Love in Quarantine: Tayshia Adams on Life After 'The Bachelorette' Engagement

Bachelorette finale

Tayshia Adams with Zac Clark

Everything about this year has been unforeseeable. In keeping with that 2020 theme, Tayshia Adams could not have predicted that she would be heading into 2021 with a fiancé, thanks to The Bachelorette.

Before the pandemic hit, the Bachelor and Bachelor in Paradise alum had been on the short list to star in the 16th season of The Bachelorette. Producers ultimately went with Clare Crawley, however, and Crawley was the original star when the ABC reality franchise became one of the first U.S. series to go back into production this summer amid the global coronavirus outbreak.

But shortly after filming began, Adams got a surprising call offering her to take over as star. Crawley had fallen for her frontrunner, Dale Moss, and the pair were planning to get engaged and leave the show. Amid the country's racial reckoning, Adams quickly accepted the chance to become the franchise's first Black and Latina star and packed her bags for Palm Springs, California.

The cards were essentially stacked against her upon arrival, as the remaining men had been cast with Crawley in mind. But after quarantining and testing, Adams entered The Bachelorette's COVID-safe bubble and, in the short span of one episode, won over the contestants and viewers at home as the show shifted focus and began to tell her love story.

Unlike recent past seasons, Adams' The Bachelorette experience had a traditional storybook ending. Tuesday's finale ended with one of the most heartfelt proposals in show history as Adams celebrated her engagement to Zac Clark, an addiction specialist from New York who, like Adams, had been married before and understood the gravity of the moment. "I'm going to choose you right now. I'm going to choose you tomorrow morning. I'm going to choose you next week and next year. I'm going to choose you forever," Clark told Adams, both in tears.

Because the production schedule was impacted by the pandemic, ABC and producers Warner Bros. were unable to film the traditional After the Final Rose special. As a result, there was no live, post-show forum for Adams and Clark to address viewers on finale night. So, The Hollywood Reporter caught up with the engaged couple to hear about what life has been like in the months since that final rose and check in on their quarantine love story. Read the chat, below.

What was life like immediately after the show wrapped? Did you go into quarantine and seclusion together, or were you living separately in California and New York and then meeting up?

Zac Clark: We had a couple of days together right after we split [after filming in Palm Springs], which was really, really nice. Then we went into navigating the next couple of months, which meant a lot of FaceTime; a lot of phone calls; some visits here and there, and just really making sacrifices to make sure that we kept the love going strong. At the end of the day, that was really the focus of the last couple of months.

Usually the winning couple has to meet in secret. Now, the world is on pause amid a pandemic. How were you able to see each other in the COVID-19 era?

Tayshia Adams: It was absolutely harder for us to see each other. It also doesn’t help that he isn’t anywhere near me. He is in New York and I’m here, in Orange County, California. We just had to be really careful with COVID and everything; we had to be really safe. But we took all of the precautions. A long-distance relationship is hard, even without COVID. So we definitely did well in the last four months as a couple; we got to learn each other. But, at the same time, we had the struggles a normal relationship has, with people who are long distance or just getting to know each other. We’re definitely not excluded in that. But we have really good communication skills and I think it’s helped us.

When you were able to physically be together, what were the highs and lows of being in quarantine?

Clark: The absolute high was my Pinterest work.

Adams: (Laughs.) Zachary is actually a very seasoned Pinterest-date-scavenger-hunt planner.

Clark: Whoa — I’ve done it once! I downloaded Pinterest for this purpose. But I made one badass scavenger hunt. I had her running all over this house singing and dancing and finding gifts. So, we had to get creative. But we had fun with it and I think the reality is that we faced a lot of similar challenges of other couples during COVID, which is that you’re forced back into the home and, how do you have fun when you’re on lockdown?

Other couples from the franchise have fallen apart in this in-between period and have spoken about the difficulty of watching the show air. Did rewatching the season bring about anything new to deal with as a couple?

Adams: Absolutely. It’s not normal to watch back your relationship on television, let alone with multiple relationships happening at the same time — and then also having your fiancé sitting in front of you, being one of those men. He’s human; I’m human. So, some things could have hurt him or hurt me. But we felt safe enough and comfortable enough to bring those things up with each other and talk about it. We definitely had rough times where we had to work through some things. But that comes with the territory of our way of falling in love, if you will. It just takes a strong relationship to get through it.

Clark: I think it would be more concerning if I didn’t have feelings, or if she didn’t have feelings [while re-watching]. That would be a little strange, right?

Adams: (Laughs.) Yes. That would be kind of weird.

How do you plan to navigate a bicoastal relationship amid the pandemic in 2021?

Clark: The great news is we’re going to be able to take longer periods of time in each place. Obviously, we’re going to incorporate COVID testing and all of that stuff to make sure we’re being safe and following the guidelines of the WHO and the CDC and everyone else who is telling us how we should behave in this crazy world. As long as we do that and focus on our love, I think we’re going to be alright.

Now that you can freely share this, Tayshia, at what point during The Bachelorette experience did you know it was Zac?

Adams: There were multiple moments where I saw myself envisioning a life with him. I guess it really solidified when my family was involved, just because I’m really close with my family. You don’t just marry an individual, you also marry their family. And it was really important for me to see him with my brothers and see how he interacted with my parents. My dad is kind of protective over me, if you haven’t noticed! So, to get his approval is everything. He really does not want to see me get hurt again. I’m his first born; he’s very protective over that. When he was with my family [I knew it was Zac].

Your season was unprecedented. In what ways do you think the production changes brought on by the pandemic — like filming in a bubble and being engaged in true seclusion — helped to solidify your relationship and what you wanted out of this experience?

Clark: I’ve said it from day one: I’m grateful there was no travel and that it was more of a bubble environment where I really got to focus on — I hate to call it a “task,” but for a lack of a better word — the task at hand, which was to develop a relationship with someone and see what’s there. I feel like that was really a blessing. And it’s a testament to Tayshia because she walked in there and took a risk and really created an environment for all the men there to be really open and honest. She was a star.

In the beginning of the season, you said you were excited to have this Bachelorette platform so other people could feel represented. We saw a shift in your season, with conversations about Black Lives Matter and race discussed on the show. Looking back, how do you feel you handled the pressures of this platform and what do you think about the response?

Adams: The response is something that I was not expecting. I’m so happy that it was so positive and that people were super enlightened, but also just so happy to see this kind of conversation happening on their television screens. Because the truth is, it is happening in our world. 2020 has had all of these conversations circulating and there are important topics. Looking back, it was a lot to talk about right then and there. When I started filming, things were still happening that way. The riots were still going on. It wasn’t that it had dissipated for months on end and I had a lot of time to think and figure out my words. Now, looking back, I wish I would have said a little bit more, but I did what I did in the moment. Me crying was authentic and it was how I felt. So, I don’t regret anything.

One good thing to come out of 2020 is that there are two interracial relationships to emerge from The Bachelorette, which is something viewers have been wanting to see. [The first Black Bachelorette] Rachel Lindsay was vocal in pushing the franchise to pick leads who were interested in dating outside of their race and having more leads of color to better represent America. What conversations did you two have about being an interracial couple in 2021 and leaving the bubble of the show?

Clark: It’s obviously something we’ve talked about. I can tell you that my experience is my experience, which is that I grew up in this little town in South Jersey. I dated primarily white women. I had never dated a biracial woman. My life and my journey kind of took me down this road of having a problem with drugs and alcohol and then getting sober and moving to New York City, and that’s when my eyes really opened to this world that is so big and so amazing. And I got to see so much love in that city. You just have walk down the street in New York City. And it was perfect, because then when Tayshia walked into my life, I did have an understanding of what love really was and I was super excited to explore that. She is an amazing human being and we’ve just had a great time.

Adams: We support each other unconditionally, so I think that’s one other aspect that we both feel really comfortable about. We’ve had the conversations and we’re ready to take everything head-on because we have each other’s support.

The show diversified behind the scenes and hired more people of color in producer and crew roles for your season. In what ways did you feel supported by those changes? 

Adams: If I were to ever have a question or concern, there was someone to talk to and I had a resource. I don’t ever feel like I was put at a disadvantage or any of that. And that’s my experience in it all, but I’ve always had a really positive one. I’ve always felt really supported and loved.

Clark: I can say for me, [the support] on the cast was huge. With Jordan [Chapman] and Ivan [Hall] and even Dale, the conversations were happening. And that was outside of my relationship with Tayshia and just across the board. So it was really encouraging and, for me, energizing and educational.

What advice do you two have for Matt James as the 2021 Bachelor?

Adams: Go get ‘em, tiger! You have the support of all of us behind you and I have no doubt that he will follow his heart and do what he needs to do, and possibly find the love of his life. So, be you. You got it.

Clark: He seems like a good guy. He’ll be fine!

This interview has been edited for clarity.

The franchise returns with James' historic starring turn on Jan. 4 (at 8 p.m. on ABC). Keep up with Live Feed here for full coverage of The Bachelor in 2021.