In an “Amazing Race” season that has sometimes struggled to find teams worth rooting for, self-described Kentucky boys Mark Jackson and William “Bopper” Minton never had any trouble endearing themselves to viewers.
Mark & Bopper were so immediately relatable and sympathetic and their enthusiasm for the experience of “The Amazing Race” was so contagious that at one point during the season, Art & JJ offered a chunk of a first place reward to Bopper, to assist his daughter. “The Amazing Race” isn’t a show in which teams routinely give away their prizes, so that’s not a gesture to take lightly.
That was the first time Mark & Bopper finished last, but it turned out to be a Non-Elimination Leg and they recovered in the next Leg to continue their journey.
A few episodes later, difficulties mastering choreography for a Bollywood dance number, coupled by health issues for both Mark & Bopper, led to their second time in last. Fortunately for them, it was a second Non-Elimination Leg.
It was like “The Amazing Race” couldn’t stand to see them go.
Of course, when Mark & Bopper finished last for the third time on this past Sunday’s episode, there was nothing to be done and Team Kentucky was sent back to Clay County, hoping they’d done right by their community.
In our exit interview, Mark & Bopper talked about how they’ve been received back home, how they maintained their spirits on the Race and about that offer from Art & JJ. [As viewers of the show know, they’re pretty passionate guys, especially Mark, and there were a bunch of questions I didn’t get to ask… ]
Click through for the full interview…
HitFix: One thing you mentioned a couple times was your desire to do right by Clay County, Kentucky. How have people back home responded to you?
William “Bopper” Minton: They love us. They’re absolutely proud of their Clay County boys.
Mark Jackson: Yes. We feel like we might’ve let ’em down a little bit because we can’t make a difference, but I think we’re gonna make a difference now by just telling everybody that they can do anything they set their mind to in life, because we did. We were troubled children when we were growing up and we changed our lives around and it’s made all them believe the same thing and that’s more than winning the money and donating money to the kids in the county, to just realize that they care that much about us.
Bopper: We’ve had a big honor in going to a lot of the elementary schools here in Clay County and just telling the kids to do their best at whatever they do and as long as they do their best, they have something to be proud of and hold your head up high. They have welcomed us with open arms.
HitFix: In a perfect world, if you’d won, what were you hoping to do with the money and for the area?
Bopper: For one, my first priority was to relocate my family to a healthier environment. Where I live is a very dust-polluted area and my child is very sick with asthma and she’s on seven different respiratory medicines. As a father, that would have to be my first priority, was to get my child into a safer location. And then whatever else I could do for a needy family or a needy child, I would give ’em the shirt off my back.
Mark: I would have loved to have been able to get the money and relocate and give my kids more of what they deserve and turn around a bunch of families around here, kids who don’t have shoes to wear to school and stuff, and just put the money toward that. Money is good, but if you can do good with the money, that’s what what makes the money that much better. That was our main goal: We need something to change the outlook of kids in this town, because our town is just overwhelmed with drugs. We have an overdose probably every two weeks or something. In a little small town like this, it’s just ridiculous. What we’ve gotta do is get people to recognize that the kids are the future. If I had that money, I could get it out there. I could do good for kids. I could make kids realize that there’s something else in life besides drugs, they don’t have their parents and… There was a whole lotta stuff I coulda done with the money to make a big difference in my county. Don’t get me wrong, I hope and pray that people hear us talking about this and wants to step up and maybe come in and say, “Listen Mark, what can we do to help you in the county?” These people like Bill Gates and Oprah Winfrey just donate money everywhere. How’d you like to donate enough money to this county that we might be able to change 20,000 people’s lives and change a whole county around and even surrounding counties. That was our main goal, is to get relocation and our family a better life and change the lives of some people in our county.
Bopper: Even though we didn’t win the Race, we still changed our county, heart-wise, because our whole county has went out to us and they’re overwhelmed at how well we done on the Race and respected and respresented our county. Of course we didn’t win the Race, but we still made a small difference in our community.
HitFix: At some point, Bopper said that doing “The Amazing Race” was more Mark’s dream than his. Mark, what made you want to go on “The Amazing Race”?
Mark: I watched the show my whole life. The thing about it is I love to see places like that. And then I just started thinking: I have a brother who’s hooked on drugs and all that stuff and that would be such a nice thing to win the million dollars to let him see [muffled], get away from that stuff, don’t do it and let everybody see that no matter life throws at you, you can change your life around and be good. You can ask Bopper, if you do good, good is going to happen to you. That’s the reason I think we got on the Race, because I watched the Race, couldn’t get nobody to do it with me. But I just called Bopper up and I said, “Bopper, listen. I need this show, man and I want you to do this show with me.” He’s like, “What are you talking about?” And I said, “You can win a million dollars.” He said, “Well where’s the application at?” He didn’t ask when it was and didn’t care what it was. He realized this was a chance to change his daughter’s life and get rid of all the atmosphere that he was in and he went for it.
HitFix: No real hesitation for you, Bopper?
Bopper: Absolutely not, brother. Listen, for a chance to relocate my child into a healthier environment son, I would walk through any fire that you can build. There was absolutely no hesitation whatsoever.
Mark: He didn’t know what it was. He didn’t care what it was. It was just a chance that he could change his life for his daughter and it was a no-brainer. He was all over it.
HitFix: What was it like watching and reliving the episode from last week with the Bollywood number?
Bopper: For me, my whole house was in tears, including myself. I was there and seen it happen live, but to sit back at home with my family and watch it again, it was heart-touching. I seen that Mark was in trouble, you know? I knew that he was in trouble, so that’s why I asked him, “Let’s take the penalty.” I said, “Because I’d rather you walk back to Kentucky with me, Mark, instead of me packing you back in a body bag, man.” I said, “I’ve got nothing left to give them on this stage.” I said, “You’re going to take a heat stroke. So let’s just take the penalty and see what goes from there.” So we decided to do that and we got over in the shade and Mark set down for a few minutes and we got to talking again, just getting him calmed down and cooled down and you know and then we kinda looked at it again and I said, “How ’bout one more shot, brother? You think you’re up for doing it one more shot?” And he said, “No. I’m not up to it. But I’m gonna do it.” It was just heart-touching for us.
Mark: Yeah I was sitting and watching it with my family. Like I said, I’m raising three kids by myself and I was trying to be strong, trying to be tough and not let ’em see weakness and I when I looked over and seen my family are bawling their eyes out, I just didn’t know what to do, but I didn’t wanna let ’em see me cry, so I just told ’em, I said, “I need to go outside and smoke a cigarette.” I went outside and I cleaned myself up. I let it all out and then I dried it up before I come back in. I didn’t really know how bad it was until I did see it on TV. I knew it was bad, because I was falling and stuff, but I didn’t know how bad it really was. Even last night’s show, I was watching it and I could still see where I was drained and I was nowhere near 100 percent. But like me and Bopper said, “Man, this is our only chance in this world that we’re going to have a chance to change our lives for our kids and our county and man… we’ve got to do it, no matter if it puts us wherever it puts us,” we’ve got to do it.
HitFix: You guys seemed to get along so well out there. Is that just your natural dynamic? Did you worry you were going to fight on the Race?
Mark: We argued a little bit on the Race. Listen, we don’t want our kids to see us acting crazy on national TV, doing something stupid, arguing. We don’t want them to argue with people. Friends are gonna have differences. We had difference of opinions and sooner or later we realized that one of us was right and one of us was wrong and it didn’t matter if it was me or Bopper. Whichever one was wrong was man enough to say, “You’re right.” I’d say, “You’re right, Bopper. That’s the way we need to do it.” And Bopper would do it. He’d said, “Mark. You’re right. That’s the way we need to do it.” We had differences, but friendships is friendships, man. Everybody’s gonna have differences, but you cannot let it come between your friendship. There ain’t nothing in the world that bad. We were racing for a million dollars, but what people don’t realize is that we wanted to enjoy ourselves we were doing it, because we would never get an opportunity to do this again. We’re traveling around the world. Let’s absorb it in and see. Because couldn’t keep up with us on the task. We couldn’t find our way around, but they couldn’t keep up with us on the task. When it comes to a task, we killed ’em. That’s the sad part of what happened in Bollywood. If I hadn’t have gotten sick and my partner’s leg wasn’t hurt. If my partner’s leg wasn’t hurt, he’d have done that dance, but he couldn’t do that dance and I was so sick, to tell you the truth, I shouldn’t have been doing the dance. But it left me to do it, so I wasn’t gonna let my partner down. I went out there and gave it everything that I had and that’s what I tell my kids, “No matter what happens to you in life, you give everything you’ve got.” We give everything that we’ve got 110 percent every day that we had. If you do that, you can live with the outcome of what happens, win, lose or draw.
Bopper: We knew where each other stood before we left here, you know. We’ve been friends our whole life. I told Mark, when me and him was running and jogging and trying to get in shape for this Race, I told him, I said, “Look. We’re life-long friends. We’re gonna leave here as friends. And we’re coming back as friends, regardless. Win, lose or draw, we’re all each other’s got.” You’re friendship and your family are all that matters in life. We had our little differences of opinion, like Mark said, but when push come to shove, we met in the middle and we had to do what we had to do. Was our friendship in jeopardy? Never was an issue.
Mark: I know Bopper was giving it everything he had and Bopper knows I was giving it everything I had. So if one of us didn’t succeed, we knew were giving it all we got, so that was just gonna be it.
HitFix: And what’s the story, you guys, on the money that Art and JJ promised you?
Mark: That was to Bopper and he promised it for his daughter and that was a great gesture and everything like that. We told him we took him to heart and we appreciated it. Bopper, his daughter, that would give her… that was a great gesture and the reason they did that was because they know what kind of people we are. They know what we stood for and they know what we were there for.
Bopper: That’s true. We had no idea that they wuz gonna do that. I don’t know as far as what CBS allows you to say or state, but nobody gets anything until it’s all over with, but I spoke with Art & JJ since then I told them that I wasn’t gonna hold them to that promise, but they said, “No. We never welch on anything that we say.” So they said, “Just as soon as we get our money, we’re sending your child a third of that money.” I really do appreciate that.