'Bachelor' Creator: Why Ashley H. Is Next 'Bachelorette,' No Diversity on Show
"Sometimes we feel guilty of tokenism," admits Mike Fleiss. "Oh, we have to wedge African-American chicks in there!"
Bachelor creator Mike Fleiss says he wishes the ABC powerhouse reality show was more diverse.
"We really tried, but sometimes we feel guilty of tokenism," he tells Entertainment Weekly. "Oh, we have to wedge African-American chicks in there! We always want to cast for ethnic diversity, it’s just that for whatever reason, they don’t come forward. I wish they would."
He does joke that new Bachelorette Ashley Hebert might be "1/16th Cherokee Indian, but I cannot confirm. But that is my suspicion!"
When asked why he chose third-place runner up Hebert to star in the 7th installment of The Bachelorette, which premieres in May, he says, "I don’t know, she’s kind of cool, she’s spunky and she’s got a lot personality. It’s also the first time we had an actual professional woman as a bachelorette. She’s not a party planner, she’s a dentist!"
"That’s a good step for us," he adds of Hebert, who is actually a dental student. "I think it’s a cool good lesson for young ladies out there to see an accomplished woman still struggling to put the personal side of her life together. That’s something a lot of women can relate to. She will be a different kind of bachelorette."
He implies second-place finisher Chantal O'Brien (Brad Womack chose Emily Maynard on the Monday finale, which was down 15 percent in ratings) turned down the opportunity to be the Bachelorette.
"Chantal quite possibly would have been our bachelorette, if she hadn’t not, quote-unquote,’ fallen in love with some goofball in Seattle. I’m sure they’ll be together forever," he quips.
Womack appeared on the show for the second time. Weiss says future seasons will never cast unknowns.
"This works so well for us. People are invested in these characters, they are who they are tuning in for. We have enough new blood by design. We have one returning character with 25 or 30 new faces," he says. "I don’t think we need new blood across the board. Can you imagine if it was someone not like Ashley, who was brand new? It makes the show feel small of all sudden. It would be hard to get people interested."
The Bachelor was just renewed through its 17th season (Womack most recently starred on the 15th). What is the key to its longevity?
"There have been so many Bachelor rip-offs. We tell better stories, we cast more relatable people, and we’ve survived when others fell by the wayside. I’m so proud of that. I’m glad we have this big territory. The romance space is ours," Weiss says. "We did 20 million viewers on Monday and have another cover of People magazine, despite the fact there is some really important stuff going on [in the world]. There’s a degree of absurdity to that. But I think our ratings are way higher. People watch this show in groups. We know virtually every college campus has a Bachelor screening party. We average good, solid ratings but the number of magazine covers we get sort of tells us a different story. You’d be hard pressed to find people in the country who didn’t know what happened on Monday. For a show to be on 10 years, it’s a miracle!"