As the end of the first season of Netflix's reboot of The Mole inched closer, there was a decent size contingent of the audience who thought William Richardson was the titular saboteur, despite his very vocal desire to add as much money to the prize pot as possible. Perhaps it was because he took charge of sorting the players into teams for so many missions, or perhaps there were people stuck on just how stealthily he was able to sneak a cargo case out of camp during the very first mission, but either way, he was being watched closely.
But Richardson was watching his fellow players even more closely, which led him to correctly guess that Kesi Neblett was the Mole and walk away with the $101,500 prize pot.
"When you come down to the end, you find out only one person had voted for Kesi ever, and it was me," Richardson tells Metacritic. "So, that was a testament to how good she was, but also how the cast took so many things for face value, like, 'Oh she's clumsy.' No, she's not, but I wasn't gonna stand up and defend her! And I'll always remember a big moment that played on screen that everybody watching probably doesn't understand how personal it was for me was after she took the exemption, Casey compliments her. And I was like, 'I don't understand you guys. She just threw $20,000 away, and you're complimenting her.' But in my mind it solidified the fact that like nobody's voting for her. She has this innate ability to just be so trustworthy, and she's so lovable that you don't want to believe she could be stabbing you in the back. And why she was so phenomenal."
Richardson, who in his daily life is a brand manager and digital creator, is also an extremely competitive person. So, once he caught onto Neblett, he didn't want to let anyone else know his suspicions. Although he always wanted to play the game "true to who I am" and play a team game to ensure the most money would end up in that prize put, he also had no problem lying or giving false information to the other players when asked, in order to increase his chances at winning that prize pot.
Here, Richardson reflects on his run on The Mole with Metacritic, including being put in the spotlight from the very first mission, exactly when and why Neblett became his No. 1 suspect, if wanted to play as the Mole instead, and the scary medical issue you didn't see on the show.
I want to start at the beginning of the season to look at the Jungle Mission. When you found the note on the tarp revealing the secret extra part of the mission, or even when Alex was revealing what happened, were you second-guessing the decision to take and hide the case? Did the rest of the players learning about how sneaky you could be cause you to have to adjust how you approached the game?
Literally, not even for a second because it's the definition of how I wanted to play the game: I wanted to maximize as much money as possible. And then I had the thought process originally of, "Everybody coming here is going to be overthinking, so the first thing anybody's gonna do is go, 'He looks like a hero, that's the exact reason he's a villain.'" And so, I was like, "This is perfect." I couldn't have asked for it better. I legitimately pulled a tarp off and a note fell, and I picked it up and I was like, "What the hell is this?" And I literally hid it, went and said I was gonna pee, and opened it and read it there.
You took a leadership role a lot of the times, too, which can sometimes make people suspicious.
It sends red flags because the second we fail, it's my fault because I put somebody there.
Yes, but also, the need to control certain things to get to a desired outcome. Was that strategy, or do you just naturally like to be in control?
That's just who I am as a person. I felt more comfortable making those decisions because I really was trying to strategize. And a lot of people took it for different reasons, but really, when I was trying to make groups and everything, I was trying to separate one group often where I was basically just putting the money null and void because "You guys fail all the time." So, at least we can maximize the groups. And it literally happened perfectly on the train mission. I felt very vindicated on that exact mission because I'm like, "Jacob does nothing but fail, Joi does nothing but fail, put these two together, let them drive around in a car, and everybody else that I've put in different groups has an opportunity to succeed."
At what point did you really feel like you were onto the right person, meaning Kesi?
There's the moment and it's been turned into a meme, that is the exact moment that was true. It was because I went 50-50. Legitimately, 50-percent of my questions were answered on Casey and 50-percent of my questions were answered on Kesi. So, because I only answered specifically to that person, which means if I was wrong about both of them, I would have been eliminated. There was still enough people there to split votes. And at that point in time, I was all in. And so, the reaction everybody saw there was like, "Oh my God, he's so shocked it's not Casey," but no, I was so shocked because I just figured out I can win this game.
I was going to point out your reactions got bigger as the game went on. But to me, who is a very cynical person, especially when it comes to how manipulative people on reality shows can be, I wasn't sure if you were just playing it up to see shocked about eliminations to appear clueless about who the Mole is.
You are actually correct: A lot of the dinner reactions were very over indulgent, I would say, because part of my personality the whole time on the show was to try and make everybody focus on the funny or the physical and not pay attention to the analytical aspects that I was taking into the game. Because when you can have somebody disarmed about the things you're doing, it really has them drop their guard and I get the realest version of them because I'm not a threat to them. And so, that was the biggest aspect to me in that sense, so a lot of the reactions were more exaggerative, but the Casey one, that was legit.
And what was it at that moment that made you suspect Casey and Kesi the most?
We'll start with Casey: I just never understood her. I never got her. Everybody had a game plan, and Casey's just this anomaly where she had this excited energy to succeed, but never did. Especially if you think back on that rope climbing mission where she had money in her bag and she tried to take herself out twice.
That was a scary mission, though, between the mental toughness to get past the heights and the physicality it required.
I get it, but for me, it's something I couldn't shake. But other than that, there was never a gut feeling for me, like, "I don't trust her." Meanwhile, Kesi, you spend five minutes talking with that woman on an intellectual level and you're like, "Oh my god, she's a genius." And then I know sports very well, and she's a division one volleyball player and a freak of an athlete. One thing she did that kind of gave her away was she would jump rope for like an hour in the morning without stopping. And so, you're like, "Your cardio is insane, your endurance is unbelievable, your strength is impeccable." So anytime she fell in a physical mission, I was like, "No, absolutely not, there's no way." And then it really was the bank mission. She literally specializes in analytics; doing code she probably saw thousands and thousands and thousands of little, tiny numbers a day. She is going to see L. Dorado; she is going to see G. Locks. So, from that point on, I knew she was always going to be my Top 2, but it was just too early to be going all in on somebody. With that many players left, you risk very heavily going home.
Going back to your reactions for a second, I have to bring up the detonator challenge because you took the biggest bite of peas, which, I think peas are gross so whether they were regular or wasabi, the size of your bite worried me.
I hate peas. The over-exaggerating there was to simply make sure nobody would vote for me. It was pretty obvious that if I make the biggest deal about how good my food is, how ridiculous it would be to vote for me — nobody at that point was thinking strategically about why they would want to remove me, they were just trying to figure out who was on a detonator. Meanwhile, I wanted somebody there at the end that I knew wasn't on a detonator because I thought I could control the outcome being the only person on the detonator. Well, hindsight being what it is, it's not actually how the mission played out, but let me tell everybody right now, I wanted to be the one in control where Joi was and I was the reason I got Joi to the end. I told Joi, "OK follow my votes. We can unanimously get everybody out of here at the same time, and it'll be me and you at the end." And then I was like, "When I have Joi there, I can determine the outcome of what I want to happen." And then I realized based off the structure of the game, all I had simply done was put her in the highest power position while handcuffing myself to stay seated.
Which is a risky thing to do after she had just pulled so much money out of the pot and you were all about getting as much money as possible. Or were you? Did you ever consider going for an exemption?
At the time, I was honestly embarrassed at the pot, and I firmly believe I would have put the money in there. The only one I will tell you that when it came to an exemption if I was given the opportunity that I would have taken it — solely and simply for one reason — was the chained up mission. The first person who got to the cage was taking the exemption; you could not trust a single person, and if you went first and didn't take it, the second person would so you'd look like a dumbass. So, it was just that simple to me.
Did you campaign to be the Mole in your audition?
From my understanding, they asked every single cast member if they would be the Mole and they were like, "Hey look, if we choose you to be the Mole, you'll know. Otherwise, you're a contestant." I told them I'm a competitor every single thing I do. And so, for me, I would have been competing that hard to throw that much money away. So, it would have been two different strategies and you wouldn't see the same Will; it wouldn't be personally as authentic, which is what I had voiced to them. I told them, "Put me in a scenario where I can compete."
And you did get very competitive about the missions but also with other players, even the ones you deemed not as good, like Jacob.
I feel like I need to say it's because people on the internet think I hate Jacob for serious, but if you ask him personally, just the type of guys we are, giving each other a hard time is our version of being like, "I like you, you're a funny guy, I feel comfortable enough to harass." I would never be openly rude to somebody that I don't enjoy. It was really hard to see him go, actually, because I thoroughly liked the guy. And I talk to him every day.
Out of all of the missions, which one did you find the most personally satisfying, based on what you were able to accomplish or just simply experience from a location and task perspective?
The Snowy Mountains Mission. I mean, I legitimately did it by myself. It was intentional to do it by myself.
And you looked like you were in pain by the end of that one!
I fainted after it. They had brought Alex in and they're trying to do the whole thing, and I started getting the black and white spots. I don't know if it shows my face, but I'm not there. As Alex is talking I'm literally feeling it fade, fade, fade. I was like, "Hey guys, I need water," and then I just went down. And I was out; I was actually out. And they brought a heating blanket and wrapped it around me. I was in bad shape. But that's kind of how twisted my head is: because I was able to still succeed and still call that a victory on my end and go through all those hardships, that, to me is the most satisfying moment on the show other than winning.