Exclusive: Jill Haney and Thomas Wolfard talk 'The Amazing Race'
By Reality TV World staff, 12/15/2010
Jill Haney and Thomas Wolfard began the final leg of The Amazing Race's seventeenth edition as its sole remaining non-female team -- a distinction they hoped would give them a physical advantage and help prevent either of their competitors from becoming the first team of women to win the long-running CBS reality competition.
However things didn't work out for the "Dating Couple," who ended up finishing in third place behind winners Nat Strand and Kat Chang and runner-ups Brook Roberts and Claire Champlin during Sunday night's finale broadcast.
On Monday, Jill and Thomas talked to Reality TV World about their The Amazing Race experience.
Reality TV World: So did knowing that you guys lost to a record-setting team that became the first all-female winners on the show soften the blow of losing at all or did it just make it worse?
Jill Haney: We really got along with everyone so well. [Nat Strand and Kat Chang], [Brook Roberts and Claire Champlin] -- we became good friends with [them], so obviously you want to win, but seeing them win -- they're great people, they were a great team, and it's true that Nat having diabetes -- I feel like she'll become a great role model for people who have it. -- We're still happy for them, you know?
Thomas Wolfard: I don't think it would have changed if a guy team won, or a guy-girl team won, or an all-girl team won. It's the same feeling for me...
Jill Haney: Yeah.
Thomas Wolfard: ...disappointment.
Reality TV World: Thomas, you were in the unusual position of being the only guy left in the Race. Can you talk a little about that -- did you feel any extra pressure at the time? Have you been getting any ribbing from your friends or anything like that?
Thomas Wolfard: Yeah, I mean I did. I felt it, but, you gotta look at the leg, and I don't think my boys are gonna get upset with me for not performing an arts and crafts challenge way faster than anybody else.
There was really not a lot of competition involved in that leg, the arts and crafts thing took everyone the exact amount of time -- just about, within minutes of each other -- the same amount of time. The only way to get ahead or get behind was via cab.
Reality TV World: Based on what was shown on TV, it looked like that taxi ride to the TV studio was what did you guys in...
Jill Haney: Yeah, it was rough. And they don't show you his phone died and he was in the middle of talking with somebody getting the confirmation of all the questions and...
Thomas Wolfard: I called -- I was able to use the cab driver's phone and I called -- information and they started looking stuff up for me and then before any information transferred, his phone died. He had no charger. It was just like, we couldn't of had worse luck. Then we had to get off the highway...
Jill Haney: We looked for another cab when we got off the highway, but we got off the next immediate exit and it turns out of course it was in a remote area with mom and pop shops and no cabs were to be found anywhere.
Thomas Wolfard: Yea it was just very suburban and it was just -- it takes time to get off the highway, it takes time to find things, it takes time to find -- ultimately we found someone with an iPhone across the street from that lady that was sitting in front of the computer that [declined] helping us. But we only spent a few minutes there. It's not like we wasted a lot of time.
Reality TV World: There seemed to be a lot of cabs at the Rose Bowl, so what made you guys decide to pick that cab driver?
Thomas Wolfard: We actually -- they all had broken English and you could see Nat and Kat switch their cab driver...
Reality TV World: Yeah, they seemed to survey everyone before they picked one.
Jill Haney: Yeah.
Thomas Wolfard: At the end of the day, they all -- there's only so much that you can ask these people prior to departing and we asked the guy questions before we took off and all we really needed -- a smartphone would have been the best option but nobody had a smartphone. And, all we really needed was a working phone to confirm things.
I could have figured it out and called somebody and not had to get off the highway and keep driving. We're in second place at that point, and we don't have the luxury of waiting around and asking all these questions. You gotta go. You don't care about anything but first place, and so we had to make moves as fast as we could and it's just -- obviously it didn't work out.
Reality TV World: Did you guys ever consider going to a hotel like Brook and Claire did?
Thomas Wolfard: It didn't -- the hotel -- it doesn't matter where you're at. You just need somebody with the Internet.
Jill Haney: Yeah.
Thomas Wolfard: If there was a hotel close by, yeah, I wanted to go to the closest place or the closest person who had a smartphone. And we had a phone and we were in the process of getting the right information, and then the phone died. It's just -- I don't...
Jill Haney: That's that -- bad luck.
Reality TV World: Last night's episode never actually showed you guys arriving at the TV studio. Did you ever finally get there or did the producers just give up and sent you to the Finish Line?
Jill Haney: Yeah, and we finished it. I don't know why it wasn't shown.
Thomas Wolfard: I just don't think they thought it was relevant to show.
Jill Haney: Yeah, and we took notes throughout the Race, because you always know there is a memory challenge, so we did do it and complete it.
Reality TV World: Do you have any idea how far behind Brook and Claire you ended up getting to the Finish Line?
Thomas Wolfard: Not really, I mean, we're not...
Jill Haney: Not far. I mean, I feel like everybody was somewhat close.
Reality TV World: Do you think you would have had any chance of catching Nat and Kat if you'd gotten a better taxi, or do you think they would have won anyways?
Thomas Wolfard: Honestly, it's hard to know, like from what we know and from what we saw, they found it pretty quickly. So, we did the memory challenge very quickly and they actually did too. They had a few hiccups but nothing wrong, so I just don't think like I was saying, there was just no chance to ever get ahead of somebody unless something happened with the cab drivers.
Jill Haney: I felt like it was ultimately who got in the first cab from the airport, because then when it went to the drop, it's like you have your [instructional] briefings and then you have to wait for them to get off, down to the raft and up, so if you're there first, you have such a big lead.
Thomas Wolfard: When you're arriving at the -- when we did that the bungee jumping type of task -- if you arrive there first, you leave there first. You can't get ahead of anybody there, so there's no challenge or competition involved there.
Reality TV World: So the final leg didn't have [an unbroadcast] Detour task or anything that was edited out like that where you could have tried to make up ground?
Jill Haney: No!
Thomas Wolfard: It was really surprising when they were like, "Go to the Pit Stop." It was just disappointing. There was no chance obviously. We were disappointed because we had such bad luck with the cab driver, but reflecting and looking back on that leg, there wasn't a lot of competition involved with it.
Honestly, making sure you don't make mistakes -- Nat and Kat certainly did that and deservingly so finished first -- but you'd like to think that you'd have a chance to -- that there would be a little bit more of an element of competition involved in the final leg.
Reality TV World: Did your driver really have no idea what the Internet was and the difference between a GPS and a computer?
Thomas Wolfard: No idea. He kept thinking that Internet -- we asked him and he kept saying no -- we flat out asked him and he just kept saying that over and over.
Jill Haney: Yeah we kept saying, "Computer!" And he kept pointing to his GPS. I mean, maybe he knows and he just doesn't realize our language and doesn't understand what we're saying, but he was pretty clueless.
Reality TV World: Jill, you seemed to get pretty scared during the bungee drop. Was that actually the case or was that just the editing?
Jill Haney: No, I mean I definitely have a little fear of heights. Even when I rappelled off that canyon, I was terrified. But...
Thomas Wolfard: She did it and she did it well.
Jill Haney: ...Yeah, I'm extremely uncomfortable with heights.
Reality TV World: Jill, I'm paraphrasing, but during the Race you were shown repeatedly mentioning how one of your goals during the Race was to basically try and prove you were Thomas' equal. Can you talk a little bit about that, and then also about whether you think you accomplished that goal?
Thomas Wolfard: I don't think she said anything about being an equal.
Jill Haney: Yeah, not at all, and I felt like almost the way it was edited was just really far off. We've been dating for over four years and they don't show one of the hundreds of reasons why I say I love what I do.
So, and, all of those things. So, if anything, there were definitely some joking times that I was like, "Oh yeah, I'll show Thomas that you don't have to go to college to win The Amazing Race." But, if anything, I was definitely -- I'm not insecure or anything like that -- so I feel that the editing was definitely a little rough.
Reality TV World: Thomas, how about you? Were you aware of anything like that at the time?
Thomas Wolfard: Aware of anything like what?
Reality TV World: The issue Jill had talked about, about not needing to go to college and things like that.
Thomas Wolfard: Well that's an element of the dynamic of our team. That's one of the things that they talked about. They over-focused on it in the beginning and almost made it seem like a "too good for her" type of a situation, which is so far from the case, but...
Jill Haney: I think they just really like the fact that he went to Notre Dame and I went to cosmetology school and it's not like there's anything wrong with that, but it was just something that I think that they thought it would kind of be fun to see maybe the ditsy blonde with the smart guy, but that was definitely not the case.
Thomas Wolfard: Yeah, I just think kind of my nature is a little bit -- I'm a little bit like more strong-minded -- and so when we're doing these type of competitions, it's like I'll jump to the task first. But the Race is two people. Two people have to complete it together, and certainly have to share Roadblock challenges, so it's something you gotta do together.
Reality TV World: Yeah, Thomas, there seemed to be a few situations in the Race where Jill asked you if you'd done some unusual thing before and you always seemed to tell her you'd done it before...
Thomas Wolfard: Oh, how -- I mean that gondola thing, I grew up in Colorado and I ski a lot -- that's all it was, were referring directly to skiing. We were talking about skiing and then they were like, "Oh yeah, I take gondolas all over the place!" That was a terrible edit!
Jill Haney: I should have specified. I was meaning more like a scenic gondola, just saying that it was taking us to more of a remote location. And right after I said it, that's kind of how I explained it. Of course he's been on a gondola, he grew up in Colorado, and with the train, I was asking him if he ever slept on a train.
So, I didn't feel like that was a crazy question to ask, but they do try to make it look like he's just like, "Obviously I have." But, they just don't show anything after when we're talking about it or what I'm really meaning or what he's really meaning...
Thomas Wolfard: Took it a little bit out of context, but we knew that going into it.
Reality TV World: You guys were the team that ended up with this season's new Express Pass twist and it looked like it played a pretty big role in your ability to survive one of the early legs. Do you think you would survived that leg and been able to get as far as your did if you hadn't had the Express Pass?
Jill Haney: I wish we almost would have just -- because we were done -- we did go to [The "Sleds" Detour task].
Thomas Wolfard: Yeah, basically what happened is we arrived in last place obviously, because of the Detour, and the first thing that we saw was [the "Beds" Detour task] challenge and nobody was there. And we wanted to make sure that all four teams in the back of the pack were still doing the challenge, so immediately we drove to the skiing challenge, and we saw four cars there.
We knew that -- we were explained that you had to finish the task in less than two minutes -- and it was also explained that you had to take a 10-minute chair-lift ride up to the challenge.
So, if we had attempted to do that, and all teams -- we didn't know how difficult it was -- if all teams would have gotten it their first try, then we would have been going up the chair-lift when everybody was going to the Pit Stop and not use our Express Pass. So, honestly, that didn't end up being the case and people had a lot of trouble...
Jill Haney: But you never know...
Thomas Wolfard: You never know, so you want to be safe and it'd be pretty embarrassing to lose with still having your Express Pass. So we just thought it was a good time to jump out and do it. And it also gave us a decent jump on the next leg as well. So it was helpful.
Reality TV World: You're a little biased obviously, given you ended up getting it, but what did you think of the Express Pass when you first heard about it -- did you think it was a good idea or devalued the Race?
Thomas Wolfard: Oh, not at all!
Jill Haney: I think it's a good idea.
Thomas Wolfard: You have to win to get it, so that's part of the competition. You have to do something to deserve the Express Pass.
Jill Haney: Mhmm.
Thomas Wolfard: A lot of times there's elements of bad luck obviously, as we saw in this last leg, and if you have that Express Pass in your back pocket, and something bad happens to you, it could save you from elimination. And so I think it's a pretty cool addition to the Race, and I don't think it takes away from anything whatsoever. Again, you have to win to get it, so.
Reality TV World: You were a team that seemed to be strategic about the Detours, in addition to the Express Pass, there also seemed to be some situations in which you switched tasks after you found the first them to be too challenging or time consuming, such as with the plate-spinning and the "Ding Ding" tasks. Was that a deliberate part of your strategy?
Thomas Wolfard: No, I mean when you think about physical locations, like sometimes Detours are far from each other and sometimes they're right next to each other. And there are definitely times looking back when we wished that we wouldn't have switched, and so that certainly wasn't part of our strategy.
But if there was another Detour right next to us, and things weren't working out, we might as well give it a shot because we didn't get that other one quickly. But, it almost turned on us and literally cost us on a few occasions...
Jill Haney: Yeah, like in St. Petersburg.
Thomas Wolfard: Exactly. We kind of wished we stuck to the original task and just hammered it out, but it worked out in the end.
Reality TV World: What's the status of your relationship now, are you guys just still dating?
Jill Haney: Yup!
Thomas Wolfard: Yeah, we're still together.
Jill Haney: And we live together in LA. I mean we're just -- we've been dating for awhile -- and we have a good relationship. We're not -- I'm in no rush, he's in no rush -- we're good.
Thomas Wolfard: It's just, there's no need to jump into something just for the sake of marriage.
Reality TV World: How were you cast in the Race? How'd you get on the show?
Thomas Wolfard: Yeah, it was just kind of a normal casting process in terms of...
Jill Haney: Lots of interviewing.
Thomas Wolfard: ...We loved the show, and we just figured it would be a great opportunity to be on it.