THE tattoos spill out of his T-shirt and run down his arms to his fingers. Across his knuckles it reads: WIDE OPEN. He takes off a crisp white baseball cap, which match his trainers, drops it on the table and sits.
With a firm hand shake and a wide grin, he’s now ready to talk. Finally. It’s been a job getting him off the ice this morning, where he’s been practising before the first of two shows at the Capital FM Arena.
He’ll be back next week for another two, alongside Chloe Madeley, Dave Vitty, Laura Hamilton, Denise Welch, Johnson Beharry and series winner Sam Attwater. At each show they compete to win the votes of the judging panel – including Christopher Biggins – and the audience but Mr Ice/Vanilla (“I don’t mind but I prefer Rob” he says) isn’t bothered about winning any of them.
“I’m not competitive,” says the 43-year-old, born Robert Van Winkle in Texas and raised in Florida, where he still lives.
“I’m just here for the entertainment.”
The cast and crew had a day off on Tuesday and he spent some of his free time at the Galleries of Justice.
“I thought it was just a gallery of things they used to use for punishment but then I go in there and it’s a whole court room where they also did autopsies,” he grimaces.
“Outside on the steps they’d hang people and they said the steps of the hotel across the road (the Lace Market Hotel) is where they’d lay a dead body for days to let people know: this is what happens to you, so don’t do it.”
Prior to appearing in Dancing On Ice, UK audiences only knew him for the 1989 hit Ice Ice Baby but back in the US he’s carved out a career as a TV presenter, including The Vanilla Ice Project, a house makeover show.
That followed a successful few years running a company in Palm Beach, renovating houses to sell on for profit.
Still, a rapper dancing on ice? What did his buddies think back home when he told them? They must have thought it was a little effeminate, perhaps?
“No. Nothing like that. They just said ‘OK, can you skate?’ Errr, no.”
He adds: “They thought I’d be doing ice hockey. They didn’t know what dancing on ice was so they figured I’d be playing regular hockey on ice.”
Needless to say, before the tour, Ice wasn’t aware of it either, or Torvill and Dean, who are once again leading the Dancing On Ice tour around the country as producers and dance co-ordinators, as well as offering their professional opinions during shows and performing a routine themselves.
After the tour, Ice plans to continue to skate for fun but his first priority is a new film with Adam Sandler, called I Hate You, Dad. The Wedding Singer star plays a father who moves in with his son and his fiancee, only to become the enemy of his future daughter-in-law.
Rob, who made his film debut in 1991 in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II, will play an old friend of Sandler’s character.
“It’s Hollywood and that’s always exciting,” says Ice.
“I went over to see Adam and I didn’t know what he’d be like. If he’d be all goofy or like Happy Gilmore but he was great. We talked and laughed for about eight hours.”
James Caan, who worked with Sandler in Bulletproof, is in talks to play the bride-to-be’s father in the film which is set for release next summer.
“And I’ve got an album coming out. It’s a cross between Prodigy and Lady Gaga, if you can imagine that. And it’s called WTF, which means Wisdom, Tenacity and Focus – not what you think it means.”
He tells me, then lets out a big laugh.
“Well, you did ask.”
The album will be out by the end of the year and he expects to be back in Britain with a tour.
“But not until next year because in December I’m doing a theatre in Kent. A pairn-tow,” he says, accentuating the term.
He’ll be Captain Hook in Peter Pan at Chatham’s Central Theatre and gives a demonstration by stretching out his hand towards me and curling his fingers, erm, hook-like.
“I’m Captain Hook,” he snarls, as if he’s been practising. It’s a little odd.
“We don’t have panto in the US,” he says.
“But we don’t get any ice in Florida either.”
The Dancing On Ice 2011 Tour returns to the Capital FM Arena on Wednesday April 27, with performances at 2.30pm and 7.30pm. Tickets are £32.50 to £57.50. Call 08444 124624 or visitwww.dancingonicetour.co.uk