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Clare Crawley’s journey for love is back on track — with a few modifications.
The four-time franchise alum will start filming her season of The Bachelorette soon, with she and her suitors quarantined together at a private resort in Southern California (but outside of L.A. County, which is currently experiencing a surge in coronavirus cases) for the duration of the season, sources tell The Hollywood Reporter. The cast and crew will spend the entire season living on-site at the isolated location, with testing prior to arrival that is expected to continue consistently during the shoot. Visitors and press will not be allowed on set.
Warner Horizon Unscripted TV, which produces the ABC franchise, declined to comment on a specific start date for the show.
Crawley was cast as the season 16 lead on March 2 and production was shut down amid coronavirus concerns on March 13, just as the show was set to begin shooting and after her contestants had already been publicly revealed. As The Bachelorette‘s scheduled May 18 premiere date came and went — and Bachelor Summer Games was canceled — host Chris Harrison and ABC reality boss Rob Mills had alluded to plans for their first-ever stationary season, axing the international travel that the show is known for (and raising some questions about PDA). The reimagined show was put on hold until recently, when L.A. County approved a resumption of some film and TV production.
Crawley had teased on the show’s official podcast on June 23 that she “found out maybe two hours ago when I’ll be going down and the final day that I’m leaving, so it’s very, very soon.”
Specific precautions for filming have not yet been revealed, but there will be a quarantine period for the cast and crew before filming begins. The Bachelorette is the first major primetime show to announce a return to filming in the U.S., as most are still figuring out how best to work within safety guidelines. (Daytime drama The Bold and the Beautiful has resumed filming, and fellow soaps The Young and the Restless and General Hospital are eyeing July restarts.) It will now air Tuesdays in the fall, rather than its typical Monday night spring start date, and plans for Bachelor in Paradise are still unknown but seem increasingly unlikely.
Crawley, a 39-year-old hairstylist, was an unexpected choice for this year’s lead, after producers opted out of the traditional process of choosing one of the final contestants from the last season of The Bachelor. Past Bachelors have broken the cycle timeline — Arie Luyendyk Jr. in 2018 and Nick Viall in 2017 — but this marks a first for The Bachelorette.
She was last seen by franchise viewers on the 2018 Olympics-themed spinoff, Bachelor Winter Games, where she was briefly engaged to The Bachelorette Canada star Benoit Beauséjour-Savard, splitting two months after their live TV proposal. Crawley was first introduced on the 2014 Juan Pablo Galavis season of The Bachelor, where she memorably finished as his runner-up. Though her name was reportedly in the running at the time for The Bachelorette, the following cycle’s gig went to Andi Dorfman, who had finished third on that season. She then appeared on Bachelor in Paradise twice, for seasons one and two in 2014 and 2015, respectively — where Crawley again made a name for herself when (thanks to producer editing) she appeared to constantly pour her heart out to the animals on the beach. She then returned three years later for Winter Games.
Crawley is the oldest Bachelorette in the show’s 17-year history, and fans balked when her original crop of suitors were revealed to be overwhelmingly in their 20s, with only one man older than her. Her selection comes amid criticism of the show skewing continually younger, as for two Bachelor seasons in a row, the majority of contestants have been in their early to mid-20s and seemingly less interested in the show’s commitment to an engagement and marriage.
The revamped season follows Matt James‘ June 12 announcement as the franchise’s next lead and first Black Bachelor after he was originally cast as a contestant on Crawley’s season. His season will follow hers in The Bachelor’s traditional January 2021 slot, and comes after weeks of renewed criticism about the show’s diversity, led by former Bachelorette star Rachel Lindsay — the first and only Black lead since the franchise’s 2002 debut — calling out the “systemic racism” inside the franchise and promising to “dissociate” from the show if action is not taken to diversify its mostly white casting.
Along with James’ announcement, ABC Entertainment president Karey Burke said, “We know we have a responsibility to make sure the love stories we’re seeing onscreen are representative of the world we live in and we are proudly in service to our audience. This is just the beginning and we will continue to take action with regard to diversity issues on this franchise. We feel so privileged to have Matt as our first Black Bachelor and we cannot wait to embark on this journey with him.”
Executive producers echoed the push for diversity in their own statement, saying, “We are excited to move forward with both Matt James as the new Bachelor and Clare Crawley as our next Bachelorette. We acknowledge our responsibility for the lack of representation of people of color on our franchise and pledge to make significant changes to address this issue moving forward. We are taking positive steps to expand diversity in our cast, in our staff, and most importantly, in the relationships that we show on television. We can and will do better to reflect the world around us and show all of its beautiful love stories.”
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