After a cheating scandal involving “Vanderpump Rules” stars Tom Sandoval and Raquel Leviss lit the internet aflame, Sandoval wanted a “public punishment” to make amends for his infidelity to then-girlfriend Ariana Madix on “Special Forces: World’s Toughest Test.”
“Tom Sandoval wanted to be punished in a way, and also prove himself — a bit of a public punishment for what had happened,” “Special Forces” EP Sophie Leonard told TheWrap ahead of the show’s release.
Just as the controversy — dubbed #scandoval by “Vanderpump Rules” fans — went viral in March, Leonard’s team was casting for the second installment of the Fox reality show, which challenges celebrities across sports and entertainment to undergo a slew of brutal tasks in brisk mountains of New Zealand.
“We were looking for people to sign up just at the time when he was probably coming through this major, life-changing public experience,” Leonard said. “He felt like he was really at rock-bottom — he knew he’d done a bad thing, and that he was being really badly judged for it. There’s probably an element of ‘I deserve it — let me put myself through the toughest thing out there.’”
After facing judgment on his character by “Vanderpump Rules” viewers and beyond following the scandal, Leonard noted that Sandoval was initially “closed-off” and “quite defensive” at the start of the “Special Forces” course.
Despite “not [being] in a great place in his life when he came into it,” Leonard said the reality star was “very determined” to succeed in whatever treacherous task he was assigned.
“He was not one of those people that turned up and was like, ‘I’m checking out —this is too hard,” Leonard said. “He was like, ‘I will take the hardness … and take the punishment and try and prove to himself… and gain the respect of his other fellow recruits and of the [directing staff]’. He didn’t back down from anything.”
In addition to Sandoval, other contestants on the show include actress and model Blac Chyna, “Bachelor” Nation staples Nick Viall and Tyler Cameron, former NFL star Dez Bryant, reality TV star Savannah Chrisley, actor Brian Austin Green, NBA champion Robert Horry, Olympic gold medal-winning speed skater Erin Jackson, Olympic gold medal-winning alpine skier Bode Miller, host Jack Osbourne, actress Tara Reid, host Kelly Rizzo and singer JoJo Siwa.
“Special Forces: World’s Toughest Test” Season 2 premieres Monday, Sept. 25 at 9 p.m. on Fox.