Bachelor Nation, Chris Harrison wants to apologize. Sort of.
“If we upset or offended anybody by ruining the outcome of a few rose ceremonies by announcing the next Bachelorette earlier than usual, I’m sorry for that,” the host tells Yahoo TV of the show’s decision to name Rachel Lindsay as the next rose giver while she was still in the running for Nick Viall’s heart on The Bachelor. “But in the end, it was a good decision. We felt we took a calculated risk in order to properly launch her season and guarantee that we would be able to cast a strong group of men who are specifically interested in dating Rachel. It allowed us to cast a more mature, professional crowd. They’re prepared to have a partner who is a little older, established in her career, and ready to settle down.” (Click through to see Harrison’s picks for the five guys to keep an eye on this season.)
Harrison adds that stacking the deck with winning cards is of particular importance when dealing with a “control freak” like the 31-year-old Dallas attorney. “I can say that because I’m one too. Rachel is not used to not being the one in control,” says Harrison. “I think it stems from being raised by a judge and being an attorney herself, but she has a very hard time taking her hands off the wheel. She’s very cautious and methodical because it serves her well in her daily life. She wants to have her hands on everything, which is just not possible when doing the show.”
It wasn’t even possible for Rachel to be in control before The Bachelorette started shooting: She was ambushed with surprise introductions to a handful of suitors at the last After The Final Rose special. “We debated the AFR move. We are always looking for ways to change it up and get people interested. I loved it because I love live TV moments,” says Harrison, adding that he doesn’t believe the early intros led to a leg up in the competition. “If it was an advantage, it was maybe an advantage for about 30 seconds. She didn’t hang out with them backstage or anything. When they came out of the limo, they might have been able to say, ‘We met a few nights ago, remember?’ But after that, there was no advantage.”
After several Southern California dates, the mass courtship will continue in Dallas, South Carolina, and European ports of call including Oslo and Copenhagen. “In my opinion, this might be the best year of travel we’ve ever had,” says Harrison. “We finally made it to Hilton Head Island after we were preempted by a hurricane during Nick’s season. We wanted to make up for that and it was worth the wait. It’s gorgeous.” Harrison confirms there will also be some impressive blow-ups. “There is one verbal tirade that will go down in the history books, as it went on for 20 minutes. Just one person talking,” he says. “You can’t expect to put that many type-A personalities in a room, especially when they are all trying to date the same girl, and expect them all to get along.”
Despite the drama, Harrison is positive that this season — the franchise’s first with an African-American lead — will also spark honest discussions about race. “One thing that our show is never given enough credit for is the social topics that pushes into homes and the workplaces the next day,” he says. “Any time you can raise the level of debate in this country or in society, it’s a good thing. And there is going to be positive and negative things, empowering things and probably even a few horrible things, that get said on the show and because of the show. But Rachel was ready to take that on and I am proud that the powers that be made this decision.”
But he stresses that the choice wasn’t only about the color of her skin. “It is not lost on me that there is an importance to choosing a black Bachelorette, but it’s also about finding the right Bachelorette. We found this amazing woman who is powerful, smart, educated, sweet, beautiful, and has a smile that can light up a room,” says Harrison. “These guys are lucky they have a chance to date someone who is the entire package.”
Season 13 of The Bachelorette premieres on Monday, May 22 at 9 p.m. on ABC.