Phil Keoghan on ‘The Amazing Race’s’ ‘heartbreaking’ delays and why fans are connecting with ‘Tough as Nails’ [EXCLUSIVE VIDEO INTERVIEW]

Season 32 of “The Amazing Race” turned into an unlikely marathon. Filming wrapped in December 2018, but due to various delays, including COVID-19, it did not premiere until nearly two years later in October 2020. And like fans anxiously waiting to see it, Phil Keoghan was desperate for it to air as well.

“It’s been heartbreaking waiting to share ‘Race,’ not just Season 32 but then getting stopped in our tracks with Season 33,” the host tells Gold Derby (watch above). “It’s been so tough and obviously we can’t wait to get through the pandemic to be able to produce more ‘Races’ again. If there’s any silver lining, it’s that people have gone and binge-watched ‘Amazing Race’ and we’ve collected some new fans. I’ve hated not being able to tell fans when ‘Race’ was gonna be able to come back, so when we finally had that opportunity to share Season 32 with people at a time when they were tied to their homes, it was incredibly satisfying.”

Season 32’s delay also meant that “The Amazing Race” sat out an Emmy cycle for the first time ever last year. Until then, it had earned 17 consecutive Best Competition Program nominations since the category was created in 2003, winning 10 of them. Now it’s looking to return to nab nomination No. 18.

SEE Watch more interviews with Emmy contenders

“I think the competition has gotten tougher. If anything, it’s only made us hungry to come back to see if we can still compete and still be relevant. I believe we are. The show is still setting a standard for excellence as far as reality television goes,” Keoghan says. “Of course, we wanted to be in the mix because, again, you want to be relevant. My biggest concern through all of this is to just keep us in the zeitgeist. It’s managed to do it for so many years. You want to be part of it. You want to keep striving to be better and every year improving and … trying new and different things. Yeah, frustrating not to be there, but also I think it’s inspired all of us who make the show to be like, ‘Right! We’re coming back! We’ll be there again. Let’s see if we can get back again.’”

The show had just started filming Season 33 when production was shut down in February 2020 due to the pandemic. Needless to say, “Race” is not the easiest show to pick back up again, but Keoghan shares that producers have come up with a plan to safely resume production. “CBS wants us back on the schedule. They want us to come up with a plan,” he states. “I think we have a plan that will work in this world that we live in. But the expectation from the network is that we get Season 33 finished and then we roll into more seasons again.”

On the other hand, Keoghan did manage to film a second season of his other CBS series, “Tough as Nails,” under COVID protocols. The series, which aired two seasons in the last 11 months, spotlights hard-working Americans in less-than-glamorous jobs — one of the reasons Keoghan thinks the show has become a solid, reliable hit for his longtime network. “The fact that we really zeroed in on essential workers in 2020 has given the show more interest, I guess. Or more people are connecting with it.”

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The series is unique in that it does not send eliminated contestants home. Contestants get eliminated from individual competitions, but they remain in the game for the team comps, in which they can also win money. “So much time and energy is spent casting captivating characters for show and there’s so much potential energy that’s lost when people go home,” Keoghan explains. “And for the type of people we’re casting on ‘Tough as Nails,’ the majority of them comes from working in teams — they work on construction sites on a team, they work in the carpenters union or they work as ironworkers — and they’re used to supporting each other. So, yes, we’re looking for the toughest of them all, but we love that team spirit and the reality of is that the majority of the people who come on ‘Tough as Nails’ are gonna win their money in the team competition. They’re not gonna win the overall prize. We like the idea that, yes, you come on ‘Tough as Nails’ and yes, we will have one champion, but everybody is gonna go home with some money in their pocket.”

“Tough as Nails” has been renewed through Season 4 and production is currently underway on the third installment, which, according to Keoghan, may be the most unbelievable one yet. “Nobody is going to believe that this show is real,” he teases. “There are things that happen this season — honestly, you are going to question me, like, ‘Phil, c’mon. There’s no way that that happened.’ And I’m gonna tell you what I’m gonna tell you right now, which is nothing has been set up. … But you will be questioning me.”

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