'The Bachelor': ABC Casts 'Paradise' Star as Next Lead

ABC has found its next leading man.

Colton Underwood is upgrading his franchise status to star of The Bachelor, the network announced Tuesday. The contestant, who memorably opened up about his virginity on The Bachelorette, exited the summer spinoff series Bachelor in Paradise on Monday night.

"Third time is the charm, that's what they say, right?" agreed Underwood on ABC's Good Morning America.

Underwood placed fourth on Becca Kufrin's recent cycle of The Bachelorette. After Underwood finally opened up to the star about being a virgin, he left the reality dating competition in heartbreak. Kufrin eliminated Underwood when her friend and former Bachelorette contestant, Tia Booth, appeared on the season to confess that she still had feelings for the finalist. Kufrin ultimately chose Garrett Yrigoyen, who emerged as the more controversial pick, and the pair are still engaged.

Underwood then reappeared on Bachelor in Paradise, where he and Booth were reunited in controversial fashion. Viewers have been watching their starring, rocky relationship unfold, as Underwood struggled with his feelings about Booth's upending Bachelorette visit and moving on from his breakup with Kufrin. Though Kufrin visited the Sayulita, Mexico, beach where Paradise is set to offer Underwood closure, he ultimately broke it off with Booth on the Sept. 3 episode and both stars left Paradise ahead of the Sept. 11 finale.

Now, one day after his Paradise exit aired on Monday, Underwood says he's ready to fully open up his heart again. (Paradise was filmed back in May.)

"That's one thing that I took pride in on both seasons: just being true to who I am. I think it took all of that to get to where I am at now, and know who I am as a person and know what I want in a life partner," said the 26-year-old former football player who lives in Denver. The Indianapolis native runs the Colton Underwood Legacy Foundation, a charity for cystic fibrosis, and formerly dated Olympic gymnast Aly Raisman. When asked about if he hopes to be engaged by the end, Underwood said, "Absolutely. That's what I'm looking forward to the most, is being engaged and getting married shortly after that."

The Bachelor airs in January, which is why Underwood's casting was announced weeks after Kufrin's season wrapped, instead of during her After the Final Rose finale special. Similar to the audience reaction to Kufrin being blindsided by Bachelor star Arie Luyendyk Jr., her runner-up Blake Horstmann's finale heartbreak had propelled him to becoming an early frontrunner for the gig. Underwood, however, edged out competitors from his season of The Bachelorette — also including Jason Tartick and Wills Reid — thanks to his stint on Paradise, which premiered right after the Bachelorette finale.

Underwood becomes the second Bachelor in franchise history to earn the title after a run on Paradise. Nick Viall — after earning a villainous status from being a two-time runner-up on Andi Dorfman and Kaitlyn Bristowe's seasons — rehabilitated his image on Paradise and was named as the Bachelor the following cycle in 2017.

Underwood will also be the first virgin Bachelor, something that is likely to become a storyline when his journey begins in January. After Kufrin's season, Underwood opened up about the response to going public with his virginity, both from his castmates and from viewers on social media when he broke down in tears during the Men Tell All reunion show when discussing the backlash. Sean Lowe, who starred as The Bachelor in 2013, was a born-again virgin and remains the only Bachelor star to have stayed together with his final pick long-term. Lowe and his finalist, wife Catherine Giudici, have two children together. (The most recent Bachelor, Luyendyk, is also with his finalist.)

At the time, Underwood told The Hollywood Reporter during the Men Tell All taping that his virginity was not something he went on the show planning to talk about. "It was something that I hid and I lied about it a lot growing up in high school and in college due to sports," he said. "At the time with Becca, we were at a stage in our relationship where I thought it was important to bring it up. And the matter of how the national media and everybody took it? It has been good overall. It at least started a conversation. People are entitled to their opinions. They can say what they want and I’ll have respect for it, but I just hope they understand where I’m coming from. In this day and age, it’s my body and my choice."

Added Underwood, "Just because you’re a virgin doesn’t mean you aren’t experienced in some way, and I know this is awkward to even talk about, but if people want to talk about virginity, it’s not something where it’s like, ‘Oh, Keep your clothes on at all times.’ You can still be romantic, you can still be sexual and you can still be intimate in that part of the relationship."

Underwood also said that how much the show will focus on his virginity depends on ABC, but he has hopes for how his choice will be handled: "In that role, it all depends on ABC and the Bachelor/Bachelorette [producers]. The show is known for being romantic and for being intimate and I think the stigma around virginity is that you’re not romantic or sexual. So that’s an interesting topic that, if ABC was ready, it would be something to showcase."

As for the second swirling question surrounding Underwood's casting, both he and Booth took to social media to elaborate on their relationship ending and appear to be closing the door.

"Thank you for teaching me even more about myself, and most importantly, for your friendship that I know will continue far beyond Paradise," Underwood wrote on Instagram. "Don’t settle for anything less than the world, because that’s what you deserve. Can’t wait to see what the future has in store for you and catch up on life some day, preferably over a hot dog dinner."

In her own post, Booth wrote: "Never ever regret following your heart. Things may not always work out as you planned, but they always work out as they should. Thankful that this chapter of our lives has ended so new chapters can begin. I truly wish you the best, C."

When speaking to THR at the recent taping for the upcoming Paradise reunion show, Booth said she and Underwood have been speaking "almost every day" since Paradise and had seen each other briefly. "We’re both in a good place, we have this mutual understanding that we’ll always support each other," she said last week, before their breakup episode aired. 'So it was really good to see him again. And I’m glad that our story ended how it did on the show, also so we didn’t have to reiterate everything we had to say in the breakup [during the reunion] because we fully gave it an honest chance. We gave it a full effort. We said what we had to say and now we’re in a good place." The reunion will air after the finale on Sept. 11.

On Tuesday, Underwood shot down the idea that Booth would make an appearance on his season when speaking to GMA's Michael Strahan. "We are finally on the same page," he said. "We're just good friends." Booth followed that up with an even more definitive tweet: "And NO I will NOT be a contestant on Colton’s season. Lord bless."

When Underwood broke up with Booth on Paradise, Booth, through tears, told one of her castmates that Underwood needed to figure himself out so he didn't put another girl through what she had been through. Time will tell if Underwood is ready to find love again; the season begins filming in the fall and will air in January.

What do you think of Underwood as the Bachelor? Sound off in the comments, below.