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‘The Amazing Race’ Host Phil Keoghan Says Season 32 Is ‘About Escapism,’ Addresses Future of Show Amid Coronavirus Pandemic (Exclusive)

Amazing Race Host Phil Keoghan Teases Season 32
Phil KeoghanSonja Flemming/CBS

The world’s waiting for you … or, it was, rather. The Amazing Race is finally set to return for season 32 after filming wrapped nearly two years ago.

Host Phil Keoghan recognizes that fans have been itching for the new season to air, especially amid quarantine during the coronavirus pandemic.

Related: Meet the Athlete-Filled Cast of 'The Amazing Race' Season 32

“Our fans are amazing fans. They have been so patient and it’s been difficult to explain to them the reason,” he tells Us Weekly exclusively of the premiere date being pushed back earlier this year. “I do want to say to the fans: Thank you for your patience.”

“It’s been an unprecedented time and had the world been different, there would be another Amazing Race in the can,” Phil adds. “But it’s a different world we live in.”

Related: Shocking Reality TV Exits

Shooting for season 33 halted earlier this year as COVID-19 hit, but the New Zealand native assures fans the network plans on picking up where they left off – it’s just a matter of when.

“We’ll go back and finish the season as soon as we’re able to do it safely,” he says. “Our No. 1 goal for all of us is to make sure people are safe and we pride ourselves on keeping people safe. We can’t make that promise right now with the world the way it is.”

“Rest assured, we will be back,” Phil adds. “And we will hopefully be even better than we have been before. Every season we are trying to improve, to take it up a notch.”

Related: Reality Stars Who Hooked Up With Stars From Other Shows

As for the future of Race amid the ongoing pandemic, he tells Us, “It’s definitely going to be different, but who knows. The world is changing so fast, so quickly. We just don’t know what’s around the corner.”

The Amazing Race season 32 premieres on CBS Wednesday, October 14, at 9 p.m. ET. Check out what else Phil had to share with Us below!

Amazing Race Host Phil Keoghan Teases Season 32
Sonja Flemming/CBS

Us Weekly: Season 32, finally! And you hit a major milestone in one million miles traveled!

Phil Keoghan: Somebody was asking me about that and saying, “You guys have must have really celebrated.” But it just came in the middle of the night. We were flying somewhere over the Andes. I think we were heading to Manaus [in Brazil] or somewhere in the middle of the Amazon. There was no hoopla. There was no champagne. There were no fireworks. The celebration got lost in the sounds of the jet engines as we were flying through the night. It is incredible. That’s like going to the moon and back, twice.

Us: What are you excited for fans to see? Do we visit anywhere for the first time?

PK: We’re always trying to go somewhere new and different. Right out of the gate, we get to go to Trinidad and Tobago, which we’ve never been to before. I grew up in the Caribbean so I’m a big fan of the Caribbean. And then we get to Kazakhstan and really interesting places. One of the things the show has really prided itself on is just getting to locations that the audience hasn’t seen. I say at the beginning of the show, “The world is waiting for you.” Right now it’s not really waiting for anybody, but we’re hoping people will enjoy escaping this lockdown vicariously through our cast members who get to travel freely at a time where we could travel freely in the world.

Us: Interacting with locals is such a big part of the show. Is there a fear that will have to change because of COVID?

PK: I think by the time we travel, there won’t be those restrictions. We can’t travel with restrictions. We need to be able to move freely. The nature of the show is that it is about the locals. It’s about where we are. It is about the freedom to be able to move. I just can’t see a world where we’re traveling, but we can’t talk to people, or go here or there. We are going to get to the end of all this and this show isn’t not a COVID-compliant, studio-based show in the Valley. This is a show where the stage and studio is literally the world. The world is our studio, which is part of what makes it difficult, but part of what makes it special. We’re not in the same place every single time. We have to have that freedom. And that’s why some shows have been able to continue shooting and others haven’t. Ours is one of those where it’s too difficult to make those compromises.

Us: In terms of casting, the Race has always chosen people from all walks of life, whereas other reality shows seem to be struggling with that. How involved are you with casting?

PK: I think it’s hugely important, especially right now. If you look at our cast this season, I think we really have shown the melting pot that is America. We’re going through some very challenging times in the country right now. There’s a lot of divisiveness and division. CBS has made a concerted effort to try to make sure different people are seen on TV. … Many people take it for granted that they see a reflection of themselves on TV. And when somebody says something like that, it really stops you in your tracks. You step into their shoes and see it from their point of view. Then you realize that yes, how would that make you feel?

So while we do have this divisiveness in our country, I think at the end of the day, I’m an immigrant and the reason I came here was America always represented to me progress and acceptance, and it was the place you could make things happen. I just think the country’s lost track a little bit about what does make it great. And what makes it great is the diversity. A show like Amazing Race, where we can show people of all shades – from the lightest to the darkest and everything in between, people of different backgrounds, people who vote for different parties – doing something together and united, I think it’s very powerful.

Us: Right, in addition to seeing other cultures represented on TV by the locations you visit.

PK: If anything, this season 32 is really about escapism. We’ve all been locked down. We’re looking in a window into a world we want to get back to. And maybe a world that will appreciate more when we do. Sometimes it’s not until you have taken away do you truly appreciate what you had. Everyone was getting flippant about the opportunities that travel could bring us. There are two different travelers to me. There are those that travel with their eyes wide open, open to new ideas and ways of doing things. New foods, new experiences. And they want to learn and immerse themselves. And there there’s the other traveler who compares what they encounter with what they know and what they think is “normal.” Those people, I find, restrict their experience. To me, what we’ve done with Amazing Race over the years is open people’s eyes up to be accepting of difference.

Us: There are different rules for the Yield this season. What can you say about that?

PK: I’m not meant to reveal too much of how it works, but just to change it up a little bit, force people to think a little differently. But it’s interesting to me, with the show being off so long, a lot of people have gone back to watching the old seasons. A lot of people who weren’t born [when the show premiered in 2001] have become fans of the show. And what I’m hearing is that people like the show for its core elements. These teams of two traveling the world, following clues, going place to place. I get a lot of questions over the years, “What’s new and different? What’s the twist?” But at the end of the day, what I’ve heard, the feedback that I’m getting is, we can twist and turn and do whatever we want to the show, but at the end of the day, teams of two traveling the world, following clues, going to new and different places in the world and experiencing different things, that is the twist. That is the difference. That is what separates it from other shows.

The fact that these seasons have held for so long is because at its core, the twist of The Amazing Race, that’s what makes it so exciting to watch. So yeah, there are a couple of different things here and there changed up, but it has such a limited impact compared to what it’s like to go to Kazakhstan. We’ve never been there. That’s the twist. Or go someplace in the Amazon we’ve never been to before. To experience something, that’s the twist. We have all of that built in already, at a fundamental level, that other shows can’t do. They have to go back into the same studio. They can change people, but at the end of the day, it’s just different people standing in the same space. We have different people standing in a different space doing different things.

Us: Anything else you can tease about the season?

PK: Just the team dynamic. We have a really good mixture of teams. Like all of our Amazing Race family, they all get very, very close. That dynamic between not only each person in a couple, but the couples with each other, is really, really interesting. That photograph of this year’s cast … It looks like a lot of trouble [laughs]. A lot of potential. Some really interesting dynamics with brother and sister, newlyweds, great friends, partners, father-son. I assure you there’s some good dynamics right out of the gate.

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