Continuing from the first part of the interview, in part two of my interview with The Amazing Race Season 32 winners, we talk about the alliance they formed with two other teams and the social media backlash, souvenirs they saved from their time on the show, their favorite and least favorite legs, and what advice they have for prospective teams wanting to be on The Amazing Race.
Gerald Biggerstaff: The two of you, Maddison and Riley, and Hung and Chee formed a strong alliance early in The Race, and over the course, not only did the alliance grow stronger, but also your friendships. While the alliance loosely started with the five teams that left the mine first, it was you who approached Maddison and Riley in the airport after that leg that the real alliance was formed. What was it about those two teams that made you decide on the alliance?
James: So I think, very early on, we were in the top four teams at Trinidad and Tobago, so we had a lot of downtime at the airports together and we always found ourselves in the same corner. Just connected on life beyond The Race. Even when we would do research. If someone was at a computer already, we would walk in and be like, oh okay, all these teams have their head in the competition. And I know going into it, Will and I said to ourselves if we could find two other teams who are like-minded with their approach to The Race, which is compete hard and have fun while doing it, then I think that could be a really successful alliance, agreement, pact, or whatever word people want to use. And so, ‘Mine Five’ (the loose alliance starting in Episode 2) to us, was only supposed to be short-term. Like we didn’t really anticipate it being a long-term thing, so that’s why going into Manaus, we approached Maddison and Riley and said, “Hey, let’s think further. Like, let’s think long-term. Our goal is to cross the finish line and so if we could do that together and help each other. Why not?” And then it wasn’t until Paris and the train station before we left for Berlin, we had a moment with Hung and Chee, which all three (teams) of us knew we wanted to be those three teams but had not an opportunity to really talk about it. We really solidified it then and there, like we will do this. We will cross the finish line and we will top 3 standing.
GB: There seemed to be a backlash to this alliance on social media. Did Hung and Chee and Maddison and Riley experience this backlash as well or was it mainly focused on you?
Will: I think the backlash, for us, has been a little more public, but I do know that Maddison and Riley and Hung and Chee have also been getting a lot of backlash. And I understand people not appreciating the alliance and that’s totally fine. It’s a strategy that obviously worked for us. Like Hung and Chee are fantastic parents. They’re great role models. They’re just wonderful humans. Same thing with Maddison and Riley, they’re really great guys and I think all the nastiness has been a little overboard but I’m totally okay if you don’t like the alliance just don’t be a jerk.
James: And at the end of the day, it worked for our three teams. Like, we did what we said we going to do, and I think what I wish people would focus on is how loyal we were. And I think loyalty, nowadays, gets dismissed. It shouldn’t go unnoticed. All three teams from three different walks of life decided we were going to work together and accomplish this goal. And we did that, and I think there is something to be said about it.
GB: What I found refreshing about this season was how every team had respect for the other teams. There was no backstabbing or tension among the teams.
Will: I think with this season every leg was an equalizer. They (the producers) introduced the YIELDS and so, there was a huge social dynamic that played out among all of the teams because nobody wanted to be yielded, especially us, and nobody wanted to be U-Turned and so, that was always at the forefront of our mind. Like, how can we ensure that we’re using everything that’s available to us to make sure that we’re not put at a disadvantage and there was no benefit to getting first in any leg because every time you would be tied for first going into the next leg of the race and so, with that you had to work some other angle than just doing well each leg.
James: And if you look back and re-watch seasons, alliances aren’t a foreign concept to The Amazing Race. Whether the term was ever used in a season or not, there were always teams that would help each other because they knew it would give them an edge to stay ahead of another team.
Will: And survive.
James: And survive. That’s really the name of the game is to not come in last, right? I think the only difference with our season, in particular, is that it was successful.
Will: Yeah. And it was long-term. It’s usually like one or two legs but this one, it just kept working. It literally just kept working and so, why fix something that’s not broke?
GB: What souvenirs did you save from your time on The Race?
James: We are actually wearing gold and red Mardi Gras beads right now from the Mardi Gras leg, believe it or not. And we also have our “tereré” cup from Paraguay.
And we have the baby from the king cake and oh my gosh, what else? Trying to think. I have my belt from the costume, the uniforms we wore in India from the palace. It’s actually Gary’s (Barnidge) belt. I ended up getting his and the shuffle things is even funnier.
Will: We also started buying two-dollar magnets at the airports and so we have a couple of magnets from the different countries as souvenirs that we bought. We obviously don’t have a lot, but we do have little mementos.
James: Our bandannas, of course.
GB: What about the picture from the “teledisko” (Berlin, leg 6)?
James: Oh my gosh, I wish! Funny story, I actually loved Berlin so much and I knew there was such rich history there that for my 30th birthday, six months after we got back from The Race, my family and I went to Berlin for my birthday and I had brought them to the “teledisko”, and I have the photo of my family from that.
GB: I loved that moment when you both got to the “teledisko” and you were waiting while Hung, Chee, Maddison, and Riley to finish in there and you (James) talked about having a case of FOMO (fear of missing out).
James: I mean, can you imagine, though, all six of us in that? It would have been a riot. (laughs)
GB: What has been your favorite leg of The Race?
Will: For me, it was Kazakhstan (leg 7). I think Kazakhstan is incredibly beautiful and it’s somewhere that we would normally be able to go to and the culture, the challenges that we did were fantastic. The stunt scene was so fun and then also, decorating the yurts in the nomadic village. You can’t pay for those experiences and it was just a really, really good leg for us. And the culture is so warm and wonderful, and we really, really enjoyed Kazakhstan.
James: For me, it’s actually two. I would say the Amazon (leg 3). I thought it was just an incredible experience from start to finish, every task that we did and immersing ourselves in the culture there.
And then, if you couldn’t tell from this episode of how obnoxious I was about being in Cambodia (leg 9), I loved Cambodia from start to finish. I think it was one of our cleanest legs. We never had any problems and we just really loved every task we did while we there. It was just a beautiful experience.
GB: Least favorite?
James: I don’t think that—
Will: Paris (leg 5)
James: Oh, Paris was because it was self-drive. Yeah.
James: In my head, I’m like “none of it.” All of it was such an experience. The good, the bad, and the ugly, but Will’s right. I would say Paris was rough just because, you know, we literally had a 14-hour flight. We’re thrown into self-driving. Had to navigate through Paris, which can be a nightmare.
Will: And not that I – I mean, I love Paris. I love the country and the people. Just that whole leg of stress and anxiety was –
James: And exhausting.
Will: incredibly overwhelming.
GB: Would you guys return for an all-star season if invited?
James: Heck yes!! Without question.
Will: Yeah, literally we would do it in a heartbeat. I think being able to do a life-changing experience twice regardless that if we won again. The fact that we were able to do it again, we would have a very difficult time saying no. (laughs)
James: In a heartbeat, even at the finish line, we could have easily kept racing for another week, another month. We just loved every part of the experience. The highs and the lows, from start to finish, and the best part was being able to do it together.
GB: James, how long did you sit on the ledge below Crescent City bridge Roadblock before jumping out to get the clue?
James: It honestly wasn’t very long. I had a moment where I was about to go into panic mode but Will, being the support I needed in that moment, looking at me and saying “This is for a million dollars. You’ve got this.” was everything I needed to hear and the moment I got the clearance to jump, it was not even a second in my mind of not, and I just did. And I am just psyched in that moment. I think that’s when it hit us. Like, we are more than likely going to win.
GB: What advice would you give any couples that want to do The Amazing Race?
Will: To be honest, the biggest advice I would give is utilize your communication the entire race because that’s the most important skill for any relationship whether it’s brother-sister, married couple, dating couple, or anybody. That communication is key, and I think, when we re-watched these (other) seasons, talking through challenges to understand what we would do. Who would be better at what? What’s the strategy behind decisions? Going into it that communication really helped us, and we had such a great foundation to our relationship that we’re able to talk through something really quickly and make better decisions. And so, biggest advice is literally work on your communication and never dis your partner because that affects not only them but also your team and how you do on The Race and so always be supportive no matter what.
James: And to echo what Will was saying when it comes to communication, I think the best way to start preparing for that is to re-watch seasons of The (Amazing) Race and talk about what you would do if you were in the shoes of the racers because that sparks those conversations that you will have when competing. When it comes to making a decision for a Detour or who’s going to do what Roadblock. And so, I think that’s a really great way to start working on your communication together as a team.