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Chris Harrison is famous for making bold Bachelor promises. And this time around, the long-time franchise host is promising the “most open, inclusive Bachelor that we’ve ever had” who will deliver a “wild, turbulent ending.”
That Bachelor is Peter Weber, the second runner-up from Hannah Brown’s recent season of The Bachelorette and the Delta pilot from California who has become known for having sex in a windmill (four times) during Fantasy Suites week. (For the uninitiated, that will explain why ABC’s marketing for the season leans heavily into a windmill theme.)
While Harrison confirms that intimacy will certainly remain a talking point throughout Weber’s season (which kicks off with a three-hour premiere Jan. 6), he also says Weber will deliver an unpredictable season that, once again, will keep viewers on the edge of their couches through the finale.
“I think he is the one who is going to open this [franchise] to a whole wide, diverse group of women from all walks of life, because he really doesn’t have a type,” Harrison tells The Hollywood Reporter. “[His three-hour premiere] is definitely an indication of what’s happened and what’s to come, which is: I don’t think there’s ever again going to be a ‘traditional’ show. I think those days are long gone. It is a turbulent, wild, emotional, gut-wrenching ride right up until the very end. You won’t predict how this comes to a conclusion.”
Below, in a chat with THR, Harrison teases the 24th season of the franchise, explains why Weber edged out Mike Johnson (who would have been the first black Bachelor), and hints at what viewers can expect from Weber’s headline-making on-camera reunion with Brown: “It was an emotional conversation that needed to be had.”
Why was Peter Weber the right choice for this season?
After having been through the season with him, I know for a fact he was the right choice. He is such an open, sweet, sincere guy. He’s kind of the guy the show was based on and that is: the diamond in the rough. He has the pedigree, the background, the job, the family. He has everything except for love. He fell in love with Hannah [Brown] and in grand Bachelor-windmill fashion, it came crashing down around him. So it’s that second chance. He is that perfect story and the perfect candidate.
You have spoken about the decision-making that goes into picking the next Bachelor. It seemed like Mike Johnson checked a lot of boxes when it came to leading-man qualities and, with his potential to be the first black Bachelor, how much did that influence the process?
Honestly, I don’t know the answer to that. You’d have to put yourself into the minds of the executives at ABC and Warner Horizon and even the Bachelor executives. To be honest, I don’t know if that came into play at all.
It seemed to have come down to Weber and Johnson, with Weber always being the first choice. How close was Johnson to being picked?
I think Tyler [Cameron] has to be in there, too, and I would say it was pretty close with all three of those guys. Definitely those three were the main contenders. And then it’s a matter of sitting down and going through the interview process. They’re all brought in and we talked to them all. Producers meet with them and find out where they are in their dating life. But yeah, Peter was that guy that we always had in the back of our mind. Not just because of who he was, but because of how his story unfolded and what a major part Hannah was in his life and how it ended. And also, knowing that Hannah was still probably a part of his life.
The Bachelor trailer shows that his ex, Bachelorette Hannah Brown, does come back. Weber appears to ask her to stay, but she had a busy Dancing With the Stars schedule that would conflict with any major return. How much was unfinished between them and was it ever a real consideration to have her back?
Knowing how things end on the show sometimes, I figured that there were some unresolved issues. It’s a situation where you don’t always get the closure that you want and deserve. I think both of them, in their minds, had moved on. But it was also one of those relationships where, once they saw each other, maybe it wasn’t as resolved and maybe they hadn’t quite moved on. I knew it was an emotional conversation that needed to be had before he could really move forward and be the Bachelor.
Was it ever a concern about if he was really over her?
I don’t know if it’s fair to say that it was a concern or not, because on the show, it’s just something that you would have to embrace and deal with. And you’ll see how it plays out very early on in the season — if he really is ready to move on or if he wants this to be an option still. And the same thing vice versa from Hannah’s standpoint.
Weber is following in big shoes after Brown’s sex-positive season and Bachelor in Paradise, which featured the first same-sex relationship, where franchise strides were made for women and inclusivity. How would you describe his season in terms of what The Bachelor will be for 2020?
With Colton [Underwood] and his virginity and Bachelor in Paradise with same-sex relationships and you mention Hannah and her strength and what she stood for herself, those aren’t things you start at the beginning of a season and say, “OK, this is the social stand we’re going to make or the social issue that we’re going to deal with.” It’s just something that comes with the show now. And I’m glad that I can say, whatever it is, we’re going to lean into it. We’re going to embrace it and lean into it and we’re not going to shy away from it or gloss over it. Sometimes it’s positive, sometimes it’s negative and sometimes it’s controversial. But whatever it is, I think it’s incumbent upon us now, socially, to really embrace it and shine a light on it. And I love that about the show. That can’t be what the show is always about. But at the same time, it’s something that we can include and it’s a meaningful side aspect of the show that I’m proud of.
How is Weber a good representative of this wave?
I just know Peter is a good person. He’s a good man. He’s a gentlemen, he’s sincere, and he couldn’t be more open and honest about the way he lives his life and what he’s looking for. You have some amazing women on this season that have incredible stories and, again, we’re going to lean into some of those stories that aren’t your typical Leave It to Beaver kind of stories.
This is the second season where producers released the names of the contestants early on Facebook. What did you learn from the experiment during Brown’s season and how did it go this time around? An initial 33 women were cut down to a final group of 30 for Weber.
I think, for lack of having a better process, two seasons into trying it this way, it’s as good as we have. We’re trying to evolve as well [by] giving everybody a chance to see who’s on the show and hear anything that’s out there — we do our best to do our due diligence — [about their] backgrounds and trying to find out the true story behind our contestants. We do the best we can and that’s all we can do, and this is a step in doing that. And if someone comes up with a better idea or a new idea, then we’ll implement that as well.
How would you describe the contestants? And since the contestants influence the next cycle, do you think these women open up the franchise to more inclusivity down the line?
What’s interesting with Peter is that I think he is the one who is going to open this to a whole wide, diverse group of women from all walks of life, because he really doesn’t have a type. He’s maybe the most open, inclusive Bachelor that we’ve ever had in that he really doesn’t narrow it down to any stereotypical, geography, superficial, looks…whatever it is. He’s open. It made it difficult as a producer and as a host to figure out what he was looking for, but it’s really fun to watch because you’re not going to see what’s coming next with him since he just really didn’t have a type. So it really is a great, diverse cast of women who really come from all walks of life. Different stories, different jobs. It’s pretty fascinating.
Weber became known for his windmill adventures and sexual prowess on Brown’s season. Would you say that his season leans into that intimacy?
If Hannah’s season was sex-positive, I would say Peter’s season is sex A-positive. He’s open and honest about intimacy and how that plays out in a relationship, and how that’s a big part of a relationship; being physical and kissing. If Arie was “the kissing bandit,” then Peter is right there with him.
Both sex and religion were topics that Brown’s season leaned into. Will that conversation also continue here?
Not in the same way it did in Hannah’s season, because obviously you had a character [Luke P] who played a really integral role in Hannah’s season where religion was a big part of his life. And, conversely, a big part of their relationship as well. It doesn’t play such a dynamic role [for Peter], just because those characters aren’t involved the way they were in Hannah’s season.
Weber suffered a facial injury during production, which you called a freak accident at the time. What happened?
You’re definitely going to learn all about it during the show. We have to embrace it because you can see [the scar] — it’s going from his left eye across and up his forehead. It was a pretty big cut. But it didn’t deter or break up production at all. He had to get some stitches and got a bandage on it and he was good to go. And so we embraced it. You’re going to find out all about in dramatic Bachelor fashion, as only we can report on it! He felt terrible about it, but it was a total freak accident. He was very apologetic.
When it comes to the ending, how does it compare to recent seasons?
It’s a wild, turbulent ending. You won’t predict how this comes to a conclusion. It’s not one of those endings where you go, “Oh, this is the one. And this is this great, crazy long love story and she’s always been the one since the beginning. And it’s so simple and beautiful.” It’s a wild ride. It is a turbulent, wild, emotional, gut-wrenching ride right up until the very end.
Why do you think the female leads have a higher relationship success rate than the men do in this franchise?
Spoiler alert: women are smarter and better people. I think they have a better grasp of what they’re looking for. I can’t speak for all women, but they probably have higher emotional intelligence of explaining and communicating and dealing with their feelings. I think they’re more sincere and realize how tough it is out there. They realize that being the Bachelorette is really a best-case scenario of finding a great person to settle down with.
The last two seasons ended very nontraditionally, with even you not knowing how Brown’s season was going to end since it was unfolding in real time. Weber’s premiere kicks off with three hours, is that a sign of what to expect from the season?
It’s definitely an indication. Going back even to Arie’s [Luyendyk Jr.] season, it’s an indication of what’s happened and what’s to come, which is: I don’t think there’s ever again going to be a “traditional” show. I think those days are long gone. I think Bachelor Nation demands it. The cast, they’re so wise and bright and dynamic and diverse, and I think society has pushed us to the point where those traditional days are long gone. People are going to speak their truth and live their truth. You’re going to see that — the good, the bad, the ugly — on the show now. That’s what the show is.
So Weber falls into that nontraditional category?
Yes. I think it’s fair to say that this is a nontraditional season.
How often has your initial guess about who is going to win been right?
If I had a game that I played with myself every season, I wouldn’t be very good! Because you kind of base it off your first impressions, which are usually very superficial. Someone who gets out pretty traditional style in a gown and all that stuff. But that’s not always the case, so I probably wouldn’t do very well. I’d be maybe 50-50 at best.
Though, a lot of first impression rose winners do go on to win.
Yeah, you’d think I’d be better than I am.
Why do you think Brown and Tyler Cameron became such huge stars last season (based on their social media followings) compared with previous leads and finalists. Do you think the audience is growing and engaging more, or was there something specific about Brown’s season?
No offense to them, but I think it’s much more a product of the show and how big The Bachelor is and this franchise is. It’s more than Hannah and Tyler. Because, without the show, Hannah and Tyler would not be what they are. And I mean that by social media numbers and all of that; it’s not an indictment on them. But Hannah wouldn’t have been on DWTS or been the influencer that she is. I’m glad that she is and kudos to her for using that platform, but it’s definitely the horse not the jockey. The show is what churns out and creates these stories and creates these stars, and then they go on to take advantage of that, which is fantastic.
It seemed like Mike Fleiss took a step back from the franchise while he was going through his divorce settlement. Now that everything is settled, is he back to being hands-on? How involved was he in Weber’s season?
He was involved in Peter’s season for sure. As far as going forward, that’s up to Mike. He’s the boss and I wish him the best.
The Bachelor returns Monday nights with a three-hour premiere Jan. 6 at 8 p.m. on ABC.
Interview edited for length and clarity.
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