Nearly six months ago, Glamour asked host Chris Harrison how The Bachelor franchise—where swapping spit is all in a day’s work—could exist in a masked-up, six-feet-apart world. Harrison, usually one to have an answer, admitted he didn’t know. “How do people date now in the modern world?” he asked rhetorically. “Does Clare walk around with a thermometer?”
Well, no, but starting October 13 viewers will finally see how a dating show works in a pandemic. And not just works, but “blows up” everything we’ve come to expect from The Bachelorette. In fact, producing the show under the strictest of COVID-19 protocols might just make Clare Crawley’s journey to find love the most interesting yet.
Unless you spent your summer on a boat without WiFi, a new Bachelorette story—or rumor—dominated the pop culture news cycle nearly every day once filming began. It started with reports that some of the men who didn’t make the final cut on Crawley’s season were asked to come back to the show. Sources then confirmed to Glamour that just a few weeks after filming began, Crawley fell in love with one of her initial contestants and didn’t want to continue dating other men. Former Bachelor contestant Tayshia Adams was then called to step in, but ABC never confirmed or denied the reports.
If that wasn’t enough, Harrison left the protective Bachelorette COVID-19 safe zone to take his son to college. Someone (former Bachelorette JoJo Fletcher) had to step in as host while he quarantined upon returning. Around the same time, everyone from Wells Adams to Hannah Ann Sluss were spotted on set. So naturally, rumors that Bachelor in Paradise was secretly filming began to fly, and Bachelor Nation reached peak insanity.
So what really happened this summer? When will ABC reveal Tayshia as the second Bachelorette? Why did the show bring in so many familiar faces when just gaining access to the Bachelor bubble was hard enough? And if Bachelor in Paradise wasn’t filming, when will it return? With more questions than the number of men vying for Clare’s heart, we Zoomed with Harrison from his home in Los Angeles (contrary to rumors, he hasn’t started filming Matt James’s season of The Bachelor at an East Coast resort yet) to get answers.
Glamour: Now that The Bachelorette premiere is almost here, did it exceed your expectations?
Chris Harrison: Yeah, it did! It exceeded my expectations. There was a little worry of, Could we pull it off? It took a Herculean effort, but once we got a few weeks in, we thought, Okay, we’re in the bubble; we’re secure. And, Wow, we have a good television show—it’s working. Then it was just back to our old tricks of shooting great television. When we wrapped, it was better than I thought. I didn’t want an, “Oh, they tried hard. Good for them.” I want a Bachelorette season where people can really escape and jump back in and care about really silly things in life. That’s what this is for.
Sources confirmed to Glamour over the summer that Tayshia will step in as the Bachelorette, so what will ABC reveal ahead of time?
I think we’ll have to deal with those rumors as they come up in the show, but I think people need to see Clare’s journey and what really happens first. There are a lot of rumors and things that people feel like they know exactly how this is playing out, and they don’t. I’m excited, maybe more than ever, for people to watch this show unfold. It’s going to be fun to watch. The great thing about shooting at one resort the whole time is that we never stopped rolling. We didn’t have to take a break for travel, so you see and hear everything. It will all be addressed. All in due time.
You really might be able to say this will be the most dramatic season of The Bachelorette ever.
I knew in 20 years it would finally come to fruition!
In the promo for The Bachelorette, you said Clare blows up the franchise. Could that be a good thing?
Good and bad. Good in that this is Clare on her journey. She calls the shots, and we embrace it as producers. You’re going to see it all, and that’s the great thing. If you love the show, you’re going to see an angle to this that you’ve never seen before. It’s more intimate, more up-close, more fulfilling than ever before because there are no breaks. From the moment the limos arrive to the moment we say goodbye, it’s different. In a great way.
Speaking of saying goodbye, we know how much relationships can change between the time filming ends and the finale airs. So are cameras still following Clare and Tayshia on their journey?
Well, that is always the difficult task when a season ends. If you have a couple…how to follow that and capture that? We’ve gotten really good at that. Years ago, in the beginning, we were not adept at helping couples thrive and spend time together for you to see later on. Now when we do an After the Final Rose or Tell All special, we think about how to capture that story after filming ended. Now we will continue to tell that story even after the cameras “stop rolling,” because they don’t.
Is there anything you as a producer would have done differently when it came to making The Bachelorette in quarantine? And what will you apply to Matt James’s season of The Bachelor, which is about to begin filming?
There were little things we had to adapt to. But as I look back, there’s nothing I would really change. The protocol was great, the testing was great—and extensive—but for those of us on camera who were not wearing a mask, it’s what we had to do. Everyone was dedicated to doing it. The beautiful thing moving forward is now we have this blueprint. We know it works and can move into Matt James’s season reimplementing this plan and create good TV. The Bachelorette was the first major production back [following stay-at-home orders], so we shot over the moon to get this done. We didn’t want to give anybody a reason to say you shouldn’t or can’t do this. We exceeded all guidelines, all expectations, and then we could start pulling back. I think Matt’s season is going to be the same way.
You left The Bachelorette during production to take your son to college, and former Bachelorette JoJo Fletcher stepped in because you had to quarantine before you could rejoin the show. But lots of other people show up too, right?
There are some friendly faces you’re going to see throughout the season because I needed some help. I took my son to college, and the producers and executives were wonderful about giving me that moment with him. It wasn’t as simple as stepping away for a day and flying back. Once you break the bubble, you have to reenter properly. The shortest that could take is five, six days. But everybody was kind. JoJo and some others were unbelievably helpful. I think they thought they were being punked when I asked them to come help me out a little bit.
We saw pictures of Wells Adams at the resort, as well as everybody and their mother apparently…
We were the most talked-about show this summer, and we weren’t even on the air! But the Wells hire was really selfish on my part because he’s a good friend. He’s a golf buddy, so I needed somebody to hang out with.
Well, that’s what I wanted to talk about. What purpose do all these familiar faces serve given the lengths one has to go through to gain clearance into the bubble? There was even the rumor that Bachelor in Paradise was happening while The Bachelorette was filming because so many people showed up. So why are all these people there knowing how difficult it is to get them safely inside the bubble in the first place?
Because we were shooting at the La Quinta Resort the whole time, it was a huge undertaking on us as producers to reimagine and creatively figure out, How are we going to do all these dates in the same place over and over and over again. How do we make this interesting? How do we change the dynamic? How do we make it different for Clare and still special for her? One thing that we always lean on is our familiar friends from the show, so they come in in different capacities. None were the same, but all unique to them. JoJo, Wells, and many others. We also had some celebrities, musicians, and comedians who were willing to go through the protocol and do this right. Bless them, because it’s not fun to test into the bubble the way we do it. We were doing the deep, deep swab COVID19 test.
Bachelor in Paradise wasn’t able to happen this summer. Has there been any talk about going into production earlier than next summer, if it’s safe to do, to make it up to fans?
It’s just too premature to know if we can travel. If we do, would it be in Mexico? Is that possible? If not, can we do it in America? In California? “I don’t know” is the answer to that question, sadly. It’s too soon to tell, but the steps that we’ve taken to shoot The Bachelorette and The Bachelor are great signs that this does work. We can do it; we just have to figure out how and where. And can we get Wells back?
The Bachelorette premieres on ABC on Tuesday, October 13.
Originally Appeared on Glamour