After trying something new by fulfilling a role as a heavy-hitter on NBC’s “The Titan Games” earlier this year, Jessie Graff returned to her comfort zone on the show that vaulted the Hollywood stuntwoman to stardom.
Graff made her latest appearance on “American Ninja Warrior” in Monday night’s qualifier. Although Season 12 of NBC’s obstacle course show has seen a format change due to COVID-19 restrictions, that didn’t stop the Urbana High grad from attacking the course with her typical flare in a glittery gold outfit modeled after a costume she wore while working on the feature film “Wonder Woman 1984” in 2018.
“Being back on Ninja, well, it’s just like coming home,” she said in the promo that aired before her run, which was filmed in July at The Dome at America’s Center in St. Louis.
Graff, 36, was seeking to hit the fifth buzzer of her Ninja Warrior career — in which she has been the series’ most successful female contestant and one of its most marketable personalities.
She faced six obstacles to reach the semifinals Monday.
Graff easily traversed the Shrinking Steps to start, then leaped right into Lunatic Ledges, which knocked out numerous Ninjas on Monday’s episode. Graff nearly came up short when dismounting the second swinging panel, but avoided falling into the pool below.
With an exaggerated exhale, she gathered herself by shaking out her hands before entering a new obstacle called Beehive: three honeycomb-shaped hanging structures, including one in the middle that must be rotated and locked into place.
Graff aced it, then took off over the Spinning Bridge, a balance obstacle made up of several spinning spheres that Ninjas must sprint across. Graff lost her footing and bounced off the second-to-last ball, tumbling before landing safely onto the mat.
“It’s a good thing she has a six-pack or that could’ve knocked the win out of her!” co-host Akbar Gbaja-Biamila said on the broadcast.
Next up was the Ferris Wheel: two large rotating wheels with swinging red handles around their perimeter. Compared to the night’s other competitors, Graff took an unconventional route on this one. Rather than climbing up and around, she monkeyed across the lower handles of each wheel before swinging off, leaving just the Warped Wall in her way.
Graff quickly ran up the 14.5-foot incline, pulled herself onto the platform and touched the buzzer in the fastest time of the night among women and ninth fastest among the 14 who advanced to the semifinals.
As Gbaja-Biamila said, “Jessie Graff was Jessie Graff.”
Semifinal rounds will air on Oct. 5 and 12 in this scaled-down Ninja Warrior season, which is only eight episodes, about half the typical length.
Graff was chosen as one of just 150 Ninjas for Season 12, which offers a grand prize of $100,000 to the winner. Both of those numbers are also considerably less than usual, but Graff remains in the running.