thanks to banzai's link ~Phil Keoghan just completd a conference call with reporters about
TAR9, and I was crazy enough to try and transcribe it while cradling a
phone on my shoulder. OK, so it's not bungee jumping off a high
bridge, but still. Anyway -- enjoy! I'll mail it in two parts so it
won't be so big.
Q: Criticism for the family edition. What was your reaction?
PK: There's a great quote that I like which is, anything new and
different is most susceptible to criticism. We tried something, I'm
really proud of the fact that we tried something. If we hadn't tried
to change, people might have criticized us for not being adventurous.
While the idea of bringing in teams of four and having less
international locations is not as successful as the original format,
we also picked up a new group of people watching the show. I'm proud
of what we managed to pull together but there is no denying the fact
that the race is most successful when it has less faces, more places,
and teams of two racing around the world.
Q: Tyler seems like quite a character.
PK: I really warmed to him. I think that people's first reaction to
him is going to be, what is going on with this guy? There's something
extremely endearing about him. He's clearly very smart, very well
traveled. He's done some incredible adventures in his life. He walked
the length of Japan once, backpacked. He actually is one of these
people that I feel has a lot to offer. He's only 25 and I somehow feel
that he's somebody that we're going to hear a lot more about, not
because he's craving the limelight, but he's going to make some
statement in his life, I don't know what it is yet. I really enjoyed
meeting him and enjoyed having him on the race. I think he's a great
addition. He could perhaps look at a haircut more frequently and maybe
having a shave, but he's a really warm individual and added a great
mix to the show.
Q: 60K miles in 40 days?
PK: It's 60K in 29 days. Very dense schedule. It's the second most
number of miles in any race ever. It does have a dramatic impact on
the teams. It obviously is more taxing. With the reaction I think that
we got from the family version where people clearly made a statement
where they wanted that international element to the show, they miss
it. It shows that the places are as much a star in the show as the
people themselves. I think that's illustrated in season 8. We had more
characters, but people were missing that exotic element, that fish out
of water element. I think that is a huge hook for us. We have what
other shows do not have, the ability to every season make the playing
field fresh. We don't go back to the same studio, the same location or
the same set. We have the ability to mix it up and make it new and
original every single season. That is something that we have got in
abundance in this season. It's really exotic, we get to really cool
places. I think people want that and they certainly get it in this
Q: A reporter from TAR9 contestant Joni's home town asks about her.
PK: I would say that there's no denying that the sisters get a hell of
a shock in the first leg of this race. Every single season, every team
without fail will say something to the effect of, "I've been watching
the show but I had no idea what it was really like until I ran this
leg myself." I think it shocked people and certainly with Joni, she
was completely and utterly shocked by what she went through, and what
was required to be in this race. These sisters are definitely sisters
who have enjoyed luxury in their life and prefer that over roughing
it, being in a tent and going three days without a shower.
Q: Question about how the production schedule affects Phil.
PK: It was certainly one of the tougher races for us productionwise.
In my memory from a personal standpoint, the toughest was season
three, we were driving through the middle of the night, it seemed like
we could never get sleep. [Season 9] was definitely tougher on the
teams than a lot of the other seasons. A lot of that had to do with
the fact that we got the message from people that they wanted an
international route, they wanted the race to go back to the teams of
two and they wanted more exotic, more adventure, push the people more.
As a result of that we paid the price in how it affected us making it.
Q: Any standout locations?
PK: There's definitely some… I love to see the teams go to places that
are places that we never normally get to see in mainstream media. A
big thing for me is that we have the ability to show international
locations in a way that other media just doesn't take the time to do
because good news or positive aspects of international travel don't
necessarily make mainstream media. When you see most international
locations there's a war, natural disaster, somebody burning a flag.
It's always a big eye opener for these teams to go someplace that is
very different from their local community. There's one location that
we get to in the middle east where the teams are immersed in a daily
task that a lot of people have to go through. It's great to see teams
used to going down to the 7-11 living life in a completely different
way and certainly a way that people overseas have to cope with every
Q: Jet lag can't be visually shown but that's the secret ingredient to
a lot of people's reactions.
PK: There's no denying that jet lag, culture shock, a huge range of
emotions that come from pushing people to the edge of their ability
outside their comfort zone when they're perched on the edge of a very
steep cliff, when they're faced with a mindblowing challenge, that
that does stimulate and get reactions from people that are so needed
for creating drama. These teams are experiencing jet lag and a range
of emotions in a way they've never experienced before. They're going
in a new place mentally. It's one ingredient and obviously different
people cope with it in different ways. That is an element, and when
you add it to getting people to take these mental leaps, the reactions
that we obviously would like to get from people, we are trying to push
them. We want them to earn the right to be the winners of The Amazing
Race. We're not sending them on a comfort vacation. They're not in the
lap of luxury drinking pina coladas on a tropical beach.
Q: Any contestants express fear that locations might not be safe?
PK: We prepare all the teams for their visits to anyplace around the
world. You're right in saying that people's assumptions and their
beliefs about what the rest of the world is like or how the rest of
the world perceives us is sometimes skewed by what they see in
mainstream media. We have to let them know that we are visitors to
these countries and we have to be respectful of their customs. The
only polite thing to do, it's like walking into somebody's house where
they ask you to take off your shoes, you oblige, and if you don't,
you're going to get an adverse reaction from your host. We make it
very clear they must be respectful. That doesn't always happen. Some
teams have been blatantly rude and could easily be defined in the
terms ugtly American. We have seen teams go into the same situation
and behave in a manner that is much more reflective of what we would
want a good American ambassador to be. It's good for international
people and other cultures to see Americans in a different light than
the stereotypes that they build from the media that they get, and
conversely for Americans to travel internationally to see that
although all they see in mainstream media is war, natural disaster,
civil unrest and occasionally a group of people burning an American
flag, there are places to travel to that are in the middle east that
we read about in the paper or see flashes of in the news, that it is
safe to travel there, and inherently, people want the same things. We
all want shelter, we all want to do the right thing by our kids and
have a quality of life. We really are not that much different in
wanting those things. People are people, and good people are good
people. We can find good and bad everywhere… the show gives people an
incredible insight into what the world is really like as opposed to
the world that we see everyday when we turn on the news.
Q: A reporter asks about Uchenna and Joyce and whether there will be
any teams like them on the new race.
PK: Let me say that of any team we've ever had on TAR, I don't know if
there has ever been a more popular winning team. The energy when they
came into the finish line and won that race was absolutely
extraordinary. People were willing them over the line. They are very
special people. I think that they epitomize good American ambassadors,
the way that they were respectful to people, respectful to each other,
respectful to the other teams. They were driven and competitive and
still took time out to enjoy the travel experience. We cannot make a
show with 11 teams of couples like that. There would be no way to
create story arcs and contrast. With any good story you need the
adversary. You need a good mixture to make it dramatic and make it
work. Yes, we definitely have teams that have that strength of
character, and conversely we have some other teams who come from a
different place, perhaps a more selfish place. That's why we love the
contrast of old and young, some that are traveled and some that are
not so traveled, some that are smart and some that are more practical.
It's a little bit like cooking, you need the right ingredients. We
have in this season I think a fantastic mix.
Q: What do you think has been the biggest challenge for you?
PK: It's easy for me. I feel like I'm in a very lucky position to
continue to be associated with the show. It really hasn't been
challenging. Obviously it can be challenging on the road but I kind of
like it. I get myself ready for the race, I look forward to it. It's
like having a front row seat to a major championship. I love looking
over the teams and seeing them go through various changes. It's very
reflective of my whole philosophy of getting people to step outside
their comfort zone, something I've written about in my book. I love
this role that I have and I love that the teams are stretching
themselves and doing things that they never imagined doing.
Q: Tough being away from family?
PK: Yes it is. It's getting harder and harder because my daughter is
getting older [she's 10]. We're getting closer and closer. My wife and
I have always, my wife is Australian and I'm a New Zealander, we've
been together for about 18 years now. The whole time we've known each
other I've always traveled, and we've traveled together. We've found
ways to make that work. With my daughter, when she was younger and I
was away, she didn't notice as much. But I'm only away for each race
for 29 days, and of course I call in every day and I use, sometimes, I
have a lot of technology around me to be able to get on the internet
with her. When I'm home it's very intense. I have a lot of time with
Q: Will the contestants in TAR 9 be heading to Australia?
PK: You never know. [Phil isn't allowed to spill the beans but an
Australian reporter says she's heard the race went to Adelaide.]
Australia is a fantastic race destination that's got a lot to offer.
Q: Do people on the street ever interfere with game?
PK: The show is moving so quickly that people tend to just, it's
almost like watching a race, a car race. People are turning their
heads. We move so quickly, it's very rare that we're stationary. Then
in the areas where the challenges are, we own those locations. It's
not easy for the public to just walk in when we've got an event set up
on a football field or something. There's occasions where the public
does have some interaction with the teams and if it's interesting
interaction, it makes the show. We've seen people help teams, or where
the teams have asked people on the street for help. I think it's all
happening so fast that people don't have time to react. People who do
recognize it and are fans on the show, the last thing on their minds
is wanting to interfere. They're fascinated and want to see what's
going to happen.
Q: Favorite characters this year?
PK: I love the contrast. We've got BJ and Tyler, they're a really
fascinating team. They're long haired hippie looking guys, they get
nicknamed the hippies very quickly after the start of the race. It's
going to be interesting to see how the audience reacts to them. They
might annoy some people. It took me a while to get where they were
coming from. It's like they're acting out in their own movie. Fran and
Barry have been married 40 years, they have an incredible amount of
energy for 60 year olds and should not be underestimated by anybody.
[Wanda & Desiree] The mother daughter relationship, the daughter seems
to be the more conservative, level headed one, and the mother is just
out to have a great time. You have all of these teams contrasted. The
nerdy dating couple [I think this is David & Lori] are so in love,
kissing all the way through the first leg and more concerned with each
other than making their way through the first leg. They met at a bar,
I think. They're both people who are an online, geeky kind of couple.
They feel like they found the right one. They're really adorable.
Q: Importance of casting a villain?
PK: I don't know if we've had that many teams we hate, have we?
Perhaps the adversary, I guess, the worthy adversary, the competitive,
driven type A personality character who, like [Boston] Rob—[The
reporter mentions Jonathan.] Jonathan was different from any other
person that we've ever had before. I think it's quite different from
Rob or Colin in season 5, who was extremely focused. You definitely
have to have a real contrast in characters. You can't have a whole
selection of teams that would all fit into the perfect mold of the
American traveling ambassador. You've got to have people that are more
type A and people that are more laid back. At the end of the day
they're giving us our material, and you have to have differences of
opinion and sexual orientation, some that are voting Democratic and
more right wing conservatives. People will go either way, you know
what I mean? It's certainly not our intention to cast people that the
audience is going to hate, but you definitely want the audience to
pick sides. To have somebody that the audience hates is not
necessarily a good thing. I don't think that is what makes the show
work. You want to polarize people, but there have to be some endearing
Q: Do you suppress your accent on the show?
PK: I was asked in the very beginning in season one to make it more
American than my natural accent. Then people have said that they've
actually liked—any comments I get about the accent, people like the
fact that it sounds slightly international so it lends itself to the
show. I've tried to keep it consistent based on what I started off
with. When I'm doing the show I'm definitely aware of Americanizing
the words, saying "been" [he pronounces it "bin"] instead of "bean."
Q: You explain every week what a roadblock is.
PK: I have to do it again and again and again. It's always done in
different locations. It's like, I find I'm saying the same thing in
different locations all over the world. We keep picking up more and
more new viewers. The show has not plateaued out. I guess the idea is
that if you're picking up 3 million new viewers you have to get them
up to speed with the format of the show. I have people who stop me and
recite the definitions. I was at a book signing in Chicago, there were
about 200 people, and this 5-year-old kid was in the audience. He
comes up and says, "Do you mind if I do a detour?" I picked this kid
up and put him on the table in front of the audience, he grabbed the
microphone out of my hand and began reciting a detour, and then he
added in the words for where we were. We were in a Borders bookstore
and he said, teams must choose between "buy Phil's book" or "not buy
Phil's book." Obviously we've implanted this into people's heads. If
we change it, people might miss the comfort of hearing it every week.
Q: Do you know Jeff Probst?
PK: I know him going back to 1994 when we first met. We've stayed in
contact, and have found ourselves sitting outside of Les Moonves'
office as the two final people being considered for "Survivor." We
know what happened there. At the time I was really disappointed that I
couldn't be a part of that show, and it's been tremendously
successful. Now I can't imagine the show without him. It's sort of
weird. You go from that situation, to then cut to now when we're going
into 10 seasons. We're going to shoot the 10th season of TAR. We
think, what happened?
Q: Who has the tougher job? You, Phil or Ryan Seacrest?
PK: I think each job has got different challenges. I think that both
Ryan and Jeff are very good at what they do. I can't imagine either
one of those shows without them. Their faces become synonymous with
the show. There are aspects to their job and certain challenges that
they have that I wouldn't have a clue.
Q: I think you have the toughest job.
PK: I think what's interesting is that perhaps the logistics of my
job, perhaps they're the toughest, but again. I'm guessing. People's
perception of what I do and what my situation is like does always, it
continues to fascinate me. People are not aware of just how short a
time we shoot the shows, that I'm going to every single location they
go through. I have to travel the same number of miles. This is the
thing that people forget to consider. If the spread of the teams is
close to 12 hours at the pit stop, I'm there for the first team and
I'm there for the last. The first team is getting to leave for the
next leg while I'm still there wrapping up. There are times when I
don't have any major lead over the first team, and I cannot get to the
locations before I get to the pit stop ahead of them. We're on the
phone a lot and we can never predict how long the spread's going to
be. There have been odd occasions where I have been running up to the
mat and the first team is coming up from the opposite location. As we
get further and further into the race, the logistics of the spread
become easier for us. The more competitive teams are tighter, so the
pack is tighter. I have two passports, one is always out getting
Q: I would think you wouldn't want to travel when you're not filming TAR.
PK: I don't like to go too long without traveling. I love it. I ended
up getting the gig that is most suited to my skill.
Q: How are locations chosen?
PK: They come from collective ideas from people about certain things
they've heard about in different places. It's a matter of looking at
the world and marking out where we've been before and trying to get a
nice balance of different cultures and different challenges. It'll
either come from looking at the big picture and trying to balance a
route around the world that makes sense for the season, or specific
ideas that people read about, research, that we're alerted to. Then
it's a matter of producers going out and scouting and making sure
everything is what you expect it to be. Then we find people on the
ground to research those pieces and facilitate us in the local
Q: Reception from locals? [Asked by an Australian reporter]
PK: Australia, every time we've visited, we've always had a positive
reaction. Australians are huge fans of the show. I get probably a
dozen e-mails a day when the show's going out, and a lot from
Australia. They love the show. The most common question I get from
international fans is always, when are you going to let international
people take part in TAR. I just wish I had a dollar for every time
I've answered this question. The show is funded by a US network, and
so first and foremost it is for the US market. The fact that it does
well internationally is a bonus. You have to look at the US open
finals here in America, the ratings drop when there aren't Americans
competing. Most people like to watch themselves rather than watching
people from different countries. That said, TAR, with just an American
cast, has been a #1 show in many international markets. Add that to
the fact that there's a lot of legal ramifications to having different
cultures and different people. The best way for Australians to get
involved would be if there's an Australian format.
Q: Top five dream destinations that you've never visited, personally or on TAR?
PK: For me, on a personal level, I've always wanted to go to Mongolia.
I've never been to Bhutan or Nepal or into the heart of Africa. I grew
up in the Caribbean so I would love to have the show go there as well.
I'm hoping that if the show keeps going eventually we'll get to some
of these locations. Some of it has to do with logistics. Getting to
some of these more remote locations with all the people that we have
is very, very challenging. I hope that we can get to some more of
these places. If I don't do it on the race I'll do it personally.
Q: Will there ever be an all star edition of TAR?
PK: I don't know. I don't know how successful that type of format is.
From my understanding the all star version of Survivor was not as
successful as new, fresh faces coming in. I don't know if it's
necessarily a ratings winner. I think that you change the dynamic when
you bring back people, because people are different once they've been
shot and they've been produced into a tv show and it's gone out into
the world, and they have a chance to reflect on the way that they're
depicted and the way they react to them. One of the things that works
on the race is we are trying to pick people who are so-called ordinary
people in an extraordinary situation, and that keeps the show fresh.
When you know how somebody is and how they're going to play the game,
that's not as fascinating. [part1 part2