Amazing Race’s EPs on nightmare logistics, primetime matchups & staying in Aus longterm

Ahead of tonight's premiere, The Amazing Race's Cathie Scott and Sophia Mogford told Mumbrella's Brittney Rigby why producing this domestic season was even more difficult than the international race, and why they'll continue to explore Australia, even when overseas travel becomes possible.

Tonight at 7:30pm, two shows from the same production company will premiere head to head: Holey Moley on Seven, and The Amazing Race on Ten. Nine has also brought forward the second part of its Married at First Sight reunion (originally meant to air on Sunday night) to round out the lineup, and in a week, Seven and Ten’s competition will become the Australian Open. But Ten’s executive producer, Cathie Scott, isn’t worried.

“Look, I think The Amazing Race is such a unique format. I think it will appeal to such a broad cross section … I’m not too concerned about the sport or Holey Moley,” Scott tells Mumbrella.

“Especially at the moment when people have this desire to travel and everybody’s been locked up so long, to actually be the armchair traveller is really going to engage with our audience.”

The second season of the show to air on Ten is once again hosted by Beau Ryan

Scott is “confident that it will launch very strongly, and says “we’re lucky that we’ve got I’m a Celebrity [get me out of here!] [whose finale last night drew 784,000 metro viewers, and 896,000 for the winner’s announcement] to launch off the back of, to be honest”.

Both shows have something in common this year; they were forced to film locally due to COVID-19 travel restrictions. For I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here! that meant filming in northern New South Wales bushland instead of the South African jungle. And The Amazing Race had to recreate the adventure of an international competition within Australia’s borders.

As Scott notes, “we wanted to ensure that the race had everything and more that an international version could offer”. But a local production didn’t alleviate the challenges posed by a global pandemic. The crew still had to contend with, and adapt to, domestic border closures and conditions.

“We probably went through 6 different variations, maybe more, maybe up to 10 different variations of the order in which we do stuff, because we were absolutely being governed by which borders were opening when,” Eureka’s head of entertainment, Sophia Mogford, explains.

“So we had multiple episodes lined up and the order in which we were going to do the states, so starting in Queensland and then moving through the states, was also governed by which borders were opening when. So therefore, I suppose, it compared to an international race. It was more challenging to do than an international race.

“With [the] Australian race, we were managing a lot more different elements than we have ever had to before.”

The adventure began with two weeks quarantining in far north Queensland. But when the race itself kicked off, the twists and turns weren’t reserved for the contestants. While the cast (and crew working directly with them) had no idea of the schedule, Scott and Mogford explain that, behind the scenes, it was a logistical nightmare.

The Tasmanian border opened up while “we were already actually racing,” Scott says. “So we had to very quickly be able to modify our race schedule.” That shift meant quickly and seamlessly organising travel for 100 or so cast and crew.

“Tasmania is so vastly different than say far north Queensland … there was no question as soon as the border was open that we needed to go there for creative reasons,” Mogford says of the fluctuating travel plans.

And just as Tasmania was initially impossible, there were “a lot of destinations that had been surveyed and planned, but we ultimately didn’t get to as well”, although Victoria and Western Australia were the only states the race didn’t reach.

Scott remarks that “what we attempted to do was really showcase unique aspects of some of these locations”, and her and Mogford believe they achieved that.

“The people that we met, as well as the landscapes, the extreme weather, it gave us everything and more that we had anticipated,” Mogford chimes. “It was an extreme adventure.”

Curating such an adventure meant balancing the regional and metropolitan, the populated and remote. The race could still thread through cities while “maintaining all our COVID safe practices”. But since people’s movements have depended on COVID-19 clusters, or a lack thereof, the hustle and bustle wasn’t necessarily where you’d expect to find it.

“In the NT [Northern Territory] and FNQ [far north Queensland], there are more people around because there is no COVID up there,” Mogford says.

It’s also even more of a “unique opportunity” than usual, Mogford proposes, for a cast who would otherwise not have been able to travel so extensively because of the virus.

“They’re very diverse. Some of them haven’t really travelled at all. They come from all sorts of walks of life and backgrounds,” she says.

“It’s physically and mentally so demanding that there wasn’t one team that didn’t get pushed to their absolute limits, but then at the end of it, adored it.”

And both execs aren’t ruling out staying home, even when international travel is on the cards again. They’d “absolutely” consider making the ‘Australian race’ a long term fixture.

“I think we’ve just tickled the creative that’s available in this country. It’s just so vast,” Mogford says, while Scott adds: “It’s very rich in story and there’s so much more that we can explore.”


Get the latest media and marketing industry news (and views) direct to your inbox.

Sign up to the free Mumbrella newsletter now.



Sign up to our free daily update to get the latest in media and marketing.