Kenton Duty, a native North Texan and co-star on Shake It Up, says he was born with two left feet.
So it's a good thing that he was cast on Disney Channel's dance-driven sitcom for qualities other than sizzling dance moves.
"I've gotten a lot better," Duty says. "I practice every day. But if people are tuning in to see me dance, our show is going to be in big trouble."
But Shake It Up, which airs at 7:30 p.m. Sunday, is not in trouble. Far from it.
The kid-friendly comedy, about two girls who are background dancers on a popular teen dance show, averages 3 million to 4 million viewers a week, making it one of TV's most popular cable series.
And Duty more than makes up for any dance-floor deficits with his flair for comedy.
The 15-year-old actor from Dallas has become something of a fan favorite because of his offbeat character and flamboyant performance.
He plays Gunther Hessenheffer, a Shake It Up, Chicago! dancer from an unnamed European nation. Gunther wears loud clothes, speaks in a comically broad accent and doesn't quite grasp everything there is to know about American culture. He and his twin sister, Tinka, are "frienemies" to our heroes CeCe and Rocky (played by Bella Thorne and Zendaya).
"What makes Kenton so great is he has no fear," executive producer Rob Lotterstein says. "A lot of kids, even young actors, when you're that age, it's like: 'Ooh, if I act really crazy, what are people going to think? Are they going to judge me?' But Kenton just puts himself out there. He has gone out and created this hilarious character, no fear whatsoever, which makes him so much fun to watch."
Now, when fans recognize Duty, they often expect him to speak like Gunther.
"I was at Collin Creek Mall [in Plano] with my family after Christmas, and we were doing crazy back flips on the Spiderwalk," Duty says. "When I got off, still a little bit dizzy, these two girls walked up and were like, 'Are you Gunther from Shake It Up?' I said, 'Yeah, I am.' And they said: 'We thought so. What happened to your accent?'"
Duty developed that accent during the audition process, and the producers liked it. When Caroline Sunshine was cast as his sister, she had to match the accent. So did the two actors who since have been cast as their parents.
It's a lot more creative freedom than Duty was given in past parts.
For example, when he played a recurring role, as Young Jacob, on Lost, he had no clue why he was doing what he was called upon to do. But that was OK, because the other actors were in the dark, too.
"At first, I didn't even know I was the young version of Jacob [caretaker of the Island, played by Mark Pellegrino]," Duty says. "In the script, I was described as 'Mysterious Boy.' And the other actors were like, 'All right, so who is this character going to be and what's his significance to us?'"
Duty -- who is growing like a weed, 9 inches since Shake It Up starting filming last year -- has always had an outgoing personality and a love of performing. He got his start at age 9 playing Young Scrooge in A Christmas Carol at Dallas Theater Center.
"No one from my family ever did anything like this, so we didn't know how the business worked when I started," he recalls. "When I auditioned for A Christmas Carol, we didn't even know what a head shot was. We were like, 'Um, here's a Polaroid.'"
But he's a quick learner.
Duty is such a self-confident young man that he has never been star-struck in Hollywood.
"Even when I went on Lost, I just sat next to them and I played guitar with Terry O'Quinn and we just hung out," he says. "I worked with Tim Allen in a movie [Crazy on the Outside]. I just walked up and said, 'Hi, I'm Kenton.' I've never had that fear. I brought that confidence with me from Texas, strong roots. The way I see it, everybody here are just people doing the same job I'm doing."