Here's Part 2 of an exclusive interview with The Bachelor's Chris Harrison. You can read Part 1 here.
When I was in Los Angeles in December on my most recent Disney/ABC TV press event, we had the most dramatic blogger brunch ever with “The Bachelor” host Chris Harrison. Chris introduced us to a special preview of Season 20 of “The Bachelor” before and treated us to a Q&A session with him. He'll regaled us with behind-the-scenes tidbits from 20 seasons of “The Bachelor,” everything from drama, love, shenanigans, and more.
Chatting with Chris was a fun way to start our last day of interviews in LA. While I'm not a huge #BachelorNation fan, I have watched a few seasons I appreciate the show.
Chris joked that our time wouldn't be nearly as excited as the Star Wars press junket and interviews, but that it would be much more dramatic. Chris gave us about an hour of his day. He was so generous with his time. He didn't care what we asked, he basically gave us a free for all. After 20 seasons and 15 years of “The Bachelor,” he's seen it all.
“I don't care what you ask. I've been here 15 years,” Chris said. “I promise there's nothing out there, nothing I haven't been asked. At this point, I feel secure in my job, I'll pretty much tell you anything.”
Has there ever been a moment like Jesse giving a Letterman Jacket and a Plane Ticket instead of an Engagement Ring?
“That was an epic disaster,” Chris said. “I will never forget that night. I don't know if that could ever happen in such a different time for us as producers, the way we produce the show is so different. That night, Jesse Palmer, that you're talking about. Honestly, I think Jesse, I mean he made no bones for that. He came on the show to do what he's doing now. He wanted to be a broadcaster. And it was funny, when he told me that, I said, ‘That's never gonna work. No one has ever like launched a career off a Reality Show'.” [we may have laugher really hard at that one, because now a days, it seems to happen often, at least mini careers are launched that way]
“That's what I found out, cause at the time, I think Elizabeth Hasselback and she just started maybe, but she was like the only person out of any of these shows that had really made it. And then you know, Jesse, I don't think he ever had any intention of ending up with anybody. I don't know if he still was linked with anybody. But he gave, instead of a ring, he gave her like a First Class Ticket or something. He said, ‘Come see me.' I remember it was about 5 years in maybe. It was not good.”
On big shenanigans or drama going on with this Season 20
“This season is interesting because the drama is more Ben-induced and caused because of who he is and how he kind of holds himself, carries himself throughout the show, which is extraordinarily well, he's very open. The best way to go through with this is to really just wear your heart on your sleeve and give yourself up to the process.”
“And that is so much easier said than done because you walk into it, it would be like me walking into all of you guys and going, ‘OK, here's my life. Take me at my most vulnerable moments,' and that's scary as Hell to do. But what works best in the show, only really works if it you do it that way. And Sean Lowe is a good example. Everyone really liked this guy. But then when you saw him on ‘The Bachelor,' you really fell in love with him. He got a sense of humor and how self deprecating he was, and what just a good guy Sean was.”
“And I think Ben's the same type of guy, how sincere and humble and faith-based, and he really just gave himself up to us, and said, ‘Go, like I trust you guys. You're good at what you do. Take care of it.' And it's scary when you have someone's life in your hands, but we kind of took it and ran. And so because of that, and because he really just gave himself and threw himself into the fire, the drama will follow. We don't have to produce that. And I know people think, ‘Oh, you cast it crazy and you kept this girl like you don't have to.' If I lock these doors right now, I promise you, half this room is crazy.”
“And so here's the thing. We take away your phones, we take away your blogs, we take away your mom and dad. All the things that you rely on every day, and it's something that I really believe in, in my life, is that if you concentrate on one thing—no matter what that one thing is in your life—when you wake up and you say I'm gonna do this one thing, and concentrate on that, and until that is accomplished today, I'm not doing anything else, you will become great at whatever you're trying to do, whether it's religion, working out, business, relationships, whatever it is.”
“So if all you do is wake up and think about Ben, and think about dating Ben, and think about your own life and where you are in your own life—it doesn't mean it's going to work. I don't guarantee that it's going to work, but I guarantee at the end of this process, you'll know if it does or it doesn't and you'll also learn if you're ready to actually commit to something. And that is an interesting thing. You end up with like Jesse Palmer, Bob Guiney, some of these others that they get into it for very sincere reasons and they feel that they're ready but once they go through it and you get stripped down, often times, ‘Like oh crap, maybe I'm not ready for this in my life'.”
“Bob Guiney is a good example because he's a very dear friend of mine, and I love him to death. He's like a brother but he was a disaster at the time, just his personal life. He wasn't ready for that. I think he did it. He came out of Trista's season, kind of had his heart broken, and then jumped in as the Bachelor but this would be kind of my rebound and I'm ready and he got into and he really wasn't. And he just now, he got engaged this week or last week or something like that. He just now really, he dated a ton of people and was just a mess awhile. He was engaged to Rebecca for awhile but that didn't work. But he finally just found the love of his life and he's just now, where he put it altogether, and that, again, this process will show you for who you are.”
“Ben did a good job of really giving up and the women kind of had to follow. The women had to really give it up too and that was a very vulnerable space. So it's a dramatic season but I think in a very different way than what we're gonna be used to.”
Kaitlyn and getting dragged through Social Media mud and the double standard between actions of men and women, The Bachelor and The Bachelorette
We had a great convo with Chris about the double standard society uses when addressing the behaviors of women and men. This is one of my personal passion topics. Men and women can do the exact same sexual behaviors, and women are slut shamed while men get high-fived. Eff society and their double standards.
“That was y'all's fault,” Chris half joked with us, referring to people on social media and not us explicitly. “Isn't that what's great about the show? I mean, this show really does push social questions and standards, and when we first did ‘The Bachelorette,' ‘Trista's gonna be a slut.' She's gonna do what Aaron Buerge and these guys, did but when a girl does it? Nah, and you know what's funny? When I'm in a room predominantly filled with women, and women predominantly watch our show, you would think women would acknowledge that and often times, you will hear that all, ‘Go Women, Yay Women.' But the reality is that's not what happens. That's not how it happens on social media. There's slut shaming, there's body shaming.”
“There have been things that have been said about the people on our how by women about women that's horrifying to me. Women don't wish other women well often times. And that is a very sad state of affairs in our society but it's very true. ‘The Bachelor' pushes these social issues and I love that as a dad, we watched the Kaitlyn season together. My daughter's 12 this month, and we were watching Kaitlyn's season and I was able to have a conversation with my daughter about just that, that and a single dad would never have with his 12-year-old daughter. And it was very interesting to hear her take.”
“When Kaitlyn and I were going through this together, and I love Kaitlyn. She's a good friend and I think she's a sweet woman. Again, like I talk to my daughter, agree with her choices? That's up to you. It's her body, her life, her morals, her faith, her whatever, that she chose to do. And she owned it…and I really respect and honor how she handled it because I knew she was gonna get buried. And I even told her, I said you're going to get buried for the way you're acting.”
“And I don't think you're acting inappropriately per se but you know, public opinion is very strong and it's very easy for all of us to stand on our soapbox and, ‘Damn you.' As our own lives fall apart cause that's who yells the loudest are people that are the unhappiest. But it was really interesting to watch that happen, but as much as we love to tear people down, people live a comeback story. People love redemption, and she may be now our most beloved Bachelorette because she stood through it all and faced it all, took it all, owned it, and then threw it back at everybody and said look, ‘I love this guy, we're engaged. Suck it'.”
“And I love that. I love when that happens. I think to me, she stands more for what women should be. Again, her decisions aside, that's between you and your God and your Faith in your own body and all that, whether you agree or not, I love the type of woman she is. I think she really owned it. And so again, our show has done that for 15 years. And we've done it in many different areas. And I love that we will continue to do that where it's such a great conversation piece. We all wake up the next day and you're like, ‘Can you believe she said that on her first date? Do you believe he did that or the way he treats women?”
“You know look honestly, we all laughed when I said Juan Pablo. He was, he didn't treat women well. But guess who falls for that guy? Wendy. He had the accent, he had the look. ‘Oh my God, Juan Pablo, Oh.' We all want Juan Pablo. And then like 6 weeks into it, you're like, ‘Really? I wouldn't wish him on my worst enemy.' But that again, don't fall for the accent. Don't fall for the big smile. Don't fall for, it goes back to the Charlie and Ryan thing. You know, don't go with just the pretty package. Our show has always kind of pushed that and I love that we kind of expose those issues.”
“And that women on women hate crime that went on against Kaitlyn was interesting to watch happen. And I'm looking, I knew. God, we could see it, it was like a train coming down the tracks. We knew it was gonna happen.”
No drama added
“Well only is it not necessary, but also you have to careful. We can't because you guys will find out. There are shows that as you all know, there are Reality Shows that are completely scripted and contrived and they're entertaining to me, but look at ‘Dynasty.' That's a fun Show. But those people aren't that funny. They're not interesting left to thier own devices, so they put them in situations. They tell them what to say, tell them what to do, and it's funny. That's great. But left to their devices, I think we've seen what they…
“So we'll leave them to their own devices. So ‘The Bachelor,' if we are ever too heavy handed, you're gonna find out, and we'll be exposed and the show will come to a quick end.”
“So we really can't do that. Our main goal is to end up with a couple, a happy couple, and so if you mess with Ben too much and say keep girls or make certain things happen it might be to the detriment of the ultimate goal, but do we produce the show? Of course, it's not a documentary. We don't just follow those people around. We know there are certain issues that we will push the envelope, and we'll push those situations. That is because we have this finite amount of time to make this happen. And so we do accelerate everything. It's like you put this dating process over a Bunsen Burner and it boils. And it boils quickly. I know it's hard to believe, like who could do this in this amount of time.”
“But to us, it seems like a long amount of time. I'm telling you, if this is all you do and you're doing it 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, think if you date somebody, and it seems like with everybody you date. It's like you go out on a Friday. ‘OK, well we'll do that again.' You go out that next week maybe, or maybe it's 2 weeks. So in about a month, you may have 2 dates or 3 or something if you have a real life. That's not much. On ‘The Bachelor,' you can have 2 or 3 in a day, and you talk to people and you spend hours and hours. And it is so accelerated, it's hard to imagine. And you don't go home and turn on the TV and forget. You don't pick up your phone and talk to your friends and start thinking about somebody else.”
“And so it really is accelerated and that is, I always tell people the genius is this fishbowl environment that we create, and where the show takes place. That is the genius. And what happens within that fishbowl is natural reality that you're seeing. We know you and you don't really get along. It's not hard to believe you're gonna end up on a date together.”
“And that's for several reasons, though. People think a lot of times, it's just for production. Yes, it is the television aspect of it, but this there's this other aspect of Ben needs to see true colors. He needs to see, how do you handle a situation where you're not happy or you're pissed off or you know, say we're jumping off a bridge, ‘Oh you guys do that for this, this, and this'.”
“If you put somebody in an extraordinary situation, you can't fake your way through that. If you're about to fall off a bridge and you're scared to death, literally scared to death, all of a sudden, you're not faking it, you're not thinking about, ‘How do I look on TV?' All you think about is, ‘Am I wetting myself?' And so then, there's kind of twofold. ‘How is Ben taking care of me? Is he taking care of me? Does he make me feel safe? Does he protect me, or is he just worried about himself right now or is he worried about the cameras?' So all these things that you think are very superficial and surface, there's a reason for it and it goes much deeper than that falling off a bridge or whatever. And it's interesting to me the psychology behind it and watching us force these issues and what the conclusion is.”
“And then how it comes to a definite end. You know, you look at one of my favorite dates ever was in the Badlands, we have Kelsey and Ashley and it was unbelievable television to watch the shape shifting going on and crying, and then there was anger. Again, that's something that you need to see as a Bachelor and then you're like ‘Oh, there it is. There's the real person. I'm gonna leave you in the desert. Let's go to the South side'.”
On choosing the final cast of women for The Bachelor
“The first part is it really depends on the casting,” Chris said. “Lacey Heverton, who's our Casting Director, and now just works for us full time, 12 months of the year, it's always casting. She is incredible at what she does. We've had different Casting Directors. Throughout the years, we've kind of gone back and forth and used multiple people. But now we just have this set group, that same house because the show's been going on so long, you have to keep going. And she's just so good at ‘this is the story before the story that you'll never know about.' What we're looking for is not crazy, not drama, not the thing that you would think of. We're looking for a good story, we really are.”
“Kelsey is a good example. She's the one that was left in the Badlands that had the husband. We picked her because she was an incredible story. She really had this fascinating story. She's a Doctor, incredibly intelligent, she's beautiful. She lost her husband and she's kind of dealt with that pain and said that she's ready to come back. That is a compelling story, and that is phenomenal to watch and expose and show. That's all we really thought we were getting. That's more than enough. What we ended up getting…”
“Again, that's the show. That's the genius. You don't know what you're going to get, and that's why you bring in this woman from New York, and San Francisco, and Iowa, and Alabama, and we don't dress them. And we don't do their hair and make-up, because we want you to dress how you look, and you to dress how you look. We dress The Bachelor and Bachelorette, but we don't dress the people that are on the show. The first night, we will help them, hair and make-up and some powder, whatever, but only the first night cause it's such a crazy long night. But other than that, you're completely 100% left to your own devices because how do you get ready? All the girls have to get ready and this isn't a camera. This is again, the dynamic of what it takes to find love, how do you get ready?”
“Are you bitchy? By the time we get to the party, are you happy? Can you get along with others? Do you have dresses? How do you dress and again, it's all these things go into the overall, and so we cast the show really looking for good stories. The fame whores, the people that are there for their 15 minutes or whatever, that's inevitable. It's just this generation. I don't think that there's anybody that wakes up and doesn't want that now. But the great thing is our show's never been predicated on the fact that there's 28 people they're all 100% sincere, this is always gonna work. It's perfect. It's not perfect. Dating is not perfect, and if our show was, it would be insincere and it wouldn't work. The reason our show is, it can fail. It has its issues just like the dating process, it's not perfect.”
“That's what we all empathize with. We've all been dumped. We've all fallen for the wrong guy or girl. We've all made mistakes. But we all want that thing at the end, that maybe a core. So just like I do when I date right now, I have to figure out, ‘OK, she's beautiful, great. But is she here for my money? Does she like the fact that I host ‘The Bachelor' or that I have fame?' Everyone has asked those questions. You meet a guy at a bar, synagogue, church, library, you still have to answer these questions, who is he really? Who is she really?”
“What are they about? This show really accelerates finding that personality. You will get exposed. And it's not just because Ben's doing it, it's because he has a lot of help. We are really good at what we do now. We're very good. And I tell everybody at the beginning of off-camera, I say, ‘Look, there's someone in this room, has a boyfriend or girlfriend back home, you're doing something shady. Don't. Stop. Leave now or just stop what you're doing, because guess what's gonna happen? You're gonna be found out and this is gonna end up with me and you on a driveway somewhere having a really awkward conversation. On camera. And guess who's gonna win? Me. I always win. I always find out, and I always win. I always have the last word, it's my show. Don't do it. And then 3 weeks later…'.”
On if he would ever consider being The Bachelor himself
“Considerate it? Sure,” Chris said in a tone that was crystal clear in meaning he would never actually do it. “Well, I mean as a producer on the show, I get how great that would be. It would be great television. I think my hot tub days have probably passed on television. So I think what I would do is, cause we can do that in post now, I'd bring in Sean Lowe as like as my ab double. I would do ‘this' and then cut to Sean. And then click over like Ben's dimples or something like that. There would be very few shots of me, full body.”
“Having made this sausage for 15 years and knowing how it's all done, no, You really do have to walk into this with a certain sense of naiveté in a sense. That's why it worked for Ben. That's why it works for Sean and Kaitlyn, and all that is they really, while they think they know because they've been on a season, they have no clue. They really have no clue. When you're just a part of the cast and you're not the person, you don't have an idea really what goes on 'cause you're just seeing small glimpses. And you know, to be the Bachelor, I know these people. I've helped raise some of them. They started with us when they were 18 years old. Now they're 30-year-olds and running my life.”
“So to give my life to them, well that would just be so awkward and so bizarre, and I'm so worried and cognizant in producing the show that I'd be having a conversation with you and I'm thinking, ‘OK, do we have the content we need? Am I getting me, is the lighting good? Are we gonna want me to go to this spot?' I think it would be a tragic. It wouldn't work because I wouldn't be thinking about what I need to be thinking about and that is finding love and just going through the process. So long story, short, no until ABC comes and says, ‘Look, here's $50 million'.”
On if one of his kids wanted to be on The Bachelor or The Bachelorette
“If one of my kids wanted to do it, honestly, someone asked me that the other day. I'd be 100% fine with it,” Chris said. “My son would never do it, but I can see my daughter taking my job. In 10 years, when I'm coming out in a walker and my daughter's like, ‘I got this.' But no, you go out to the Kaitlyn thing and you know, my hope is that I have instilled in my children the things that mean the most to them, their family, their Faith, how to carry themselves, and what they're responsible for. If they choose to then go do it on ‘The Bachelor' or whatever, as long as they still know that they have to come home and see their family and answer to it, that's fine with me.”
This week on The Bachelor 1/18/2016:
The Bachelor airs on Mondays at 8 pm EST/PST on ABC. The stunning departure of Lauren, L.B., who refused Ben’s rose, set the Bachelor back on his heels momentarily, but there are 17 women, who are anxious to spend time with him. Lauren B. and Ben soar in a bi-plane to a secluded spot where a hot tub waits, as well as a romantic dinner followed by a private performance by Lucy Angel, one of the Bachelor’s favorite music groups. Twelve ladies are involved in an intense soccer competition, coached by Alex Morgan and Kelley O’Hara of the World Cup Champion U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team. Jubilee is in for a real treat as she and Ben share a romantic tryst at an exclusive spa. However, real-life events intercede, and Ben gets tragic news from home. Can he overcome both the real-life drama and the women’s emotional confrontations with each other to pick the right bachelorettes to continue with him?
I’ve been invited to LA courtesy of Disney for a media event. All opinions are my own.