"It was completely exaggerated," the contestant says of a heated moment in rehearsals
Jaleel White knew Dancing with the Stars would put him back in the spotlight. But he didn’t know that he and pro partner Kym Johnson would be the focus of behind-the-scenes drama.
“It was completely exaggerated,” White, 35, said backstage following Monday night’s performances, after reports surfaced that he had erupted into a tirade against his partner on Friday.
The former Family Matters star reportedly stepped on Johnson’s foot during a rehearsal, and then yelled at her when he thought she overreacted to the pain it caused.
“Jaleel definitely was out of line,” a source tells PEOPLE. “It basically didn’t have anything to do with Kym or her foot – he was just stressed out and ready to snap.”
Fellow contestant Donald Driver and pro dancer Mark Ballas reportedly had to intervene and diffuse the situation. “Both Mark and Donald wound up having words with him,” the source continues, “mostly trying to get him to realize that he needed to just get a grip already.”
But White, 35, says reports of his outburst, rather than his reaction, were overblown. “We go to work every day, and there is an alley full of tabloid reporters,” says White. “It’s not fair to us and that’s life, and I hope people can see through it. There’s no drama in my life.”
Speaking after Monday’s show, Johnson told PEOPLE: “This has been a stressful week for us, and people have stressful weeks. [Today] was horrible. I thought we got through it really well, and our dance tonight will show everyone that we really have a great connection. This is really the first week we only had four days to learn [the rumba].” (They scored a 25.)
When asked about the situation, Ballas said, “These things happen. This show is a competitive show. Things get heated. … This got severely twisted. We’ve been in the same room all night, and everything’s fine.”
White admitted that because the camera captures every minute of his Dancing experience, he has felt frustrated at times. “They literally do not let you rehearse without a camera,” he says. “You’re watching everything, and it’s tough.”
This is the second time White has been the focus of unflattering media reports. Last week he addressed a published allegation that he physically and verbally abused an ex-girlfriend during a child-custody disagreement. White responded by saying that, legally, he could not discuss the case.
“I’m a sitcom generation kid,” White said Monday. “I’m not used to all this tabloid stuff.”
VIDEO: Jaleel White Does The Urkle