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[Warning: the following story contains spoilers from ABC’s 21st season of The Bachelor.]
For Nick Viall, the fourth time was finally the charm.
After two Bachelorettes, one turn on Bachelor in Paradise and his own Bachelor season, Viall finally experienced a successful proposal Monday night when he got down on one knee and asked Vanessa Grimaldi to marry him.
Now that the final rose of ABC’s 21st Bachelor season has been handed out, longtime franchise director Ken Fuchs spoke with The Hollywood Reporter to reflect on the 36-year-old’s season and look ahead at the historic next season of The Bachelorette, when Rachel Lindsay takes over as the first black lead of ABC’s reality dating series.
Fuchs, who has directed all 33 seasons of the Bachelor and Bachelorette combined, says working with a Bachelor veteran this time around was “a huge advantage” and that it contributed to Viall opening the floodgates during “one of our most beautiful and emotional” finales.
“Nick wears his heart on his sleeve, and I give him a lot of credit for that,” said Fuchs. “Having been on the show and then not ended up being the final pick, I think he’s been through the emotions on all sides, and so he can really relate to what these girls are going through. It’s tough. He tried to explain himself very well.”
Emotions ran high throughout the season, especially during long days filming on set, and Fuchs confirms that several of the rose ceremonies filmed through the night, wrapping mid-morning.
“The first couple rose ceremonies go really long because the cocktail party takes a long time,” he said. “We want to give [the Bachelor] a chance to meet not every girl, but to talk to everyone at least a little bit. The first couple are quite late nights, then it’s not terrible.”
As for Nick’s premiere night, it easily ran into the wee hours (“2 or 3 a.m. is a safe bet for sure,” he says.): “If you see the daylight creeping in, then you know.”
With shoots wrapping at 3 a.m. or later, did the open bar serve all night? Fuchs says yes, at least until contestants got too belligerent.
“We like to treat them like adults,” he said. “There’s times if it’s in someone’s best interest [to cut them off]. We want them to make it through the night and put their best foot forward. It’s in everyone’s best interest that they have a good time and loosen up, but not to the point of not being able to make a connection with Nick.”
While alcohol had a limit on set, naps did not. Fuchs describes what actually happened during Corinne Olympios’ infamous rose ceremony absence. The 24-year-old was found upstairs, passed out, while Nick gave roses to those with more stamina for late-night shoots.
“That was one of those moments where even though we’ve done the show for 33 seasons, each season presents something new and different and challenging,” he said of Olympios, who was accused by some of her fellow contestants of passing out due to drinking on the Women Tell All reunion special.
He continued: “We didn’t know for sure what was happening and then we sort of made a decision: we could, of course, force her to wake up, come down in the rose ceremony or not. We try to always embrace the reality of the situation. “It just comes down to feeling more authentic to the audience, and I think her sleeping was — good or bad or whatever you wanted to think about her — that was her reality at that moment. I thought we dealt with it pretty good, but it was definitely a weird one.”
Now that Viall’s journey has come to a close, Fuchs looks forward to working with his ex, Lindsay, who was cast as the first black lead of The Bachelorette: “Finally!” he said of the historic casting. “We’re really excited.”
ABC has already broken tradition with the history-making season, first by announcing Lindsay’s casting weeks ahead of The Bachelor finale, and then by trotting some of her contestants out to meet Lindsay early as an After the Final Rose surprise.
When Lindsay spoke to THR, she had said her casting came together quickly, but that even she wasn’t aware of all the behind-the-scenes details.
“A part of how the show works is that we take the next Bachelor or Bachelorette from the previous season and it’s generally someone who’s gone quite far in that season,” said Fuchs, detailing the casting process. “We don’t tell Nick who to pick, so the fact that he kept [Rachel] that long and she was on the show and she was African-American was only a good thing for us and for the franchise because it’s definitely about time. I’m not sure why it took so long really, but it’s great and I think it’s going to be a fantastic season with her.”
The director says Lindsay was a delight to have on set of The Bachelor and that her best qualities are what will make her a likable Bachelorette.
“She’s just a regular girl, a regular woman,” he said. “I found her very real and normal and kind of you know lively, fun, exciting, beautiful, really smart and just somebody that — I can’t say that with all the castmembers that this is somebody that I would have been friendly with or hung out with — but with Rachel it’s definitely the case. America already loves her, but they’re really going to love her the more they see of her. She’s got strength, smarts, and looks and vulnerability and all of it. I really think she’s the total package.”
Fuchs adds that ABC is “absolutely” seeking more diverse candidates for Lindsay’s contestants, something the Bachelorette had hoped would come to fruition with her casting. His explanation also sheds light on why ABC made the decision to announce her early, essentially spoiling part of the ending to her journey on Viall’s The Bachelor.
“The main goal is to have a show with that Bachelor/Bachelorette surrounded by people who want to be on the show and once they know who it is, who want to meet him or her so that they could date that person, fall in love and take them home to meet family,” he said. “In this case, it’s a little more important that they know who it is, but we always try to have a little flexibility in terms of who’s going to combine to make the best cast.”
He added, “We always want 25 people who are definitely there for the right reasons but also very open to that specific Bachelor or Bachelorette. So there’ll definitely be racial diversity this season, in keeping with the direction we’ve been heading even with Nick’s season.”
The first black lead and possibly a more diverse group of contestants will not change the show’s structure, however. Fuchs explains: “I don’t think we’ll produce the show any differently. The show looks and is produced wonderfully and people really respond to it. And so it’s just more of the same with Rachel. I don’t think we have to change anything.”
The 13th season of The Bachelorette is expected to air this spring on ABC.
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