Known to the world as the “Afghanimals,” cousins Jamal Zadran and Leo Temory were a force to be reckoned with on The Amazing Race this season. The pair had no problem bending the truth to get ahead, and raised the ire of the teams to the point where they were U-Turned twice and still managed to survive, becoming the only team to do. Their edit was also quite interesting as the show progressed as they started off as unlikable villains but managed to win audiences over by putting the focus on having fun and playing strategically at the same time. Narrowly missing out on the final leg because of a difficult robot construction roadblock in Tokyo, the pair never lost sight of the prize and would have been tough to beat in Alaska. I caught up with Jamal and Leo to discuss their experience on the show and what they really think about Travis and Nicole. They also spoke frankly about how they wished they had aligned with Tim and Marie from the start.
Murtz Jaffer: Missed you guys in Rhode Island for the finale party as it was basically the event of the year. Leo, first of all, I want to start by saying that I loved the Afghanimal moniker. You guys have clearly watched reality television before and know important branding is. Did the nickname come to you automatically or did you have to think about it?
Leo Temory: I actually had the name since elementary/early middle school. It was my screenname, it was on all my emails. It was kind of like an inside joke between me and my friends. People started calling me that because of all of my antics. And me and my cousin always do everything together so when we applied, I was like, ‘well, we already go by this so let’s just stick with it and see how much fun we can have with it. It was created long before the reality show.
MJ: Jamal, I am petitioning for the U-Turn to now be called the Afghanimal Cage considering how many teams used it against you this season. Why were you so unpopular?
Jamal Zadran: I don’t think it was about us being unpopular as much as it was about us being competitive. They should actually put our honorary photo up on that U-Turn board, the Afghanimal U-Turn Board, because we did make history as the first team to survive two U-Turns in one season. It just showed that we never give up, even when there are targets on our back. It just made us that much more determined to succeed.
MJ: Leo, as a brown guy, I also understand the forbidden fruit appeal of blondes. Why did you guys connect with Ashley and Ally so well? Was it the fact that you were all from LA, the fact that they are incredibly hot or that you knew you could beat them in a physical challenge?
LT: Ally and Ashley, we just had some downtime at LAX and we just clicked. We love Vegas and all of a sudden we just started talking about Vegas and we had some of the same mutual friends in common and we were all really similar. We had similar traits. We all like to have fun. That was all that was. We just became really good friends throughout the Race. It wasn’t strategic like ‘oh we could beat them at the end.’ It was more about the traits that we had in common. They’re good people. We knew that we would have a lot more fun with them on the Race. They helped us a lot and we helped them. They just made the Race that much more fun.
MJ: Speaking of alliances, Jamal, what was it like seeing Amy and Nicole work together on a roadblock with the specific intent being to knock you and Leo out? Did you take it as a compliment or was it offensive that they would need to work together on a task that was specifically designed for one person?
JZ: Leo and I have been fans of the show since the first season. We have seen a lot of teams come and go. To see two teams work together to do challenges that were meant for a single person at a roadblock was kind of frustrating. It sort of showed their character that two brains and four hands and four legs and four eyes to complete a roadblock that other teams were capable of doing by themselves. Seeing that gave us more determination to beat the teams that were ganging up.
MJ: Leo, We absolutely have to talk about Travis and Nicole. I have been covering reality television for a very long time, and I have never seen anything like what they did. They kept advocating that they wanted to set an example, and yet they U-Turned you and if that wasn’t bad enough, Nicole tried to cheat off of Leo in the angklung scale challenge in Indonesia. What do you think about them and how did you manage to keep your cool when it was going on?
LT: We love Travis and Nicole and we coined them to be the ‘Power Parents’ because of how strong they were. They had a huge family and it wasn’t easy for them to leave them but I think the best word to describe them and what they did is “unfortunate.” It was unfortunate. They took Jamal and I being smart and competitive as rubbing them the wrong way. They defended themselves by coining us as being ‘sneaky’ and ‘manipulative’ when we have heard countless times that we were being smart and competitive. It was just ironic that near the end, all the lies were coming out and how the cheating started happening. The fact of the matter is that we never said a hard lie. All of our lies were soft and in joking fashion. We said that my wife was pregnant as a joke. When they asked us if we used the U-Turn, we would say no. That’s nothing that would hurt their game. That didn’t affect their game. Their lies were much harder like when they made a pact with Marie to work together and then just ignored them. That’s something we never did with our alliance or someone that we gave our word to. We helped Tim and Danny out. We helped Brandon and Adam out with money. We would never stab someone in the back with a real lie or a hurtful lie or when Travis was pushing the button down on Kim when she was trying to go down the elevator in Poland. That’s something that’s not in our character and it goes against our morals. It’s a Race, so we understand but it is just unfortunate. Near the end, everyone saw how we ran the Race. We had fun and ran with joy and smiles. It never affected us.
MJ: Jamal, at the beginning of the season, it seemed like the villains of the season would either be you guys or Marie and now that it is all over, I kind of feel like neither of you were as you were all teams that people were rooting for. So my question is, who do you think were the bad guys of the Amazing Race 23?
JZ: People’s true colors on The Amazing Race came out toward the end of the season. Teams saw us or Marie as being the villains but we got along with Tim and Marie just fine. One of our biggest regrets was not getting to know them better in the first two, three, four legs of the season. We might have been able to create a stronger alliance to get Travis/Nicole/Jason/Amy out. I feel like definitely toward the end, Travis and Nicole ended up becoming that villainous team who would always have a two-way standard for themselves but expect everyone else to race a certain way. They would never follow their own set of rules.
MJ: Leo, I know you guys got a bad rap amongst the other teams for lying about U-Turning the Beards, but there was actually a profound strategy behind it right? Considering that you could only use a U-Turn once during the season?
LT: Definitely. That was a well-thought out strategy that we came up with on the train because we were behind. Us and Ally and Ashley. We were on the second train. Jamal and I had hours to discuss what we were going to say to them. We love the Beards. Just before that, we had helped the Beards out on a challenge. They were two of our closest friends, but when we got to that U-Turn board, we knew that it was going to be close and we needed some sort of cushion. Since we were behind, we had to U-Turn someone. It was either Ally and Ashley who were like two seconds behind us (which we weren’t going to do) or Adam and Brandon and that’s what we did. Going into that leg, knowing all of the relationships we had with the other teams, no one would believe us if we said that we had to so that was one of the key factors. The second was that it was pure strategy because we knew that we only had one U-Turn to play and if we admitted that we had already used it, then no one would fear us heading into the next U-Turn. Our lie totally helped us because on the second leg in Abu Dhabi, you could hear Amy yelling “oh, I hope the Afghanimals don’t U-Turn us” so it worked to our advantage just as we had planned it to.
MJ: Jamal, how hard was it to watch the final three teams compete for the $1 million, when it seemed like you guys would have steamrolled right through it and do you think that Jason and Amy are deserving winners?
JZ: Just to see the finale, I do really think that Leo and I could have excelled. I think Leo and I could have easily been in the final three and who knows what would have happened. I think it could have also affected their psyche if they knew that the Afghanimals were still in it. I would have rather it been Tim and Marie only because we were closer to Tim and Marie and that’s who Leo and I were rooting for but it didn’t go down that way. We thought we were going to make it to the finals so we did a lot of research at the Indonesia airport on our way to Japan. We actually wrote down all of the currency that we used in chronological order for all of the countries that we went to so that final challenge would have been a walk in the park.
MJ: Leo, were there any other teams that you wish you had connected with earlier that might have helped you in later legs since you guys really had no allies left after the Ice Queens were eliminated?
LT: Yeah, like Jamal said, it was definitely Tim and Marie. They were really competitive and I think that’s why we kept… not arguing with each other but kept bumping into each other. If we had just gotten some time to get to know them. The way that we all come off is so straight-forward and abrasive, especially Marie. Like she is definitely crazy and insane but if we would have just put the Race on hold and gotten to know them, that would have been a team that we would have gotten close with and we love them now. They are two of our best friends. We should have gotten closer to them and along with the Ice Queens, we could have been the Final 3.
MJ: Jamal, I feel like I am getting the 60 Minutes version of the Afghanimals as you guys are much more reserved than I expected you to be, especially after you were so loud and boisterous on the show. What’s next for you guys?
JZ: The next thing for Leo and I is to continue our business ventures. We have a couple of companies out here in California. If we had won the Amazing Race, that would have just helped us out financially to expand and fast-track what we want out of our lives and our goals.
MJ: And for you Leo?
LT: Jamal and I are both entrepreneurs and we have a couple of businesses here in Pasadena. Just making sure that all of them are as successful as they can be. I also have some other business ideas in mind and I finally have the motivation to get them off the ground. Continue working and making sure that the people around me are happy and healthy.
MJ: Well I loved you guys on the show. Thank you so much.
LT: Thanks a lot brother.