Grace Under Pressure

Worlds away from writing speeches for Jerry Falwell, out Soulforce director and reformed evangelical Mel White joins forces with screenwriter son Mike (School of Rock) for The Amazing Race.

BY Dan Avery

February 10 2009 12:00 AM ET

What quality do you think made you a good candidate
for the show?
I really like people -- sometimes to my
detriment -- which helps when you don’t have a
common language. And I’m good at winning
people’s favor, which is something we learn as
activists. Being focused is a gift. There’s a
moment where there was real risk, and the whole race was at
stake. I sat down and did my meditation. Also, a lot of the
other competitors had never been out of the country,
or even out of their state. Even things like Customs
threw them. Mike and I both have been traveling around
the world our whole lives. Rushing through airports is
second nature.

Any handicaps or bad habits? I’m terrible with directions. I
can’t walk out of a hotel room without going
the wrong way. Can’t find my way out of a wet paper
bag. Thank God, Mike is so good with that. We’d
hop in a Mercedes and go off wherever. But
Mike’s a vegan, which made it almost impossible to
find places he could get food. So he didn’t eat
for much of the race. Me, I was ready for any
challenge -- eat whatever food, jump off whatever cliff.

Did you guys train for the show ahead of time? We exercised. Both Mike and I do yoga, and I do
meditation. We’re spiritually fit. And I
naturally have a lot of energy: I was two or three
times older than some of the other contestants, but I love
to move fast -- I loved the energy drain.

How were your fellow competitors -- any
Bible-thumpers or homophobes?
If so, they didn’t push it in our faces.
We were definitely in competition, but we got along
with the other racers. I even counseled some of them.
From what I could tell, our sexuality was a non-issue.

The show sends you guys to some pretty remote
areas. Were you worried about getting bashed or ending
up somewhere with a terrible human rights record?
We were running so fast the issue didn’t
really come up. I guess maybe I should’ve
thought about some of the countries we visited, but I had to
take what they threw at me. You can’t be an activist
in a race like this; there’s just no time. But
everywhere we went the people were fantastic. If a
nation had a nasty policy, we didn’t feel it from the
people. And the show has incredible security. If we
were ever in real danger they would’ve gotten
us out of there. You couldn’t see them but you knew
they were there.

But at the same time, you’re very much on your own.Short of your life being at risk, the producers
wouldn’t get involved. And they were right
there, ten feet away from you. You know, The Amazing
Race
has some 2,000 people working to put the
season together. When I saw how much preparation went into
it, and how seamless it was, I was in awe.

Tags: television

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