With his arm in a sling and his brain floating happily in Percocet-land, "Dancing With the Stars" veteran Cristián de la Fuente apologizes for not being quite up to speed.
"I'm taking two Percocets every four hours — and that's a lot," says the Chilean actor, 34. "Sometimes that's not enough."
De la Fuente had surgery last week to repair the tendon he tore from the bone in his left bicep in the middle of a dance routine. The delicate surgery required that a hole be drilled through his bone. On his left shoulder, the word "yes" still appears in ink, hand-drawn by de la Fuente (along with a happy face) the morning of his surgery to steer doctors to the injured arm.
"It's sad that my only surgical scar is related to dancing," he jokes. "I can't tell my grandchildren it's from when I went to war or because I fought in a bar."
The day before returning to Chile to visit his family, he is relaxing poolside at the apartment complex where he lives alongside a few other lingering DWTS celebrities and dancers. Though he will always call Chile home, de la Fuente has lived in Los Angeles since 1998, when he was cast in the CBS drama "Family Law."
Hoping to avoid a stay in "Celebrity Rehab," he is alternating Percocet with Advil and is pleased to report: "Last night was the first night I was able to sleep the whole night without taking anything. But I woke up with a lot of pain."
After the injury, "DWTS" fans kept voting to keep him in the race. (He lost in the finals to Jason Taylor and champ Kristi Yamaguchi.) "I don't know if it helped me (get votes)," he says. "But it showed me that if you really want something, you can fight for it."
He has been receiving ample care from his wife of six years, actress Angelica Castro, and daughter, Laura, 3. Says de la Fuente: "Laura knows Daddy has a problem in the left arm, so she kisses it. Every time she's in pain, I give her Daddy's magic kiss to make the pain go away, so the other day she inherited the magic kiss."
The previous day, Steve Guttenberg, who was eliminated from "DWTS" early in this edition, knocked on de la Fuente's door bearing a care package of pizza, cupcakes, "trashy" magazines and a Godfather DVD.
"The perfect things when you're recovering in bed," de la Fuente says.
Guttenberg and Sylvester Stallone (de la Fuente's co-star in 2001's "Driven") referred de la Fuente to surgeon Neal Elattrache, who is married to the sister of Stallone's wife, Jennifer Flavin. He also treats the L.A. Dodgers, and that provides some reassurance to de la Fuente in his role as a minor-league baseball player on USA Network's "In Plain Sight," which premieres Sunday at 10 p.m. ET/PT.
De la Fuente plays Raphael, the Dominican boyfriend of lead Mary McCormack, and he describes their characters' relationship as "I Love Lucy … in a modern way. Mary makes fun of my accent and language mistakes all the time, which is really funny."
He says he is similar to his character in that both struggle with English and are monogamous, relationship-oriented men. "Even before I met my wife," he says, "I had that feminine side of my life very developed."
Soon after meeting Castro in Chile 16 years ago, he pressed for a commitment. "I said, 'Let's get married!' and she said, 'No, let's have fun.' " De la Fuente won out: The two were married in Chile in 2002 after taking dance lessons to impress their loved ones.
"We danced the typical waltz," he recalls. "I'd probably do a much better job now. Maybe we should get remarried and dance again."