Marlee Matlin and John Rich have come a long way since starting out on “The Celebrity Apprentice” earlier this season. Both have raised more money than seemingly anyone else ever on the show, and they have also managed to withstand dealing with a number of difficult personalities with strong opinions (think Gary Busey or Star Jones).
On Sunday night, the two finalists are going to have the opportunity to square off in a 7UP-themed showdown, but before that I had the opportunity to speak briefly with each of them.
Matt: Marlee, how did you try to take on someone with as full of a spectrum of emotions as Meatloaf? Over the past two challenges, we’ve seen him do everything from cry to get angry to burst out in pure joy.
Marlee: I’ve got to say that when I started with the women’s team, I got to know everybody and their individual personalities. I didn’t know Team Backbone so well until Meatloaf was brought over. I knew who he was — I’m not a fan of his music necessarily — but I know his work as an actor and the persona he played in the ’70s with his ‘Bat Out of Hell’ years.
When he joined our team, I have to say that when he started to direct during the OnStar commercial, he assured me that he was experienced and that he knew what he was doing since he was such a seasoned performer for thirty years in front of audiences. I really didn’t have a clue as to how he worked, so I tried to keep an open mind with it [in terms of] how he dealt with stress and made decisions.
He’s exxtremely passionate, and he wants to sometimes take over tasks … he’s like a tornado on crack, and in a good way. When it was his turn to take over the comedy routine task, I understood that he was very upset one morning and we couldn’t even find him. We usually get together for sound and he was there at the van sobbing. That threw me for a loop, since I didn’t know he was this kind of guy. But I learned that this is only out of his heart and compassion for his Painted Turtle charity that he was playing for — and how concerned he was that this money could be taken away because it was all about the kids. He is completely selfless, giving, and yes he can go off track — but who doesn’t when you are that compassionate about charity?
All I can say is that I’d love to do a movie with him — he is fantastic.
Okay John, this is a silly question but it has to be asked. When was it harder for you to keep your composure — when Meatloaf lunged out at Gary Busey or when Piers Morgan started making fun of your hat?
The Gary Busey – Meatloaf … we call it the ‘meltdown.’ That was the toughest thing that I believe I dealt with because I was Project Manager. These were two guys who hell, I was fans of — I love Gary’s movies, and also Meatloaf’s music. They’re both quite older than me, they’re [around] my dad’s age … I felt like the junior member since I’m 37.
I’m looking at these guys going ‘what can I say to these guys to make this stop?’ Meatloaf was not playing around, and I don’t think Gary was in touch enough with the situation to realize that Meatloaf was not playing around, it was really only a second away from something irreversible happening there. Something bad. I didn’t want to see that happen for anybody’s sake.
So I took a breath — it seemed like everything went down into slow motion for a minute — and reminded these guys that we are there for charity, and that our charities are going to be watching this episode and that this is embarrassing. As soon as I said that, it extinguished everything. Meatloaf just relaxed and said ‘oh my gosh, what have I just done,’ and Gary stepped back to his corner and said ‘we have to stop this.’ For me, that was a critical few seconds that happened on the show. You know what? I think I handled it the right way since we’re there for charity … had I not been there for charity and just for drama, I would have just let the thing go and stepped back and see what would happen. But I stepped in on that.
As for Piers Morgan, I think he was there to play his role of the agitator, he was throwing darts to see if he could get under your skin and make you say something off-collar or expose you a bit.
Listen, I wear a cowboy hat in New York City — you don’t think I walk around every corner and hear a ‘yeehaw?’ That’s not a big deal to me. I grew up in Amarillo, Texas, I’m a Texan. They put a cowboy hat on my head when I was three years old to keep the sun out of my face. It’s not a fashion statement to me — I’ve had one on my head my whole life. A British guy making fun of a cowboy hat on my head is not exactly something that is going to set me off — when he started picking on my creative writing, I though ‘okay, now he’s getting a little deeper and a little more personal.’ But I was not going to take that bait because I knew what it was. It was prety transparent what he was trying to do.
I know he’s not a bad guy — he was playing a role, and I took it as such.
Who are you rooting for to win this season?
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