7:13pm PT by Jackie Strause
'Bachelor in Paradise' Cast Opens Up About Controversy, Race and Consent
"Do you think race played a part in this?" asked Chris Harrison, mid-chat with the cast of Bachelor in Paradise on Tuesday's episode.
A quiet hesitation fell over the cast as they looked around for someone to step up and vocalize their thoughts. One head nodded, and then another in unison: "Yes."
The "this" Harrison is referring to is the sexual encounter between DeMario Jackson, a black contestant, and Corinne Olympios, a white contestant, that nearly derailed the fourth season of the Bachelor spinoff series.
The second half of the show's two-night premiere began Tuesday, with the cast being welcomed back to the Sayulita, Mexico, set after a near two-week break; the footage leading up to the production shutdown aired Monday.
Harrison caught everyone up when they sat down for a chat, something the host had detailed to THR ahead of the episode's airing.
"These are game-time decisions that we made in the moment," Harrison explained, previewing how the hit ABC franchise planned to deal with what became a nationwide scandal earlier this summer. "It didn’t feel right to just say, 'OK, flip the switch: Paradise is back on, and let’s go,' and act like nothing happened. What the cast had been through was extremely emotional. They had been scattered around the country and hearing a lot of rumors and allegations. They didn’t know a lot of things when we got back."
After an incident June 4, a producer filed a misconduct allegation that prompted Warner Bros. Television to conduct an on-set investigation. The production company analyzed all the footage, which included a tape of the actual incident in question, and interviewed all the cast and crew before sending them back to the U.S. The investigation ultimately cleared the show of any wrongdoing and resumed filming, the latter much to the cast's surprise.
"When we left, I thought there was no way we would be back," said contestant Raven Gates.
Before officially declairing Paradise "open," the cast voiced their concerns and reservations about returning, taking aim at the media for the swirling reports — some accurate, some not — and accusations, leveled at both Jackson and Olympios, over what happened.
"We had a black male and a white female, but [DeMario] has 20 to 30 years of Google searches in his name," said Diggy Moreland, a black contestant. "Any time he wants to apply for a job, even though nothing happened, do they want to take this baggage on? I'm thinking of the long-term effects and I was really pissed about that."
Throughout the chat, the cast shot down accusations that they are forced to drink for entertainment and that they are "mindless robots" controlled by the producers, who script the entire show.
Gates, referencing being from the south, said there is a stigma that "seeing a black man with a woman is wrong. What happened wasn't wrong. So I was super empathetic with DeMario. Not only is consent important, but it's also important to get rid of the stigma that interracial couples can't be or blaming African-American men for crimes they didn't commit."
She added that, at the same time, she was never judging Olympios, even though she called herself a "victim" in her initial statement.
"It was interesting to see how that vague statement was turned into an opinion," said contestant Derek Peth. "Slut-shaming is not OK," added Danielle Maltby, turning the conversation to the double standard.
Gates, who has been in an abusive relationship previously, said she hopes the situation doesn't deter any future victims from speaking out and getting help.
"How do you know when someone has given consent when you are getting intimate with somebody?" Harrison then asked.
Verbal consent, body cues and consent throughout the encounter were the answers that Harrison received.
"If somebody is passed out, unresponsive, can they give consent?" Harrison asked, referencing false reports that had surfaced.
No, was the resounding reply.
"If someone is drunk, can you give consent?" he then asked.
"The question comes to: Would you have given the same consent if you were sober?" replied Moreland. "Alcohol clouds your judgment, but you can give consent."
Harrison asked the cast to keep consent issues in mind while they continue to search for love in Paradise. When he questioned if the group wanted to continue to do the show — despite the shutdown, scandal and accusations — one by one the cast verbally pledged their participation, resulting in a unanimous verdict.
And with that, the Paradise opening montage ran and the show, as Harrison had promised, started to return to being Paradise.
Harrison admitted that it took some time for the show to find its footing, especially with the cast spending nearly two weeks off camera together, but he and Robert Mills, senior vp alternative series at ABC, were confident that after next week, all questions would be answered.
Next week will see Harrison sitting down for interviews with both Olympios and Jackson, who didn't return to the set for the rest of the season.
"During the investigation, Corinne and DeMario each made statements that happened away from Mexico," Mills explained. "We thought it was important for them to go into that in more detail with Chris so they could make sure there was no ambiguity with the statements, and so they could explain more about what they meant."
He added, "Corinne, especially, talks about how she used the word 'victim.' She says, 'I used the word 'victim,' but let me explain what that meant.' I think she felt badly about what DeMario went through as well, so you’ll see both of them discussing that."
What did you think of how the cast addressed what happened — was it enough? Tell THR in the comments below and head here for all Paradise coverage.