Exclusive: 'The Amazing Race' team Denise Williams and James Earl Corley talk (Part 1)
By Elizabeth Kwiatkowski, 12/01/2015
The Amazing Race's "Mother and Son" Denise Williams and James Earl Corley were eliminated during Friday night's broadcast of the CBS reality competition's 27th season.
Denise and James became the seventh team eliminated from the around-the-world competition after they arrived at the Race's tenth Pit Stop on the grounds of a big party in India in last place.
Denise and James grew close and reconnected on the Race after having a bit of an estranged relationship due to Denise's strict religion and her son revealing he's gay. James was proud of his mom, saying she's a lot tougher than she looks, and Denise admitted she loves her son unconditionally.
In an exclusive interview with Reality TV World on Monday, Denise and James talked about their The Amazing Race experience. Below is the first half. Check back with us soon for the concluding portion.
Reality TV World: How far behind Logan Fazio and Chris Gordon were you when you made it to the Pit Stop? Any idea what that time gap was?
James Earl Corley: Oh yeah, we know EXACTLY how much time that was. It was FOUR minutes.
Denise Williams: Four minutes.
Reality TV World: Oh that's all!? Wow, that's rough.
James Earl Corley: It was so close.
Reality TV World: When you were searching for Phil, did you know you were in last place or was it not until you saw him that you realized it?
James Earl Corley: So when we opened the gate, we still thought we had a chance. But when we opened it, we saw the "Cheerleaders" [Tiffany Chantell and Krista Debono] and "Paparazzi" there, so we knew we were in last place at that point.
They had used all the non-eliminations, and so we knew at that moment it was over. We still had a little hope that maybe something crazy was going to happen, but unfortunately, it was our time to go.
Reality TV World: Were you two surprised though you even made it as far as you did? Like James, your mother's strength seemed to catch you off-guard when you said she's tougher than she looks. And Denise, did you have any idea you'd be such a competitor going into this whole thing?
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Denise Williams: Well, you know, (laughs) we were raised as competitors. I mean, there were four of us as siblings and we were raised as competitors. I knew I wasn't going to give up, but you know, when I was standing on that starting line, I looked left and looked right and said, "What am I doing!?" (Laughs) You know? I knew I was the oldest, but I knew I wouldn't give up.
James Earl Corley: You never know exactly how you're going to do when you start the Race. That first leg is always, like, just testing the waters. We had our ups and downs, but we stayed in it! I can't be more proud of my mom. She was doing what everyone else in their 20s was doing. That's just crazy!
Reality TV World: I felt like Chris and Logan were way behind everyone after they got U-Turned, but then the episode showed you two getting to the Detour task as Chris and Logan were already plugging ahead in front of you. But we didn't see much happen to you guys before then to understand why you were so far behind. Could you tell me about that?
James Earl Corley: Yeah, so honestly, what started our downfall was when we got lost the previous leg. We got taken to the wrong garden. We probably spent an hour to an hour-and-a-half running around this garden looking for [host Phil Keoghan], because the clue said, "Search the grounds."
And that's when we found out we were in the wrong place. So by the time we actually made it to the Pit Stop, we were so far behind the teams that when we started the next leg, since it was in the same city, we just had so much ground to make up. And unfortunately, we couldn't quite do it.
Reality TV World: Oh okay, so the only issue was departing for this leg much later than the other teams.
James Earl Corley: Yeah. I think if I remember the episode correctly, we started a little over an hour behind Chris and Logan and then about 30 minutes behind the "Cheerleaders."
Denise Williams: That's correct, James Earl.
Reality TV World: James, how long did the balloons Roadblock task take you? And also, how long did it take you both to complete the Detour?
James Earl Corley: Ohh, that Roadblock task. So my little plan of action when I was in there was to get barely enough balloons in the netting so I could go, and it probably took me about 25 minutes.
But about 10 minutes of that was probably fighting the net because the top of my net got tangled somehow and I still don't know how. So I had a difficult time getting the balloons in and I probably wasted about 10 minutes struggling with the netting.
And as far as the Detour goes, at that point, it was kind of hard to judge time. But I mean, seeing that four of the teams did that Detour, it was all at the same pace. So, you know, looking back at it, would we have had a better chance if we went to the other place? Maybe, but you never know that when you play the game.
Reality TV World: When you walked up to the U-Turn board, were you surprised to see Justin Scheman and Diana Bishop had U-Turned Chris and Logan? Is that what you expected? Were you happy to see that?
Denise Williams: Well I really thought they were going to U-Turn us because of something that happened earlier in the Race. I really thought they were going to U-Turn us, but when I saw they U-Turned Chris and Logan, I was shocked.
James Earl Corley: I was shocked too.
Denise Williams: But looking at it now, [watching it back] now, we didn't see everything that happened in the other legs. You know what I'm saying, James Earl?
James Earl Corley: Yeah, so what she's talking about is I kind of made Justin mad way back in Leg 2 when I told other teams the location of the church. So we were afraid that we were going to be targeted by them, but what happened between the "Paparazzi," the "Cheerleaders" and the "Green Team" is I think what saved us.
I think if that hadn't happened, the "Green Team" would've U-Turned us. Our other saving grace is when we flew from Poland to India. We were on the same flight as the "Green Team," so we got to bond with them a little bit. So, I think we had a little bit of luck in avoiding that U-Turn, but I think we were up there on their radar for people to U-Turn.
Reality TV World: Do you think that was a smart move on Justin and Diana's part? Because although they were friends with Kelsey Gerckens and Joey Buttitta, the "Reporters" have proven to be the more threatening team considering they've landed in second place so many times.
James Earl Corley: Yeah, but I think the "Green Team" is such a student of this game that they knew if they U-Turned us or the "Reporters," they wouldn't go home and that would just make another enemy for them.
Denise Williams: Yeah.
James Earl Corley: So I think what they were trying to do was U-Turn a team that they thought had a chance of going home, and it was still close. I know we were the team eliminated, but it was a very close call.
Reality TV World: Denise, while your son was doing the balloons Roadblock, you asked Krista if the "Cheerleaders" were going to U-Turn you guys, but she acted like that was a crazy thought -- calling you two the most trustworthy and loyal left. Did you really think they intended to U-Turn you and therefore did Krista's explanation come as a surprise to you?
Denise Williams: No. We knew from the start the girls loved us. We knew that. We were so close with the "Dallas Team" [Tanner Kloven and Josh Ahern] and the girls, but you just never know. You just never know at that moment. And so I had to ask her and what she said, it did not [surprise me], because I would've given her the same answer.
Reality TV World: Okay, so it sounds like you were just a little paranoid.
Denise Williams: Yes.
James Earl Corley: There's definitely paranoia just because when you're racing and you know you're at the back, you'll do anything to keep your face from getting up there [on the U-Turn board]. Sometimes you just need a little of that reassurance.
Check back with Reality TV World soon for the concluding portion of Denise and James Earl's exclusive The Amazing Race interview.