[Warning: This story contains spoilers from the premiere episode of Ben & Lauren: Happily Ever After?]
Ben Higgins and his fiancee, Lauren Bushnell, returned to the Bachelor spotlight with the launch of their Freeform spinoff series Tuesday night - and so did the topic of Ben's ex, runner-up and recent Bachelorette star JoJo Fletcher.
The premiere of Ben & Lauren: Happily Ever After? opened 10 months after season 20 of The Bachelor, which saw the couple get engaged in a fairy-tale reality TV conclusion. Lauren and Ben are now living together in Ben's hometown of Denver, yet they can't escape the other woman who also stole Ben's heart. (In a Bachelor first, Ben told both women he loved them.) Now, with JoJo's season of The Bachelorette airing on TV, the newly engaged pair is shown reliving the awkward love triangle.
Ben, 28, and Lauren, 26 - the first Bachelor pair to get a spinoff - kicked off their docuseries where Bachelorette ended: with the pair appearing as guests on JoJo's After the Final Rose special (JoJo picked and is currently engaged to SEC Now's Jordan Rodgers). When the special aired in August, Ben and Lauren could be spotted nearly squirming in their seats, and Tuesday's episode provided a look inside the reason why.
When your ex isn't clapping for your happiness #TheBachelorette #THRose pic.twitter.com/SwfUgVXlSS
- ChristinaSchoellkopf (@c_schoellkopf) August 2, 2016
"It brings back memories of Ben and I, but it also brings back memories of JoJo and Ben and how he told JoJo he loved her," Lauren admitted on the set of ABC's ATFR, hosted by Chris Harrison. She opened up about the tension and "resentment" surrounding JoJo and how it posed a challenge for her and Ben to move forward. "It brings back that fear that Ben could still have feelings for JoJo."
Leading up to the big ex reunion, the premiere introduced fans to a typical day for the couple, from grocery shopping to home remodeling. The constant elephant in the room, however, was JoJo. Below, Ben and Lauren - talking to The Hollywood Reporter and other outlets during a phone interview - spoke about the highs and lows of their post-Bachelor life and what the foreboding season teaser hints about their upcoming wedding.
Your show opened with JoJo bringing up the past on her show, The Bachelorette. Now, JoJo has moved on, and Ben & Lauren brings her back in the middle. How do you think she'll react to the premiere and season?
BH: "I hope she's excited or happy for Lauren and I. I know when her premiere of The Bachelorette was airing, Lauren and I were happy for her, but I am sure JoJo and Jordan have both had their fair share of the Bachelor/Bachelorette world and are probably trying to remove themselves from that. Or, at least, not let that be their identity as much as possible. But I think we're all fairly supportive of each other, or very supportive of each other, and I think JoJo will feel the same way."
Lauren, you expressed concerns about being able to fully trust Ben. How did you work through that, and would you be more comfortable with the three of you spending time together today?
LB: "Just like anything else that could feel like a hurtful situation or confusing, I think time is one of those things that heals all. Breaking down those walls through honesty, conversation, communication and then just time. I honestly think that was probably the greatest factor in me really letting go of that whole situation. For a long time, I tried to understand it. But I don't think any of us can really put ourselves in Ben's shoes. It took me a long time to learn that because I wanted an answer so bad. But with time, experiences and by just working on our relationship, that's how we've moved forward. I'm totally comfortable with the three of us sitting down today, but I can't say that I necessarily would have been comfortable with that, like, a week after we got engaged."
What can you preview about your upcoming wedding? The trailer hints that it could have been called off ...
BH: "Honestly, that's a large part of this show that I really want people to watch, to go with us in that experience, so they can follow along and emotionally tie into where we're at and what's going on. When it comes to me calling the wedding off, I can't really speak on that at this point. But our life is, right now, really focused on fighting those big battles. We're very happy. We're doing very well, and I guess I'll leave it at that."
What else can we expect from the season - and who will visit from Bachelor Nation?
BH: "It was important for us to highlight our real friends and also our peers that we've gone through The Bachelor or Bachelorette with; these people are really good friends of ours. We have the twins [Emily and Haley Ferguson], Lace [Morris] and Grant [Kemp], who for a while lived in Denver. We also have Chris Harrison, Chad [Johnson] and Chris Soules, who's a great friend of mine. What you're going to see is the people out of The Bachelor or Bachelorette world and into their normal lives.
What can you tease about Chad Johnson (the villain from JoJo's season)?
LB: "[We go] camping. I'm excited for everyone to see that. We both just wanted to get to know Chad aside from how he was depicted on The Bachelor. After meeting him at JoJo's After the Final Rose, we both saw something in him and wanted to see who he was, where he comes from and maybe help him through this weird time. But you'll have to watch because it definitely got interesting - and there were some tears shed."
Ben, will we be seeing any of your involvement in politics? [He recently dropped a bid for the Colorado House of Representatives.]
BH: "I don't think so. That's something that I do always want to stay involved in and I am passionate about, but I don't think it will be a focus point of this season. It's very much going to be focused on our relationship, so I don't think politics is going to be a part of that."
Ben & Lauren: Happily Ever After? airs Tuesdays on ABC's sister network Freeform at 8 p.m.