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“Due to the times we’re living in, this will be a much more intimate reunion,” host Chris Harrison said when introducing the Men Tell All event on Monday night.
Indeed, the 2020 version of the reunion show, which takes place towards the end of each cycle of The Bachelorette and The Bachelor, looked different this time around. There was no audience or stage, and only nine of the season’s 35 men were in attendance — and placed in socially distanced seating.
“We had a much smaller group,” Harrison tells The Hollywood Reporter of the COVID-19 era production impact on the reunion show. “You’re not going to have the 20 or 30 guys all screaming and yelling.”
In attendance with star Tayshia Adams were Bennett Jordan, Noah Erb, Blake Moynes, Riley Christian, Jason Foster, Demar Jackson, Kenny Braasch, Ed Waisbrot and Yosef Aborady. The men are a mix of standouts from both Adams and Clare Crawley’s iterations of The Bachelorette. After Crawley exited the show early and got engaged with Dale Moss, Adams took over as lead mid-season. Adams, who is the long-running franchise’s first Black and Latina Bachelorette, has four men remaining after Monday night’s eliminations, who were not in attendance at the tell-all: Ivan Hall, Zac Clark, Ben Smith and Brendan Morais. Crawley was not in attendance.
The entire season of The Bachelorette was filmed in a bubble at the La Quinta resort in Palm Springs, Calif., so production could abide by new filming protocols and create a COVID-safe set.
The Men Tell All, however, was not filmed at the resort. “We’re doing it in a conference room on the set of The Bachelor!” Harrison now reveals.
Since the Men Tell All is taped after production on The Bachelorette wraps, Adams and the participating cast had to be brought into The Bachelor bubble to film the reunion. Similar to The Bachelorette, ABC created another COVID-safe set for Matt James’ forthcoming historic season, which filmed in seclusion at the Nemacolin Woodlands Resort in Pennsylvania.
The heavy lift resulted in less participants, who again had to quarantine and be cleared by COVID-19 testing in order to participate. “All these guys had to come in and go through quarantine, sit in their rooms,” says Harrison. “Then we had an afternoon that some of us took off from shooting The Bachelor and stepped in and went back to shoot the Tell All. It was bonkers. We’re in the middle of shooting Matt’s season and all of a sudden, I’m talking all of these other stories that happened months ago, so it was very interesting.”
Typically, The Bachelorette airs in the spring and is followed by summer spinoff Bachelor in Paradise before producers shift into Bachelor mode, which usually films in the fall. The global pandemic and resulting Hollywood-wide production shutdown, however, shifted production to be back-to-back on The Bachelorette and The Bachelor, with Bachelor in Paradise sitting out the 2020 season.
The trimmed-down reunion actually made for a better show, says Harrison, who would like to see the format applied in the future.
“Because there were less guys — we just couldn’t bring everybody in and brought in the major players that we could — it’s a lot more intimate,” he says of the traditionally heated showdown focusing more on one-on-one relationships. “When you’re saying something and they’re sitting right next to you, or you’re staring them in the face, your words have a lot more meaning. It’s not as easy to hide in that big group. So it made for, I think, a better show. I think there are things we’re going to take out of this version and [apply] it forward.”
The resulting iteration of the Men Tell All was fitting amid a more serious cycle of the show since Adams’ takeover. Recent episodes have seen the reality franchise devoting significant airtime to serious and timely topics, including the impact of the Black Lives Matter movement and emotional conversations surrounding personal journeys with addiction and mental health.
“What you’re seeing is a microcosm of what’s going on in society right now,” Harrison tells THR of the 2020 tone. “I think all of these amazing conversations that we showed this season are [from] a generation of people that feel like they can speak now. Whether it was social injustice [with Ivan], addiction with Zac or mental health with Ben — Tayshia had some amazing conversations. And it’s only because people feel safe in this space to talk and to say what they want; to speak their truth. I really think it’s a coming of age of people in 2020, where it’s not so taboo and you can actually have these conversations.”
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