Alumnus makes television debut on “Amazing Race: China Rush”

By Noa Yadidi

Former first prefect Charlie Melvoin ’05 will compete to win a trip around the world worth $60,000 on Emmy-winning reality show “The Amazing Race,” which airs Aug. 26 in China. The season was filmed throughout April of this year.

On the show, teams of two people – each with pre-existing relationships – compete for the grand prize in the “The Amazing Race: China Rush.” These teams compete in different challenges throughout the race to earn clues that take them to their next destination.

Melvoin competed in the race with his freshman year roommate from Harvard University, Ryan Burke. Melvoin said they were dubbed “the Harvard boys” by their fellow competitors.

Melvoin moved to China in August 2011, after completing a one-year Masters Degree in development studies at Cambridge University. Burke, who was already living in Shanghai, jokingly sent Melvoin an email saying they would make a great team. 

Months later, Melvoin chanced upon the email a day before “China Rush” applications were due. The two submitted a written application that discussed their friendship, how well they knew each other and their fears. After three rounds of auditions and interviews with show executives, “the Harvard boys” made the cut along with 10 other teams.

“I was most excited to experience firsthand what it’s like to compete under those kinds of conditions,” Melvoin said. “The actual experience did not disappoint, exceeding my expectations with the way that it designed both fun and challenging tasks that caused the true colors of each team to shine through.”

Melvoin traces his interest in Chinese language and culture back to a trip he took there as an eighth grader at Harvard-Westlake, chaperoned by Chinese teacher Qinru Zhou. He also studied Chinese for four years, the maximum offered, during high school.

“The best part was getting the opportunity to see parts of China that I’d never otherwise have the chance to experience,” Melvoin said. “In crafting the most intriguing form of entertainment, the show relies on the local cultures of the places it goes as much as the various challenges, and so for a big China nerd like me, the chance to visit obscure parts of the country and partake in bizarre activities, while utilizing my many years of Mandarin was a real thrill.”

Melvoin and Burke now intend to apply to the American version of “The Amazing Race” as “China Rush” veterans.