For this role, Marlee Matlin really dug in.
Matlin, an Oscar-winning actress who lives in La Cañada Flintridge, is among the celebrities competing on the “Battle of the Network Stars” episode tonight, July 13, on ABC-TV.
A nostalgic reboot of the 1970s and ’80s pop-culture classic, each of the show’s 10 episodes brings together two teams of five celebrities apiece. The squads are divided according to the theme of show on which they starred. They “battle” each other in classic contests such as tug of war, archery, kayak relay, an obstacle course and, Matlin’s favorite, the dunk tank.
The toughest event? “Tug of war — the power of so many people pulling in opposite directions was so surprising,” she wrote in an email. “We really had to dig in!”
Matlin, who played pollster Joey Lucas on the political drama “The West Wing,” was a member of Team “White House,” which faced off with a team of “Lawyers” in an episode that was filmed one day recently in Malibu. Other matchups include: “TV Moms and Dads vs. TV Kids,” “Troublemakers vs. Lifeguards” and “Cops vs. Sci-Fi Fantasy.”
Matlin teamed with fellow “West Wing” castmates Josh Malina and Mary McCormack, as well as LaMonica Garrett (of “Designated Survivor”) and Cornelius Smith Jr. (of “Scandal”).
“It was great to see Josh Malina again,” said Matlin, who was anticipating a prank from him that didn’t transpire in return for one she pulled on Malina during a “West Wing” podcast earlier this year.
“It was nice to see Mary McCormack,” Matlin added. “Even though we never had scenes together; we always saw each other at ‘West Wing’ events. And it was great to compete with the cast members of ‘Scandal,’ one of my FAVORITE shows!”
Their coach was DeMarcus Ware, who won a Super Bowl with the Denver Broncos in 2016. Matlin gave his performance a positive review.
“He never bullied or yelled, he was always encouraging and supportive,” said Matlin, who won the Academy Award in 1987 for Best Actress in a Leading Role for “Children of a Lesser God.”
Matlin said she was well aware of the significance of the original “Battle of the Network Stars,” though she didn’t watch the show.
“A lot of TV back then was not closed captioned, so it would’ve been difficult to watching without knowing what was going on,” said Matlin, who is deaf. “I was aware of the show and its huge cultural impact, but it’s just not something I watched.”
With reality TV credits that also include “Dancing with the Stars” and “Celebrity Apprentice,” Matlin said this experience was among the wildest she’s had.
“As [far as] reality TV shows go, this was a pretty crazy one. I’d put it up there with ‘Dancing with the Stars,’” Matlin said. “Physical competitions are just tough for me as I’m not a natural athlete. But I’m always happy to try. In the end, it was a GREAT experience, brutal and fun to be a part of a team effort.
“I’m just glad it was only one day!”