Grant Bowler is racing the clock

By Bridget Jones

Grant Bowler's hectic schedule makes it as much a race for the presenter as for the contestants, he tells Bridget Jones.

Grant Bowler, host of the new reality show.
Grant Bowler, host of the new reality show.

Maybe it's because his day job has him travelling around the world at record speed, only in a city for a matter of hours. But when asked where he is, The Amazing Race host Grant Bowler replies with a reasonably comprehensive weather report -- the details helping him keep track of where in the world he is.

"Venice Beach, California. It was quite an overcast morning, but it's turned into a beautiful afternoon -- full of blue skies and it's about 72 degree fahrenheit [22C]," he rattles off in that outrageous gravelly Wolf West voice.

The attempt to cling to the moment isn't all that surprising. When he talks to TimeOut, Bowler's upcoming itinerary looks something like this: filming in his new home of LA, a press tour of South America, an awards ceremony in Monte Carlo, and shooting season three of his hit sci-fi show, Defiance, in Toronto.

All that and he's only just back from Australia, where he played the captain of the Wellington battalion in the upcoming war drama Gallipoli.

"And that's the year," he laughs.

With all that to come, the time he spent filming The Amazing Race: Australia v New Zealand seems not like a holiday but more like good practice for a booming acting career. But the pain of travelling 90,000km across six continents in four weeks this year is still very real. Despite going back to the show three times now, Bowler, 46, can't say if he has learned his lesson just yet.

"It's always hard, right afterwards, to think, 'Would I have another go? Honey, should we have another race?' But right now the pain is fresh."

He says that what people see on screen -- essentially five Kiwi pairs taking on five Aussie duos in a race around the world to exotic locations, with a few hairy challenges chucked in for good fun -- is a far cry from the unglamorous reality behind the scenes.

The contestants and their camera crew have to focus only on the challenge of getting themselves from point A to point B, but Bowler and the rest of the production team have to be there when the first team arrives, and can't leave until the last team shows up. He says it's often nothing short of a scramble.

"The race for the contestants is one thing because they are in this pipe we are building in front of them, and they are racing through the middle link, we are pulling a link from behind them and putting another in front of them.

"They are inside this pipeline, but we are having a completely different experience, trying to create this as we go around the world. It's like a cartoon and we do it with various degrees of success -- some days we look very professional, other days we look completely like a circus."

Three seasons into The Amazing Race, the one thing Bowler has figured out is what makes a successful contestant. Wannabe reality stars, take note: it's all about patience and the ability not to take things too personally.

"There is something that happens when people are contestants on reality shows. This construct is built around them, and it's very easy to become the victim in that. It inevitably happens -- and it would happen with me too, I think -- because someone else is pulling all the strings and you are under their control.

"But people who don't take things too personally, too quickly, often do really well because they are able to hold on to their own reality much longer. It all leads back to listening. There is a baseline above which it doesn't really matter how fast you can run and it doesn't really matter if you can solve problems in a nano-second, if you didn't listen to the clue properly."

Among the Aussie and Kiwi teams, Bowler says there are great listeners and great characters -- "a few larrikins and a couple of buffoons" -- and more than a bit of transtasman rivalry.

It's something he can appreciate, being born in New Zealand, but growing up in Australia surrounded by Kiwi-born cousins. Just don't make him pick a side.

"I used to get quite defensive, but now I just laugh at anyone who tries to make me choose," he says.

"When we were kids we used to wind each other up. If one cousin went for the Australian cricket team, we'd scream, 'Oh, you're Australian now'. Or if we backed the Aussies in a rugby match, it was, "Oh, you're not a Kiwi anymore!' So I kind of giggle now, because I realise the race played out like my uncle's living room when I was 8 years old all over again. And when each Amazing Race team would say, "You love us more, aye Grant?" Well, I've played that game with experts."

Who: Grant Bowler
What: The Amazing Race: Australia v New Zealand
When: starts August 5 on TV2

- TimeOut

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