Alfonso Ribeiro interview for 'Dancing With the Stars Live' tour at Cobb Energy Centre Dec. 31

Credit: Rodney Ho

Credit: Rodney Ho

Most celebrities have to be cajoled into doing ABC's "Dancing With the Stars." There's always the potential for humiliation. (Master P's robotic stomping still haunts many viewers' nightmares all these years later.) And it's a lot of work, a lot more work than most celebrity reality shows.

Alfonso Ribeiro, best known as Carlton on "Fresh Prince of Bel Air" in the early 1990s, has actually been banging on the show's doors for years, a true fan boy at heart. He was finally rewarded a spot this past fall for season 19 and not only did he take home the mirror-ball trophy, he helped goose ratings up.

"It's been an amazing ride," Ribeiro said in a recent phone interview. "It's something I've wanted to do for so many years. Ultimately, it was worth it. It wasn't easy. If it was, everyone would do it!"

Ribeiro will also host a "Dancing With the Stars Live" tour that's coming to Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre on New Year's Eve. The tour features pro dancers from the show including Mark Ballas, Valentin Chmerkovskiy and Ribeiro's dance partner Witney Carson.

Many are arguably more famous than the so-called "celebrities." The show is sold out so you'll have to fend for yourself in the secondary market. (Ticketliquidator, as of today, has tickets selling from $138 to $238 each.)

Given his likable personality, his positive energy and "Fresh Prince" nostalgia, Ribeiro was a favorite to win from day one. Handicappers figured his time as "The Tap Dance Kid" and in a Pepsi commercial as Michael Jackson (sequined glove, moon walk and all) in the mid-1980s gave him a leg up as well.

Not really, he said.

"Tap dance is completely different than anything we did," said Ribeiro, who is 43. " I was trained for that one year of my life at age 12." A couple of others on the cast had more dance experience than he did, including Lea Thompson ("Back to the Future"), once a trained ballerina.

And he hardly waltzed into the finals. Week four, he had a groin injury. Then he messed up his lower back week nine. That almost sidelined him completely.

"I was in so much pain, I could barely breathe," he said. "I was on the floor for 45 minutes. I went into spasms. I couldn't move. I couldn't get up."

Although doctors fixed him up and made him ambulatory on the dance floor, the injury meant he couldn't do lifts. "I was treated like 15 minutes of every hour of rehearsal," he said."Just to be able to make it to the finals and win, it was crazy."

He'll dance during the tour but he'll be limited in terms of what he'll be able to do. He doesn't think he'll feel 100 percent until the middle of next year.

But it could be worse. He can still lift his year-old son.

"I make sure I lift him with the right technique," he said. "I bend my legs and use proper posture to get through it."

One of the memorable moments this season came partway through when he incorporated his goofy Carlton dance from "Fresh Prince." He said that dance has been a mixed blessing, noting on the show that his iconic Carlton character pigeon-holed him and stunted his ability to nab other roles.

"It has afforded me wonderful things in life," he said. "People adore it. At the same time, I've been asked at a urinal to do the dance. Those moments don't create good vibes."

Credit: Rodney Ho

Credit: Rodney Ho

Concert preview

"Dancing With the Stars Live"

8 p.m., Dec. 31

$37-$62 before fees

Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre

2800 Cobb Galleria Parkway, Atlanta

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