Since Sharik Atkinson was nine years old, she’s watched the The Amazing Race with her dad, Linton Atkinson—sometimes suggesting that they should go on it as a father-daughter duo.
“We watched every episode as a family when Sharik was growing up,” Linton, 51, told BK Reader. “We would choose teams to root for, and we were always rooting for the parent-child teams.”
Now, the father-daughter duo are about to be rooting for themselves as two of the contestants on the latest season of the show in which teams complete challenges around the world for the chance to win $1 million.
It’s a full-circle moment for the pair, for whom being on the screen was once a pipe dream.
“I thought that would be great, not knowing it would really happen,” Linton said. “Sharik is someone who speaks to the universe: These are manifestations.”
Sharik’s manifestation first started gaining traction when she saw a casting ad for The Amazing Race on Instagram earlier this year.
She and her father submitted a tape, were put in touch with casting directors and were eventually cast for the show.
The 34th season of The Amazing Race premieres Wednesday, September 21, on CBS at 10:00pm EST.
To mark the first episode, the pair—who immigrated to Brooklyn from Jamaica when Sharik was three—were back in their home country, which Sharik said felt fitting.
“I am nervous, I am excited, I am terrified,” Sharik, 23, told BK Reader ahead of the season premiere. “It’s so surreal because this is the show that we’ve been watching since I was younger. To see the title sequence that we are in, it’s so absurd.”
For much of the year, Linton—a school principal—and Sharik—a student working on her master’s degree—have had to keep their casting a secret from family and friends.
Even now that the season is produced, they cannot tell anyone whether they are the winners of the prize money.
The experience so far has been “surreal” and “life-changing” for the pair.
“As we were racing I was like, This is insane—in a good way—but so insane that there are girls that look like me who are going to be watching me on screen, like I did when I was nine,” Sharik said.
“I’m an immigrant, I have a great relationship with my father, even though I’m queer, and our culture doesn’t allow that that much. It’s a big responsibility that my dad and I have taken by the horns.”
In the show, the pair proudly represent their home country of Jamaica.
But Linton said he also made a point to constantly shout-out the Brooklyn kids at P.S. 208, the East Flatbush school where he was assistant principal until recently taking a principal job in Orlando.
“I grew up in a small country, very poor, and then was motivated in high school by one of my teachers that I can do anything. He held me accountable to his high expectations, and I received that and was the first in my family to go to college, to be a professional, to be in America teaching in New York City and rising through the ranks to be a school leader, and doing this for Sharik,” Linton said.
“It’s the immigrant story of coming from nothing to doing something I’ve always dreamed of doing and even more. It’s like we say in Jamaica, it’s the gravy. It’s like an extra on top of the meal you already have.”
While the Atkinsons could not speak directly to their experiences on the show, they said it was physically challenging, and it tested their communication.
Sharik said she prepared by walking around New York City, which her father didn’t think was enough. He prepared by running around Prospect Park.
The first episode also contains a huge twist that they never could have prepared for. But to find out what it is, you’d just have to watch the first episode, the pair said.
“I’m very excited for people to watch it,” Sharik said. “It’s something you can think about but you literally won’t be able to guess.”