8:00pm PT by Jackie Strause
'The Bachelor': Chris Harrison Opens Up About the "Virgin Season"
Colton Underwood made his debut as The Bachelor on Monday night and — as has been heavily promised — the meeting between ABC's newest lead and his 30 hopeful women required Underwood to have a sense of humor about the fact that he is the franchise's first virgin star.
The drawn-out, three-hour premiere began with an unusual live event where host Chris Harrison video-toured Bachelor viewing parties across the nation and welcomed back a slew of familiar faces to the franchise. Amid the showing of Bachelor fandom, the pre-taped Bachelor premiere kicked off with Underwood arriving at the Bachelor Mansion for the first night of introductions.
The first woman out of the limo, Demi, 23 from Texas, said, "I have not dated a virgin since I was 12, but I'm excited to give it another shot." Another contestant, Caitlin, 25, brought along a cherry balloon — and popped it. And then there was Katie, 26, the contestant who took his metaphorical v-card.
"Oh boy, I'm in trouble," Underwood, 26, replied, playing along.
Underwood told The Hollywood Reporter that he rolled with the punches in the beginning, but that the season will dig deeper into the life choices he has made thus far to bring him to where he is today. "I think people are going to have a better understanding not only of who I am, but the whole picture in regards to my virginity," he said.
Now, the franchise's host elaborates on what viewers can expect as the season continues to unfold — and move beyond the cliches of night one.
"There is a definite turn in the season," Harrison tells THR. "Virginity is a part of it, but it's more about why he is the way he is right now in his life. How did he get here? What prompted all this? Part of that is why he remains a virgin, but there is a definite turn in the show where something came about that prompted that conversation."
Harrison adds of one of Underwood's contestants, "It was really someone else’s vulnerable moment that led to it."
The host has promised an "unexpected" season with Underwood, describing the former football player as emotional and spontaneous, and someone who kept producers on their toes throughout filming. Before Underwood met his women on the premiere, Harrison was tasked with sitting the Bachelor down to ask him if he thought the reason he was viewed as such a controversial choice for The Bachelor was because of his virginity.
"That's sort of the stigma around being a virgin is: Oh, he's not romantic, he's not going to be a good Bachelor," said Underwood.
Harrison then offered up another critique, that being a virgin makes him "not a man."
"That got thrown at me this year. For the first time in my life what I feared people might say to me actually got said to me," Underwood admitted to the host. He then clarified about his choice: "I'm not waiting for a ring, I'm not waiting for marriage. I'm waiting to be in love. I'm waiting for it to feel right to take our relationship to the next step."
Underwood has had a spotlight on his dating life since joining Becca Kufrin's season of The Bachelorette last year. After placing fourth and going public with his virginity, Underwood appeared on the summer spinoff series Bachelor in Paradise and dated Kufrin's friend, Tia Booth. Before all of that, he dated Olympic gold medalist Aly Raisman.
Harrison and The Bachelor producers, along with the contestants, will continue to get Underwood to open up about his choice as the season unspools. And while Harrison admits that there will be a brighter spotlight on Underwood when the overnight Fantasy Suite dates roll around (Underwood has already called that week the most pivotal of the season, as was shown in the season trailer), The Bachelor will continue to peel back more layers to its star as the women begin to get to know him.
"The first night is kind of the place where cliches go to die," admits Harrison with a laugh. "Then once you get into the dates and all that and move past it, it really does get a lot more serious."
He continues, "Colton's virginity is one of many stories. If you can figure there’s a lot of layers to something, that’s just one of the layers. It is an arching theme that will go throughout the show, but it’s not the only one. It’s not going to be the virgin season of The Bachelor."
The Bachelor airs Mondays at 8 p.m. on ABC.