INTERVIEW: Antonio Sabato, Jr. on Fix It & Finish It, Dancing With The Stars and General Hospital

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Antonio Sabato, Jr. is known for his work on soaps like General Hospital, Melrose Place and The Bold and the Beautiful. The heartthrob will soon be back on television daily—making a difference in people’s lives.

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I caught up with Sabato, who spoke at length about his new syndicated home improvement show,Fix It & Finish It. The series premieres Sept. 8, and will see Sabato and his crew refurbishing rooms and/or yards of people in need of help. The actor/model also talked about a possible return to General Hospital, his affection for daytime fans and joining Dancing with the Stars.

Daytime Confidential:How did the idea for Fix It & Finish It come about?

Antonio Sabato, Jr.: It was actually my executive producer’s idea. It started with the first renovation. His name is Scott Sternberg and he came up with the idea of a doing a daytime renovation show that would be about doing one space, or one backyard or whatever, in one day in the syndication world. And it started from that. But now we’re just going across the country. We’re blessing a lot of people. It’s just incredible to be part of a journey like this where we come in to somebody’s home and surprise them. By the end of the day, we just give them a brand new space, completely brand new. They don’t have to pay for anything. Everything is done, and it’s done with local contractors, landscapers and design teams.

DC: Has working with your hands and DIY projects been a hobby in the past?

ASJ: Yeah, it’s always been a hobby. It’s always been a hobby working on my homes, designing my homes, building my homes and to work on my home, because I live in them. Also, I build motorcycles. I’ve worked on motorcycles for many years, and cars and stuff like that. So initially, Scott and I were going to do a show about building cars and that turned out to be something else. Really, I’m in a good place. We never have a bad day, me and my crew. We have people that are happy and crying and hugging me and stuff, and so it’s pretty cool. I can’t really describe it. And also, the show, now that I’ve seen a lot of episodes put together, it’s a really fast-paced, educational, happy show. You’re going to be able to sit for half an hour, and by the time it’s done, you’re educated about some stuff about your home. What to do; what not to do, and you’re going to be able to see the final product at the end of the show. So, you know, it’s pretty cool.

DC: Which of the episodes that you've filmed of Fix It & Finish It has been your favorite?

ASJ: It’s hard. They’re all different, and they’re all special to me, because I can see these people’s faces. Their lives just changed, forever. I always go back to the Edwards. The Edwards were a father and daughter in New Orleans who had their home broken into several times. They stole pretty much everything you could take out of the windows. We came there, and we changed their home. We gave them a new front door. They had a front door that was barricaded. They couldn’t even walk in through the front door. They had to walk in the back door. The Edwards episode was one of my favorites. I think it’s going to be the first—I’m not sure, but it might be in the first week of airtime. That was very moving. It was really something else, but today is something special too. Every day is something different.

DC: That’s really great, how you’re not just fixing things up, you’re changing lives.

ASJ: Yeah, it’s changing lives. Five days a week we’re changing somebody’s life. I’m happy. This is a very cool show.

DC: A lot of the episodes are taking place in the South. Will you guys be branching out to other geographical regions?

ASJ: We’re going to all the markets that Raycom [Media] is associated with and owns. We can only do so many, and we’re doing 13 cities in one year. So, it’s a lot of work, and now with Dancing with the Stars we kind of have to reschedule some cities, but we’re getting it done. We’ve been through Arizona. We went to New Orleans. We went to Alabama and Jackson, Mississippi.  Now we’re in Tennessee. We’re just going to keep on going to the East Coast. Then in May, we’ll be in Savannah, Georgia. It’s not easy. It’s a monumental production on the road, with a lot of people working together. We’ve done 51 projects; we’re pretty proud of ourselves so far.

DC: You and your Fix It & Finish It crew will be making over everything from homes, RVs and hotels, to tree houses and backyards. Does your approach change depending on the type of project?

ASJ: Well, we’ve taken every type of project from houses to well, like you said, from basements to houses to garages to backyards. You know, we come in ready. We’re working on a backyard right now that’s a huge job. We’re taking huge limbs, from a gigantic tree, that would take weeks if not a month to do. We’re doing it in one day. But, I have the right crew. I have the right builders and contractors and designers — that are all locals.  We work together and we plan it. I have a planning team that goes on in each city prior, but we’re ready. And, you know, we’ve been confronted with rain and storms and just really hot weather, but we get it done. It’s amazing that we’ve done 51 projects and we’ve got about, what, 99 to go?

DC: Let’s talk about General Hospital. Daytime viewers still remember your character, Jagger Cates, fondly.

ASJ: I don’t see anybody from GH. It’s been such a long time, but I’m always reminded by the fan base how much they want me back. I would love to go back, I just can’t do it right now. General Hospital's daytime fans are the best. Well, this is a new daytime show, so hopefully all the fans will come over to check out Fix It & Finish It.

DC: You recently appeared in Investigation Discovery’s true-crime show, Heartbreakers. It seems like something soap fans would like. Can you tell us a little bit about that project as well?

ASJ: It’s a new series they released this summer, that’s fun. It’s based on true stories that happened in the ‘80s. My airing was the first movie of the series. Christopher Knight was with me. He’s a friend of mine. It’s very entertaining, based on true stories. After reading the script, I was like, “Wow, this really happened!” It was just fun to play a football coach that had a relationship with one of the teachers, and then he paid the ultimate price for it. There was a whole investigation and the guy who did it never got charged, and so it’s a cool story.

DC: Ever since the new DWTS cast was announced, viewers have been teased that Alfonso Ribeiro will do the “Carlton Dance.” Do you know if or how you’ll incorporate Fix It & Finish It, or other past roles like Jagger or your Calvin Klein modeling, into DWTS yet?

ASJ: I don’t know. Right now I’m just really concentrating on one dance, which is our first dance, [a Cha-Cha], which is the week from Monday. It’s such a huge challenge to be dancing like this with an amazing partner. That’s what I have to focus on right now. Then, if I make it to the next week, we’ll see what they do with me. So far, I know that we have our dance, and then there’s another song that they want us to dance to, which is a slower song. Now, all I have in front of me is one dance, and that’s what I’ve been rehearsing every day. We’ll see. I’m sure they’re going to throw out something fun to do, and we’ll do it. We’ll have a great time.

DC: Good luck, it seems like quite the challenge.

ASJ: Yep, it is. It is a challenge because, you know, I don’t have any dancing background of any kind, and this is something else. It’s a whole new beast. It’s just, like, the number one show in the country, and I’ve been asked to do this by my fans for the last 10 years, so it’s finally here. I’m finally doing it. You know? What a great time! I’m just so fortunate. I’m just taking it each day, one day at a time.

DC: You’re working on the Cha-Cha now. Did you have any say in choosing the type of dance you’re doing—

ASJ: No. [Laughs].

DC: …and is there one you’re looking forward to, like a jive or salsa, should you advance?

ASJ: I’m looking forward to all the dances. This one right here…you know, I mean I didn’t have a say in it, which might surprise you. They give you a week’s notice, and then you pretty much have seven days to get one dance down. It’s really something else. It’s a huge challenge. I’m looking forward to dancing Cha-Cha, but I’ve also got some time to go. I have one week to perfect it. As soon as I’m done [here], I’m going over to rehearse with [partner Cheryl Burke]. She’s probably waiting for me at the dance studio right now.

DC:  You’re going to be very busy!

ASJ: A challenge is something I love confronting head on. Fix It & Finish It is a huge challenge to do 150 shows in a year across [the] country. I’m working a lot on renovations and demo, and things like that— things I personally do. Then, throughout that, I got another blessing. I got a call saying, “Would you like to be involved with Dancing with the Stars?” My first thing was, you know, “I can’t do it.” It sucks for the producers and my team. If they want me to do it, if they’re okay with it ‘cause Fix It & Finish It was my main priority. So, it all worked out, and now we have somewhat of a busy, seven-day-a-week schedule. I don’t have free time, but Dancing with the Stars is something I considered for a long time. My fans and my family are so, so happy that I’m doing this. I love the challenge. I think it’s an amazing journey that I’m taking right now. You know, Cheryl Burke is on the road with me right now, which is really cool. I don’t know. I just take every challenge as it is, and maybe they work. You know, I go to work every morning [and] I ambush the families and then I go into the rehearsals, and then I go back and keep doing work, and that’s a seven-day job. We’ll just keep going, [and] as long as I’m healthy, and I’m eating and getting some rest—I’m happy.

Photo Credit: Bellum Entertainment

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