By the time The Bachelor or The Bachelorette premieres, viewers will typically know whether or not the star falls in love by the end of the pretaped season. On Tuesday, one day after The Bachelor launched its 23rd cycle, Colton Underwood is still staying mum.
“I want everybody to go on this ride and this journey with me, so I don’t want to spoil anything and I don’t want to give anything away,” Underwood tells The Hollywood Reporter about keeping his relationship status a secret. “It was challenging and it was hard at times. I knew it was going to be hard at times and I embraced it and I loved the fact that it was. But I will say, I’m exactly where I need to be in my life right now.”
In recent years, viewers of The Bachelor and The Bachelorette have grown accustomed to knowing if the season is heading toward a happy ending before it begins. Bachelorettes Becca Kufrin and Rachel Lindsay and Bachelor Arie Luyendyk Jr. all confirmed they were engaged before their premieres even aired. Bachelor Nick Viall revealed he found love on the show, but stopped short of confirming a proposal.
But, as viewers will recall, Luyendyk Jr.’s season changed everything.
In the combined 37 seasons of the reality dating franchise, it’s rare for the winning couple to split between the time that filming wraps and when they go on to reveal themselves as a couple on the live finale aftershow. During those two to three months in between, ABC organizes clandestine meetings for the pair so they can date in secret until the rest of the world catches up with the show.
Luyendyk Jr. memorably called off his engagement to Kufrin and returned to his runner-up, current fiancee Lauren Burnham, during that time. ABC’s cameras were there for the post-show breakup, marking the first time the franchise filmed its winning pair in those secret months. As a result, the extended finale was controversial but it was also a ratings success. Ever since, the team behind the series said they planned to follow their winning couple after the show wraps, as viewers saw when snippets of Kufrin and her winner, Garrett Yrigoyen, from that time period aired during the last Bachelorette finale.
Coming from a franchise that leans into every season being “the most dramatic ever,” it will undoubtedly be hard to top the shocking ending of Luyendyk Jr.’s season. Perhaps that’s why Underwood isn’t divulging whether he found love on the show. Underwood, the franchise’s first virgin star, says he is prepared for people to ask whether or not he loses his virginity on the season, but that’s another question he won’t be answering ahead of time.
What he has said is that he pushed producers and went about his season in a “unique” way that he says will be “unexpected” for some people.
“I was very raw with it,” he tells THR of leaning into his emotions. “And I will say, I did do things differently. I challenged the production of the show, my relationships and myself throughout this entire journey. Coming onto the show, I wanted to continue to grow as a person. I wanted to continue to give it my best shot and really get to know these incredible women, so of course that is what I came to do. Like I said, I don’t want to spoil too much for you, but I’m really looking forward to this being the best season ever.”
Underwood has also revealed that a memorable moment from The Bachelor trailer — where he scales a fence in a bid to escape Harrison and the cameras — is the most “pivotal” night of the season and that it comes during the highly anticipated Fantasy Suites week. The season trailer also shows him breaking down in tears when hugging a producer, implying that at least one contestant breaks his heart.
He admits that there were times during filming where he questioned the process. “Even before I came on The Bachelorette I was skeptical and had moments throughout the season where I was like, ‘Is this really going to happen for me, is this going to work?’ I think that’s a completely normal reaction to have,” he now says. “I’ve never done this before. I’ve never dated 30 women before. I don’t think anyone has really had that opportunity. So while I am grateful and humble to have that opportunity, it also presents its challenges.”
Now that filming has wrapped on the season, Underwood says, “understanding that I’m not perfect” is a big lesson he’s taking away from The Bachelor experience. And while he says he’s grateful for the support system he has at home, he is careful to not reveal whether or not that system includes a fiancee or girlfriend.
“Now I am just going about living my life to the best of my abilities and staying true to who I am,” he says as his Bachelor journey begins airing. “Understanding I’m continuing to grow every day and just being comfortable with who I am. Not letting comments or peoples’ opinion get to me, because I have been that way in the past. I’ve taken things too personal in the past. I have an unbelievable family and support system of friends back home. And things have been great.”
No matter how Underwood’s season ends, the star certainly has the element of surprise in his corner.
“Being the Bachelor — I didn’t do it perfectly,” he adds. “I don’t think anybody is perfect. But I really hope everyone gets an understanding of exactly who I am. I did this my way, and I’m really excited for you to see what I mean by that.”