Jesse Grant/WireImage
People Staff
June 04, 2009 12:00 AM

Gilles Marini made it all the way to the Dancing with the Stars finals (and almost won it), leading many to believe the actor was exaggerating about injuring his left shoulder while doing the show.

“A lot of thought I was joking. No, no. It was bad. A lot of damage to my shoulder,” says the 33-year-old, who was diagnosed with tendonitis and underwent surgery at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles on Tuesday.

“I had an outpatient procedure and the surgeon discovered there was a lot more damage than what we originally thought,” Marini told PEOPLE from his Studio City, Calif., home Wednesday afternoon.

But the procedure was a success, Marini says, and he should recuperate “in three weeks,” according to his doctor.

As for his summer plans, Marini will take his family back to France for a few weeks before returning to the States to begin looking over “lots of scripts and offers that came in,” he says. One role already locked in is playing Rachel Griffiths’s love interest on Brothers and Sisters next season.

In the meantime, the season 8 favorite, who was upset in the Dancing finale by Olympic gymnast Shawn Johnson last month, tells PEOPLE he was declared victorious at home.

“My son Georges made a trophy for me. It has four lines on it and the first letters of each line are D-W-T-S,” Marini says proudly. “The first line says ‘Daddy, you’re the best.’ The second line is ‘With all my love.’ The third line is ‘Ten-Eleven-Ten,’ because Len Goodman joked he wished he could give me an eleven. And the last line is ‘So proud, Georges.’ This is what it’s all about.”

And if Marini could do it all over again?

“I wouldn’t change a thing. I love the fact that Shawn won. She is a champion. An American hero,” he says. “For me it was never about winning or losing. After I made it to week five — I am not a dancer and I went that far on a dancing show — I felt like a winner in my heart.” –Monica Rizzo

Jesse Grant/WireImage

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