6:00am PT by Jackie Strause
'The Bachelor's' Ben Higgins and Lauren Bushnell: Why We're Returning to Reality TV
After 20 seasons of the ABC franchise, Ben Higgins has managed to accomplish a Bachelor first: Landing the first couple spinoff series.
The long-running reality dating competition show spun off its sister series, The Bachelorette, and has since sparked two competition series (Bachelor Pad, Bachelor in Paradise), five wedding specials (including Trista and Ryan Sutter's vow renewals) and one talk show (Bachelor Live). But Higgins is the first Bachelor to get his own reality show with fiancee Lauren Bushnell, titled Ben & Lauren: Happily Ever After.
"We realized very quickly that our life was being documented, whether we liked it or not, by the fans," Higgins told The Hollywood Reporter about life after his TV proposal to Bushnell on the latest season of The Bachelor, which aired earlier this year. "So we were like: Why wouldn’t we invite everybody in to watch, if that seems like what everybody wants to do anyway?"
Higgins said the Bachelor producers came to them with the idea for Ben & Lauren: Happily Ever After, ultimately leading to ABC's sister network, Freeform, greenlighting the docuseries that is set to air in the fall. But Bushnell admits that she initially had doubts about returning to reality TV.
"At first I had a lot of concerns and Ben did, too," she says. "Our biggest priority coming out of the show and the Bachelor world was focusing on each other. Our biggest concern was: Is this new show going to try to alter our life or be incredibly intrusive and get in the way of our relationship?"
She continues, "Our main priority was that our relationship always comes first and if something does ever get in the way, we’ll have to have another conversation because that’s something that neither of us are going to allow to happen."
Given the franchise's track record (only three of The Bachelor's 20 couples remain together, including Higgins and Bushnell), it's no surprise that Bushnell expressed concern. But now, with cameras due to start rolling this month, Bushnell says they reached a compromise.
"It’s going to be more like a docuseries and documenting our life," she says. "I have a certain idea of what a reality show was: On the Bachelor, I was away from my family and friends, but this is going to be very different."
Friends, family and Bachelor favorites will all be involved as the engaged pair explores not only planning a wedding, but also co-habitating for the first time with the 26-year-old former flight attendant settling into Higgins' home in Denver. The couple, who says they are open to a TV wedding, also hope to showcase more of their faith and possibly Higgins' political side with the reality star eyeing a seat in the Colorado House of Representatives.
"It's something that I’m very seriously considering," says Higgins, who goes on to explain that the person currently running on the House District 4 ticket, Willie Pinkston, would have to remove himself to make way for Higgins. "That still has to happen and until it does, it’s not a for-sure thing."
Before jumping back into the limelight, Bushnell says the newly engaged couple did take time off from the reality series that made them famous. They have not been tuning in to Higgins' ex, JoJo Fletcher, and her season of The Bachelorette, which is currently on the air.
"We both see it as a little bit of a break from The Bachelor," she says. "It was our world for so long and we just really wanted to focus on our relationship and needed a moment to take a step away."
But she admitted that all the talk about this season's villain has lured them back in: "Now I definitely want to get caught up — I keep hearing so much about this Chad guy."
Ben & Lauren: Happily Ever After will air on Freeform in October. The series will be produced by Next Entertainment in association with Warner Horizon Television. Bachelor creator Mike Fleiss, Martin Hilton and Jason Ehrlich will serve as the executive producers.
Until then, keep up with THR's weekly Power Rankings as The Bachelorette continues to unfold here.