What’s your secret to a happy marriage?

“There’s no secret. It’s real simple. If you’re willing to hear what the other person is saying and you’re willing to compromise in a relationship, that relationship has a chance. I always find it interesting that people can have lifelong friends but then get divorced three times. You’re willing to compromise with your friends, but some people get into a power struggle with relationships. The key is compromise. My wife and I understand each other. We discuss things. We communicate. That allows us the chance to continue to be happy.”

Do any of your four children show signs of following you into show business?

“I think my girls will. My oldest daughter has been in a movie. I don’t know about my boys, but I’ll be supportive of whatever they want to do. I’ve coached them in their baseball, and that’s been fantastic. I’m all for letting them do their thing.”

What else do you do for fun?

“If I’m not with the family, I’m golfing. It’s my only real hobby. I’m a global ambassador for the PGA Tour Champions.”

Tell us about your partnership with Bob Evans.

“I’ve been a spokesman for Bob Evans for a long time. Now, we’re looking to find a kitchen-savvy consumer who has a passion for making kitchen prep easier to take my place as spokesperson — someone who knows how to spice things up with cool kitchen hacks, has a good personality and who’d be good on camera and social media.”

How can our readers apply?

“Go to the Facebook or Instagram page for Bob Evans Grocery. There’ll be a link on there looking for the next spokesperson. They’re going to get paid $35,000, get complimentary Bob Evans products and an opportunity to step into my shoes. The deadline for entry is May 24.”

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