'Body Break' duo to compete on 'Amazing Race Canada'
CTV announced on Sunday, December 2, 2012 it plans to air The Amazing Race Canada in 2013. (CTV handout)
The Canadian Press
Published Tuesday, June 25, 2013 10:56PM EDT
TORONTO -- For 25 years, Hal Johnson and Joanne McLeod have been a relentlessly cheerful presence in Canadian homes through their brief "Body Break" fitness vignettes -- chipper little missives designed to get Canucks sweating with a smile.
Well, now that the couple has signed up to be contestants on the intense cross-country competition "The Amazing Race Canada," things might change. Viewers will now likely see Johnson and McLeod when they're exhausted. And when they're stressed. And perhaps even when they're -- gasp -- fighting?
"It's funny with social media because there's been so many people tweeting and putting on Facebook and that sort of thing: 'Are Hal and Jo going to fight? I don't want to see them fight!"' said Johnson with a laugh in a recent interview prior to taping the reality series, seated next to a smiling McLeod. "You know, I think the biggest thing is we respect one another first."
"We don't do that in our real life," agreed McLeod.
"So what you see in 'Body Break' is certainly a part of us. It's not all of us," added Johnson. "You're going to see us tired. You're going to see us in different situations that we've never done before. But I don't perceive that we would fly off the handle -- because I just never do that."
Indeed, the couple is speaking several weeks back just prior to taping of the race-around-the-country competition (the show premieres July 15 on CTV). In the adjacent room, the pairs that Johnson and McLeod will face off against are scattered about, sitting quietly under strict instructions not to speak to each other. It's a tense scene.
But Johnson and McLeod are all smiles. They said taking this challenge on seemed like fortuitous timing, given that they're celebrating a quarter-century of "Body Break." Similarly, Johnson and McLeod have spent their lives trying to inspire Canadians to activity -- and now they see an opportunity to prove what's possible at an, ahem, advanced age. Johnson is 57 and McLeod 54, and they have something to prove.
"There are some teams in this race that their cumulative age does not add up to mine," laughed Johnson, who played college baseball for the University of Colorado. "Really, it's about showing that it doesn't matter how old you are. You can go out and do anything."
Listening to Johnson and McLeod strategize, it's clear they intend to win. Neither speaks French, so they talk about cozying up to a team that is bilingual. To counteract the perceived advantage in age, they'll be careful to sleep and eat right while hoping that others aren't doing the same. Johnson also points out that they've been plastering their clothes and gear with the "Body Break" logo, to increase the odds that they're recognized and -- they hope -- helped along by starstruck fans in a way that other teams wouldn't be.
Even their age, viewed through the duo's perennially positive filter, seems like a good thing.
"We know it really is a mind game, so it's a matter of being patient," Johnson said. "If I have to put together a piece of Ikea furniture at home, I know I will never do it the first time. So when I mess it up, I go, 'Oh.' I do it in reverse. I take it all apart and put it back together. And I never get mad. I expect to screw up.
"Whereas some of the younger competitors might be impatient, and then start yelling."
The show's executive producer, John Brunton, marvels that the presence of the pair represents "spectacular casting," calling them "special (and) unique."
Still, he shrugs off the idea that their celebrity could give them a leg up in the competition, where bewildered competitors often have to rely upon the kindness of strangers for a nudge in the right direction.
"I think it can work to your advantage and disadvantage sometimes and some people might want to send them on a wild goose chase because they might get a kick out of it, and others might want to help them," said the Insight Productions CEO.
"Certainly, the other teams have made it perfectly clear they want to kick their ass. And Hal and Joanne aren't exactly spring chickens either. They're getting on a little bit. They're not exactly senior citizens, but they're inching their way there. And we have some young bucks that think they can run faster. On the flip side, Hal and Joanne, they're in good shape, those two. I wouldn't want to arm-wrestle Joanne. She'd kick my ass."
Among the young bucks are the duo of 28-year-old David Schram and 32-year-old police officer Jet Black, a two-time North American Physique champion. But, growing up as they did in the late '80s-early '90s, they had only love for the famous "Body Break" pair.
"They're a team that I would love to work with -- they seem nice," Black said, smiling. "Are they a team that's going to want to work with us? I doubt it. They have an image to uphold. We're going to weigh them down.... It's a sad reality."
There's another youngster firmly in Johnson and McLeod's corner: their 14-year-old daughter.
Mostly, McLeod says their teen's biggest concern is "being embarrassed that we get eliminated in the first (leg)." Johnson says she just wants them to win her a car -- "red, she specified."
But she mostly wants them to keep their heads and work together, whether curious viewers at home want the same or not.
"(She) gave us a checklist for the race and she put it in our bags before we left," McLeod said. "It was five points. And one of them was to stay calm.
"And that's why," she added, holding up her hand, "I've put a piece of tape on my finger to remind me to stay calm."