Exclusive: Ron Kellum and Tony Stovall talk 'The Amazing Race'
By Reality TV World staff, 09/28/2010
The Amazing Race's seventeenth season got off to a great start for "Best Friends" Ron Kellum and Tony Stovall when they were the first team to get to the airport and book tickets to London, the Race's first destination.
However their early success proved short-lived when they struggled to drive themselves to Stonehenge and dropped into last place -- resulting in their elimination when they became the final team to reach the Race's first Pit Stop.
On Monday, Ron and Tony talked to Reality TV World about their brief The Amazing Race experience -- including why it took them so long to get to Stonehenge, what they thought of "Watermelon Girl" Claire Champlin's mid-air collision with a flying melon, if they finally managed to complete the boat-crossing task that proceeded the leg's Roadblock task, and whether they thought the boat task was fair.
Reality TV World: You guys were the second team out of the airport from the first flight to London but ended up being the very last team to arrive at Stonehenge even though it looked like many of the other teams also got lost -- what the heck happened?
Tony Stovall: When we got out of the airport we got on the wrong motorway. We knew instantly we were over too far in the wrong lane when we saw the signs come up -- they don't give you warnings like here in the U.S.
All of the sudden it was like, "Oh, there it is we were supposed to go that way!" And by that point we were already going the wrong way.
So we knew instantly we were going the wrong way, but unlike in the U.S., we got on the stretch where there were no exits for 25 miles. There was no way for us to turn around.
And when we finally found a way to get off it, again, it's not like the U.S. where you just pop over the overpass and turn around and get right back on.
You have to meander through town and we had no maps for that, so we were just. "Okay, it's got to be this way, because the freeway is that way" and it takes you around the bend and then over the river and through the woods. And 45 minutes later you're finally back on the freeway.
So literally, it was 50 miles and then going through the town to get back going the right direction. We knew immediately we were going the wrong way, it wasn't like we were just driving aimlessly and figuring it out and thinking we were going the right way -- we knew instantly that we weren't but there was nothing we could do about it.
Reality TV World: So once you turned around and got over that 50-mile trip, did things go okay or did you have more problems after that still?
Ron Kellum: Once we got our bearings. Things turned around for us once we got on the right path to Stonehenge. It was just that we had lost probably two hours that particular day. What they don't show is that I drove eight hours, we landed at 6:50AM and by the time we got to the castle it was late afternoon.
So we just lost so much time, and that morning was rush hour in London [too]. So it wasn't just taking the wrong turn and going 25 miles, we were stuck in traffic as well. There were just a lot of variables and unfortunately they didn't show that.
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Once we got going I think we maybe took two or three wrong turns later in the afternoon, but they weren't as devastating, they were more just missing a roundabout.
Reality TV World: Yeah, it looked like you guys got lost again on the leave from Stonehenge to Eastnor Castle. Was that the case?
Tony Stovall: Yeah. We just needed to get our bearings.
Ron Kellum: We pulled over a couple of times because we didn't want to make another costly long "getting on the wrong stretch again" move. So we did get turned around but not as bad as in the morning.
Reality TV World: You guys seemed to know you were in last place when you got to Stonehenge and Ron, I think you were shown admitting it had kind of killed your confidence a little. You guys said all the right things about how you thought you still had a chance, but did you really believe it or did you pretty much think you were done for at that point?
Ron Kellum: You know what's funny is when we got to Stonehenge we thought we were in seventh place, because there were three more clues still in the cluebox.
Tony Stovall: Yeah, that's right.
Ron Kellum: So we didn't think we were in last place. I couldn't believe it because we started out so strong and were in the first place. I know we took a bad turn but we live in L.A. and I drive like a maniac here, so I thought, "Oh, we'll catch up!"
So when we got to Stonehenge and were seventh, I was like, "Nah, that's impossible!"
Reality TV World: So you were shocked to be seventh even though you were actually eleventh?
Ron Kellum: It's funny, we didn't realize we were in eleventh.
There were clues in the box... I think there were three or four clues still in the box and [the camera crews] don't tell you [what place you're in].
Reality TV World: Sure, but the other teams had all taken their clues, so that was one of those situations where [the producers] try and keep your positions secret by putting some extra clues in there, right?
Ron Kellum: Well I don't know that, but watching it last night clearly that's what happened. Because we didn't know! (laughs)
Tony Stovall: (laughs)
Ron Kellum: When I counted the number of clues left I was like, "Are you kidding, we've fallen that far behind!" We had no idea until last night watching the show that we were actually in last place [already] at that point.
Had I know that, I would have been devastated.
Reality TV World: It didn't look like you guys were that close behind Nick and Vicki at the Pit Stop -- do you have any idea how close it was or how far behind them you got there?
Tony Stovall: We don't know. It was really hard, we didn't see anyone when we got there. So we're not sure how far behind we were. We've heard rumors that it was only 20-30 minutes behind them, but we don't know that.
Reality TV World: So did you guys actually ever end up getting across that boat or did the producers just tell you to skip the boat and the Roadblock and just go straight to the Pit Stop? How did that play out, because viewers didn't see any of that last night.
Ron Kellum: Yeah, because it would have been four hours of TV. (laughs)
Tony Stovall: (laughs)
Ron Kellum: We had to swim across, because there was just not way since together we weigh 440 pounds. There was just no way that that challenge was designed for two guys our size.
Every single time Tony got into the boat -- as you saw on TV last night -- it would sink. We would float for a brief moment and I think that moment lasted maybe three minutes. (laughs)
Tony Stovall: (laughs)
Ron Kellum: They were [finally] like, "Swim across!"
Tony Stovall: (laughs)
Tony Stovall: "What about our boat?" [we asked]. "Just leave it!"
Reality TV World: So when they told you to just swim then, you already knew obviously you were the last team, right?
Tony Stovall: Before we stormed the castle we knew that we were last, because when we got there, there was only one clue left in the cluebox. So we knew at that point.
Reality TV World: That time you were sure. (laughs)
Tony Stovall: Yes, that's when we were sure. And then we got into the boat and I was like, "Really?"
Reality TV World: That boat crossing task was all about balance to begin with -- which was pretty hard given, like you mentioned, you're a lot bigger than Ron...
Tony Stovall: Right...
Reality TV World: And then obviously any boat out there also obviously has a maximum capacity limit [no matter how carefully you balance] -- so do you think that whole task was fair or unfair? What are your thoughts?
Ron Kellum: Honestly, I think it was a little unfair, only because it's just one of those situations. But at that point we were last, so it's hard to sort of cast blame.
I think that I would have been more disappointed if we had arrived early and never could have completed that challenge because of the shear physics of our size and the boat. I would have been really disappointed.
But given the outcome that we were the last team to arrive, it's one of those moments where you're like, "Well, that's what it is!"
Reality TV World: So we you aware of an option where if you had been in the [earlier] situation, you could have taken a time penalty or something and swam across as you did?
Tony Stovall: I thought about that. I thought about what would have happened had we gotten there [earlier] -- that would have been something that we would have explored. "We can't do this, we just can't do it, what's the penalty?"
Ron Kellum: Oh, I was thrilled, because I thought, "Oh my god, this is the leverage we would like to get." Because we were the oldest combined team -- our ages combined, we were the oldest team, which is shocking to even say that.
Tony Stovall: [This is where] your response is supposed to be, "No, I don't believe that, that's not possible!" (laughs)
Reality TV World: (laughs)
Ron Kellum: (laughs)
Tony Stovall: "You guys look like you're in your 20's."
Ron Kellum: But we knew that would give us some leverage. And we also knew we had a great shot at this, so when we heard that our goal was to be in first place and get that Express Pass.
Because we knew that -- like the boat challenge -- there may be something that would come up that we would need to exercise that power. So I thought it was a great game-changer.
Unfortunately it didn't work to our advantage. (laughs)
Reality TV World: So you thought the pass was a good idea and not anything that devalues the Race or anything like that?
Ron Kellum: Not at all.
Tony Stovall: I agree.
Reality TV World: There were a couple of different times during the premiere where it looked like Connor and Jonathan stopped, at least briefly, to help another team. Did that surprise you given the Race is after all a competition?
Ron Kellum: I thought it was brilliant. We've become good friends with those guys and it's so reflective of who they are. Because this kind of a race, with that kind of pressure -- the kind of pressure that you're under -- it's hard to make alliances that earlier in the game.
But the fact that they had done that, I was very respectful of that.
Tony Stovall: Yeah.
Reality TV World: So it sounds like you came away with a good impression of them during your short time there?
Tony Stovall: Yes, absolutely. They're great guys.
Reality TV World: What was your reaction to Claire's watermelon incident? When did you find out about it?
Tony Stovall and Ron Kellum: (laughs)
Tony Stovall: Well we -- of course we saw it when they posted it on the Internet, we saw that. And just to see [it] was like," Oh my gosh!" Because they didn't show us actually doing the watermelon task because Ron actually did [do] it.
Reality TV World: Oh, you did do it then?
Tony Stovall: Yeah, we did do it, they just didn't show it. And he did it in three tries -- he did it faster than anybody.
Reality TV World: Wow, congratulations.
Tony Stovall: So that's the thing -- if it wasn't four the boat we might have been able to catch up.
So to see [the watermelon hit Claire] was like, "Oh my gosh!" They would have had to call for a medivac if that was me. I would have been laid out.
Ron Kellum: (laughs)
Tony Stovall: (laughs)
Reality TV World: Yeah, it seemed pretty incredible that she didn't suffer a concussion or anything like that and went right back -- after the medics cleared her, of course -- to firing off more watermelons.
Ron Kellum: You know for me, I would have been like Tony -- I would have had to go out with a sympathy vote. I would have laid there and gone, "Okay, good, this is how I'm going to make this work!" (laughs)
Tony Stovall: (laughs)
Ron Kellum: We're so proud of her that she actually kept going, because we would have both been like, "Nope, done! Call the paramedics, I'm out!"
"Take me out!" "Airlift me out -- that will be more dramatic, I'll go out that way!"
Reality TV World: This season has four young all-female teams, did that surprise you? It almost seemed like the producers wanted to do everything they could to increase the chances of finally getting their elusive all-female winning team.
Tony Stovall: Yeah, when you get to the starting line and you see all of them, you're like, "Oh wait a minute, it might not be all strength this [season]." Then you start worrying about what is coming ahead, what is coming? And you're like, "Oh, no!"
So, casting is what it is, so you're like, "We can take them, we got this."
Ron Kellum: And I think to that point, you could tell by last night's episode that the women did quite well on the boat challenge. Because their centers of gravity is in their hips, there's a whole lot of that work to their favor. And I think it kind of showed that there was something that was not to our benefit, based on that.
Reality TV World: Yeah, it looked like physical strength-wise, you guys were probably in the ironic position of being the physically strongest team that was out there.
Tony Stovall: Right.
Reality TV World: How were you cast for The Amazing Race? Was it your first time applying for the show?
Ron Kellum: We actually submitted a tape over a year ago and we never heard anything. And then literally several months back we got a call out of the blue that they'd liked us back then but they had already cast another team.
So they brought us in and it happened pretty fast. I was really nervous, I didn't really want to do it only because it looks great on TV but when it actually shows up you're like, "Oh my god, I don't want to be on reality TV!"
But we looked at this as an opportunity to sort of go through a bucket list, especially for Tony. So when we left for the interviews we just were ourselves and I think that our synergy and our friendship really came through and I think it's one of the reasons why they chose us. Because we genuinely like each other and respect each other and we were just out to go have a great time.
So we're both very fortunate even though the outcome wasn't what we wanted. What an amazing opportunity we got to have.