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  • Writer's pictureKristyn Burtt

Charlie Sheen Reveals a 'Dancing With the Stars' Casting Trick

Updated: Mar 29, 2021

The news on Wednesday that Charlie Sheen was originally a cast member on Season 28 of Dancing With the Stars sent the fandom into a tizzy. Us Magazine revealed that not only was he cast on the show, but his participation was part of a contingency deal. That's where the real news was.

Jeff Ballard, Sheen's publicist, confirmed to the entertainment site that “ABC made a very generous offer” for a pilot series, “it was contingent upon his participation on Dancing With the Stars.”

A pilot presentation in exchange for a high-profile appearance on DWTS. A deal like this isn't uncommon in the entertainment industry, but given the fact that ABC put a huge emphasis on getting bigger stars for Season 28, this is where we dig into the subtext.

In 2010, Sheen was the highest-paid performer on television. He earned $1. 8 million an episode for Two and a Half Men before he crashed and burned publicly in 2011. In subsequent years, he revealed his HIV Positive status and has battled with his ex-wives over child support. So both ABC and Sheen needed each other — one for DWTS buzz and the other for cash flow.

However, if ABC was so keen on having Sheen in their stable of talent, they would not have walked away from the pilot deal even if Sheen refused to do DWTS. It's an indication that having Sheen on DWTS was worth far more to them than getting him back on a scripted show.

On Tuesday's Dance Dish podcast, I also raised the question why a very successful actor like James Van Der Beek would do DWTS in the prime of his career. Yes, he loves the show, but DWTS traditionally is for a career comeback, not career stability. Could he have a similar deal with ABC? It doesn't seem out of the realm of possibility given the fact that he's everything studio executives look for in a television star — a good actor, well-liked and a family man.

These deals probably have happened in the past, but we haven't been privy to that information until Sheen. He claims he backed out because he has "two left feet" and he "just can’t dance," but there's probably more to the story behind the scenes. If he hadn't dropped out, he would have added to an already controversial season with Sean Spicer in the cast.

While DWTS didn't necessarily deliver bigger celebrities than ever, they did bring more recognizable names to the fold and contestants who seem happy to be there. They are enjoying the experience and delivering more ballroom content than we've seen in years.

It will be interesting to watch whether any other celeb admits that they were offered DWTS with a contingency deal. The network had a promise to deliver to the fans in Season 28 and they quite possibly used their employment power on luring a few bigger names. Do you think it worked?


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This week's To The Pointe episode:


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