Natalie Portman at the premiere of "Angel City" in Los...

Natalie Portman at the premiere of "Angel City" in Los Angeles on May 4. Credit: Invision/AP/Jordan Strauss

Natalie Portman ran track at Syosset High School, for a pragmatic reason.

“It was the only team that didn’t require tryouts; anyone who wanted to be on it could be on it,” the Academy Award-winning actress told Newsday.

“So for unathletic me, that was the ticket.”

She ran middle distances, such as 800 and 1,500 meters. At the time, it was her only significant connection to sports growing up in a family with other interests.

“Of course there was intense hockey love and baseball love [in the area], but I really grew up in a family that was not a sports family,” she said. “It was books and concerts and theater in my family culture.

“It really took until I was a parent and saw my kid get into it that it really struck my interest as something that could be culturally transformative.”

Portman’s now 12-year-old son, Aleph, helped her catch the sports bug in general and the soccer bug in particular. When it happened, it happened in a big way.

How big?

She is a founder of the Los Angeles-based NWSL team Angel City Football Club that debuted last season, and she is an executive producer of a three-part HBO docuseries on that process, “Angel City,” that premieres on Tuesday night.

Like many fans of the U.S. Women’s National Team who watch women’s soccer at the World Cup and Olympics, she wondered why attempts to parlay that interest into professional league success in this country had failed in the past.

She responded by assembling a founding team that also includes Julie Uhrman and Kara Nortman, a major investor in internet entrepreneur in Alexis Ohanian — whose wife is Serena Williams — and a star-studded array of part-owners.

The organization primarily is run from top to bottom by women.

The process was well-documented from the beginning by design, making for a trove of material for the HBO series.

“I knew I wanted to make a docuseries at the beginning, because I knew what we were doing was completely new and unprecedented,” Portman said.

“I wanted to share what we were doing with others so that they could hopefully be inspired and feel that they could do it themselves as well.

“Starting a team from scratch is not something that's been documented before, certainly not one that's got a startup structure and a primarily female ownership group.”

The series is honest about the inevitable ups and downs. Angel City finished eighth in the 12-team league last season with 29 points (8-9-5) and is ranked eighth with eight points (2-3-2) through seven games this season.

How has the reality compared to the vision?

“It’s been really fun and really rewarding,” Portman said. “We've really been able to navigate this whole journey as a team, with each of us using our strengths and backgrounds to try and move everything forward.

“When there have been challenges, it's been met with this incredible kind of sisterhood.”

Have other teams been jealous of the attention Angel City gets, with an investor list that includes Eva Longoria, Jessica Chastain, Christina Aguilera, Sophia Bush, Becky G, Jennifer Garner and Gabrielle Union plus celebrity athletes such as Mia Hamm, Candace Parker, Lindsey Vonn, Billie Jean King and Williams?

“I think every team is so incredible and has its own strengths,” Portman said. “I think all of the teams are doing incredibly well and the viewership is up across the league, several-fold. It’s really like all of us are rising together.”

The HBO docuseries will premiere on three consecutive nights, through Thursday.

During the series, Portman is seen among fans cheering enthusiastically.

“It’s incredible to get to be among the supporters,” she said. “It’s just such positive energy to be around so many people having so much fun together and the community that's been created by Angel City. It’s my favorite place to be.”

Portman, 41, has lived in California and France in recent years, but her parents still are on Long Island and some of her best friends are from her days living in Jericho and attending Syosset High.

“I’m there [on Long Island] quite a bit,” she said. “I'm very close to my high school friends. They’re very, very much my core friend group, still.”

How did Long Island shape her?

“Being so close to such an important cultural center was really formative, to be able to see theater and go to museums and concerts growing up,” she said.

“But then also to have this proximity to nature and be near the woods and the beaches has also shaped my love of nature alongside the culture.”

Now she has immersed herself in a new culture.

“My son is a huge soccer fan, so I spend a lot of time watching soccer, both him playing and professional teams he loves,” Portman said.

“When I saw it's the most popular sport in the world by far and the U.S. has the best female players in the world, it seemed obvious to me that we should have the opportunity to see them play on home turf, not just wait every four years for the Women's World Cup.”

The NWSL, Angel City and the HBO series are part of that process.

“For so many years, there hasn't been the correct investment in women's sports,” Portman said. “There hasn't been proportional coverage in journalism. There hasn't been good broadcasting. There hasn't been the right sponsorship dollars behind it.

“Then people would say, ‘See, it's not popular!’ But you can't compare it unless you give it the same kind of platform as the men's games. So I think that we're showing that when you put that belief and that investment into it, it can be as popular or even more popular.”

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