Colton Underwood is distancing himself from the Bachelor-verse for the sake of his mental health. Two months after releasing a tell-all book — which detailed his time on various iterations of the ABC show — Underwood is continuing to lift the curtain about what goes on behind-the-scenes. In a revealing two-hour interview on Thursday’s Reality Steve Podcast, the former NFL player opened up about why he’s “not in a good place” with producers, where he stands with ex-fiancée, Cassie Randolph, his sexuality and a whole lot more.
Underwood was the lead of The Bachelor’s 23rd season in 2019. Although he was cast after competing on Becca Kurfin’s season of The Bachelorette and appearing on Bachelor in Paradise, Underwood said he had no idea what he was in for. Underwood told blogger Reality Steve that he realized “the magnitude” of his fame during a trip to Las Vegas with Jason Tartick and Blake Horstmann a week after he finished filming The Bachelor. The trio attended a country concert and the crowd went wild when they saw Underwood, which he found surprising as nothing aired yet.
“That’s when I started experiencing my anxiety and I started having social anxiety out in public,” Underwood shared. “I had so much anxiety and so much depression that I was like, throughout the majority of my season, I was pretty heavily medicated.”
Underwood started “taking medication for anxiety and depression” when his season was airing.
“I wasn’t prepared for that,” he continued. “I was struggling hard. It wasn’t what I thought it was gonna be and I didn’t know how to handle it.”
When asked what he was struggling with, Underwood tried to explain without sounding ungrateful.
“Everywhere I looked, someone had an opinion of me, or the show leaned so far into my virginity that I was trying to escape, sort of, me,” he replied. “I’m so grateful for [the show], nobody wants to hear somebody whose a lead of an ABC show complain about it. But I wasn’t prepared for it, so of course, my mental state sort of took a hit. And I got back, you know, on the medications to try to help.”
Underwood added that his virginity storyline throughout all three Bachelor shows “provided a big turning point in my mental health.”
“The way the show put it out there kind of had consequences,” he explained. One of those consequences was an incident in Feb. 2019 when he was groped by a female fan at a charity event for his nonprofit Legacy Foundation, which helps people with cystic fibrosis.
“I was already struggling with social anxiety pretty bad,” he said, recalling how a woman came up to him and said, “I’m here to take your virginity.” Underwood said she “grabbed my package.”
“I just remember feeling so powerless and so — such like a piece of meat,” he explained. “That, for me, was a big turning point in my mental health. Of like, ‘Wow, I have no clue what I'm in for right now.’ And it got pretty bad. It got dark.”
Of course, not everything about The Bachelor was bad as he ended up falling in love with Cassie Randolph. Underwood said he knew she was the one “after Thailand,” which was episode 5. He said they got a rare opportunity to hang nearly all day off-camera as there was a rain delay with production. They found themselves in the water without microphones on and Randolph looked at him and said, “How is your mind not made up?”
Contestants are supposedly told by producers not to ask that question, so Underwood appreciated Randolph taking advantage of the opportunity.
“Things like that turn me on about Cass and were so attractive to me,” he recalled. “Like, wow, you do think on your own, you are your own person. That what was so cool in helping me make that decision.”
Underwood tried to throw producers off of who he was really falling in love as to minimize their meddling, so he kept telling them Hannah G. was his number one. He’s spoken before about how that almost derailed his relationship with Randolph, but Underwood shed more light on how producers “crossed a line.”
Reality Steve asked Underwood if he could confirm a rumor he heard a while ago.
“I was told by somebody that before Cassie’s hometown date, a producer took her father [out] heading into that date and essentially told him ‘You need to protect your daughter because Colton isn’t going to pick her. He’s picking Hannah G.’” the blogger said.
Underwood gave a long pause, then replied, “I’ll say, when it comes to the producers — and this is where for me, very candidly, I have mixed feelings when it comes to them. A love-hate relationship with this part and with the production company.”
“What people need to realize is that what happens on this show can have an impact on the relationship down the road and off camera too. I just felt like there were certain things that happened that crossed the line as far as, like, being a TV show versus legitimately giving someone the best shot to find love,” Underwood continued. “Hypothetically speaking, if someone took the father out, that’s not OK.”
Underwood said that’s an example of why “I don’t want to be reminded or associated with the franchise for the rest of my life.”
“I’ll always be The Bachelor, and I’m always going to be so grateful for everybody, and the opportunity, and the fans and all that, but there are certain things that jade me and scare me and I think that’s an example of something that definitely will stick with me,” he declared.
As Bachelor Nation fans know, Underwood and Randolph ended up together. But in May, they announced their breakup. While things seemed amicable, that took a turn after Randolph did a virtual interview with Chris Harrison for a Greatest Seasons Ever episode. Afterward, Underwood seemingly called her out for talking about their breakup which igniting a social media war-of-words between the exes. However, Underwood says his post was aimed at producers, not Randolph.
“In regards to my post, I was more directing that towards Bachelor and here’s why. They never asked me to be on [Greatest Seasons Ever], which is fine because obviously I had my falling out with them and we’re not in a good place,” Underwood said, explaining he’s “distanced myself from them just for my own mental health right now.”
“There’s just been too many things that I've found out about, and that has happened, for me to feel comfortable working with them again on a professional level, not even personal,” he added, praising Randolph for how she handled herself.
“Cass stayed extremely professional and extremely quiet about our breakup, which I was so happy and thankful for and I even texted her. I said, ‘Man, I appreciate that. Thank you.’ What bugged me was the fact that the show took advantage of her,” he stated. “I get very defensive over people I love, and I know Cass is a big girl and she could fight her own battles, but I just know her heart and she doesn't rock the boat and she loves people even if they abuse her, or even if they take advantage of her, which is what they did.”
Underwood said he tried to warn Randolph about doing the appearance, which he said was pitched to her in an entirely different way.
“I was more frustrated for her because she got completely taken advantage of,” he added. “Those people sold her on ‘Come and let’s let the audience get to know you, the real Cassie.’ And then you have Chris Harrison pointing questions, saying, ‘I sense you don’t want to make Colton mad,’ or ‘You’re afraid you’re going to upset Colton.’ It's like, ‘No, Chris. I literally talked to her the morning of that interview. We’re good.’ Stop worrying about me or painting me to be this controlling or angry person. I’m not angry. If there's anybody I'm upset about or upset with it's you guys. You’re going to have the ex on the show over your lead, which I completely get we're not in a good place... the whole thing with the franchise and them interviewing her is what really bugged me and really upset me.”
Underwood said he and Randolph have handled things since then “privately.”
“I have nothing but good things and love [for Cassie],” he explained. “I love the girl and miss the girl dearly.”
Underwood also addressed the constant rumors regarding his sexuality and speculation that played a factor in the breakup.
“In regards to those rumors, I mean, I addressed it pretty heavily in the book and I've gone through it throughout my whole entire life. Of course, it doesn’t help being on a national stage for the mental health aspect, but the bottom line is I'm not gay,” he stated. “I have love and support for anybody in the LGBTQ community and support that, and love is love at the end of the day. So yeah, that’s about it.”
He added, “I’m sort of used to it at this point, but I don't think I'm ever going to give a good enough answer. I'm always going to almost feel like I'm on defense probably for a very long time.”
Although Underwood and Randolph split before the May announcement, he said he felt they had to publicly share the news as he “started seeing other people.”
Reality Steve asked about one specific person Underwood has been seen out with recently, Pretty Little Liars star Lucy Hale. That was one thing he was tight-lipped about.
“No comment on that right now,” he replied.
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