JR Martinez (Brot Monroe) has become the latest soap star to join the cast of ABC's reality dancing competition, Dancing with the Stars. Dubbed "Soap's Real-Life Hero," by the show's publicity department, Martinez will soon be waltzing with the likes of NBC star Ron Artest, talk show host Ricki Lake, fashion guru Carson Kresley, pop star Chynna Phillips, and the only child of Sonny and Cher, activist Chaz Bono.
"I just want people to take away that no matter what war or battle you are fighting, through positive thinking, through a positive attitude you can overcome," Martinez said when asked what he hoped people would take away from his appearance on Dancing. "I think that all of us up here [...] are going to push ourselves beyond what we thought was possible."
In April 2003, at 19 years old, Martinez was serving as a Humvee driver for the U.S. Army in Iraq when his left front tire hit a landmine. He suffered smoke inhalation and severe burns to more than 40 percent of his body. Martinez spent 34 months in recovery, and he has undergone 33 different surgeries, including skin grafts and cosmetic surgery.
While in recovery, he started speaking to other burn patients within the hospital, sharing his experiences and listening to theirs. News of his story and efforts to help others quickly spread, first on a local level and then to national circuits. Martinez continues to balance his motivational speaking engagements and charity work with his acting. He is also busy working on his memoir.
Martinez made his professional acting debut on All My Children in November 2008. The show incorporated portions of Martinez's real life into its fictional storylines.
"JR represents the best of the human spirit. His commitment to help his fellow service men and women and their families has inspired us all. JR's challenging journey and resilience will bring a uniquely authentic perspective to the role of Brot Monroe," AMC's executive producer Julie Hanan Carruthers said in a statement at the time.
Three of Martinez's All My Children cast members have previously appeared on Dancing with the Stars. In 2007, Cameron Mathison (Ryan Lavery) competed in the show's fifth season, finishing in fifth place. One year later, Susan Lucci (Erica Kane) competed, and finished in seventh place. In 2010, Aiden Turner (Aidan Devane) took part in the competition, and landed in ninth place overall.
It isn't just All My Children stars that have salsaed their way through Dancing with the Stars. Former Days of our Lives star Lisa Rinna (ex-Billie Reed) and The Bold and the Beautiful veteran Mario Lopez (Christian Ramirez) have also taken part in the competition. General Hospital's Kelly Monaco (Sam McCall) is the only soap star to have won the competition. Monaco took home the show's mirror ball trophy in the very first season back in 2005.
Martinez will be paired with professional dancer Karina Smirnoff.
The 13th season of Dancing with the Stars kicks off on Monday, September 19.