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With 31 seasons under his belt between The Bachelor and the spinoff series The Bachelorette, director Ken Fuchs has seen his fair share of drama over the years. Since ABC first aired the reality dating series in 2002, skinny dipping, slaps to the face and even an attack of wild ocean pigs have all made it to air. But what’s the show really like behind the scenes — could the off-camera story be more dramatic than the actual show?
Ahead of The Bachelor‘s 20th season finale Monday, The Hollywood Reporter spoke with Fuchs about the secrets of Ben Higgins’ season and the untold stories of bachelors and bachelorettes of seasons past.
To clarify, what role do you typically play in the making of the show? Do you travel to each exotic location?
I handle all the rose ceremonies and most of the scenes involving Chris Harrison and some of the bigger scenes … We’re there on the ground with our enormous crew in every country you know running around, and it’s an amazing thing. It’s just an incredible gift to be working on the show and being able to see all these different places and all the travel. But yeah, sometimes we’re in a jungle, and we’re crammed into a little hut with a folding table and monitors, and then other times we’re in a grand, sixteenth century castle in Europe, and we’re sitting in a gold latent room with expensive artwork on the walls. I wish we could release a book of all the control rooms we’ve had over the years, ‘cause it really runs the gamut from luxurious to absolutely dirty and small.
You’ve mentioned the rose ceremonies — I’m wondering if you can share anything from behind-the-scenes when you’re directing them. I’ve heard that sometimes they’re filmed in early hours of the morning when the women are exhausted.
Yeah! Well, you think about it, especially those first few nights, right? There’s a lot of women that the bachelor needs to meet. Forget about doing a TV show, if you were in some situation where you were going to meet 25 women and at the end of the night select a handful to go home, you want to sort of get a sense of who’s who and what’s what, so that takes time. It just takes time. It’s a long, long night. It’s always been quite an accomplishment to get through it, since it’s inevitably sunlight by the time you drive home.
What’s the latest time you’ve ever wrapped a rose ceremony?
I think it usually goes into the early hours.
Like 5 a.m.?
Yeah, I’ve seen 5 a.m.
Wow, do you provide any coffee to keep them going?
Oh absolutely. There’s enthusiasm too, I mean some of the girls are tired, but they’re not all on camera all the time either, right? So they have a chance to relax, and they can sit for long periods of time, and you know it’s not like they’re running a race, so there’s a lot of coffee and once you go outside it’s cool out and that’ll wake you up a little bit too, and we always get ‘em there. I don’t think we’ve ever failed to get a girl to the rose ceremony.
Is there anything else you can add about trying to keep the energy up or what it’s like once it passes midnight?
The girls are sometimes a little harder to keep up in the morning I think than the guys. ‘Cause the guys are a little more like crazy. And they’ll jump in the pool you know or something weird to keep themselves up, but they also probably drink more, so I think it’s just a lot of like early morning coffee and a little fresh air.
Would you say keeping them up late adds to the drama?
It might. It’s an emotional night. It’s an emotional night any way. And if you’re gonna go home and you’re sent home, I’m sure it’s a little more emotional because of how long or how tired you might be. It’s an exhausting process every day … They’re not sleep deprived but there’s something about the journey that people talk about that the cast goes through that I think sort of heightens their emotions for sure.
Director Ken Fuchs with host Chris Harrison (Courtesy of Subject)
This season, a lot of viewers were really excited about the Kevin Hart and Ice Cube cameos, and last season you had Amy Schumer. Are celebrity cameos one way you try to keep ratings up and combat the general decline with streaming? Will you continue to bring stars on?
Oh yeah, I think that’s been really successful for us, so they reach out to us or sometimes we’ll reach out, but it’s a blast. It’s really fun … We love those and I think viewers love those celebrity appearances as well.
Definitely. And you mentioned that sometimes these celebrities will reach out to you. How many celebrities tend to approach you for the show?
A lot of people watch and a lot of celebrities and they’ll either admit to it or not admit to it, but I’m sure a lot more reach out to us than we can fit or figure out a nice way that we can fit them in the story that makes sense.
For the fantasy suite dates, last season you showed the couples the morning after. You did it again this season with close-ups on the ground of their scattered clothes and the women with messy hair in the morning. Can you describe the decision-making behind airing those intimate moments?
If there’s something interesting or pertinent about shooting that, then that’s great, if we think it’s something the viewer wants then we’ll change or incorporate that, so things change season to season. Sometimes we’ll change our style or we’ll change our emphasis based a little bit on audience taste and preferences, too. But other times it’s either not appropriate to show or just not that interesting to show. If it’s riveting television, moving the story forward in that sense, then it’s worth it.
I’d like to ask you a tough question. I want to hear your take on how a lack of diversity has been a major criticism for the show. ABC’s former chief Paul Lee all but promised a diverse bachelorette in January at the TCAs. What’s your take on diversity on the show?
I have no issues with diversity. I think it’s a great thing. I think every person of every race and color and background that’s been on — regardless of how far they make it in the season, because that’s not up to us, really, that’s up to the bachelor or the bachelorette, but I think it’s been appropriate and compelling and no reason not to have more of that and more diversity, and certainly we’re all behind that. There are some things out of our control, like who he’s gonna pick for the final two, and at some point Jubilee wasn’t in that, so again that’s his decision, and it’s his life.
If Amber, Jami or Jubilee [African-American contestants] had made it far, it might have been easier to ask them back as bachelorettes theoretically?
Yeah, I think that’s right. Again, I’m not really privy to those decisions in the end, but that’s exactly right because you know that’s sort of our formula, right? Is to have somebody the runner-up, second runner-up or someone. And we did have diversity with Juan Pablo. He’s Latino and that was interesting so we try to mix it up but again we’re sort of following a bit of a formula in terms of like who is in the next season.
With that formula, you do get your fans excited when they really know the next person leading the show.
Yeah, and also the next person knows that it works. It just happened to them. They got right up to that point where they sort of feel like, ‘Oh okay, this process really can work, like I can believe in this.’ For everything everyone says about The Bachelor, good and bad, at the end of the day, we’ve had weddings. We’ve had babies. There’s something happening that you can’t just dismiss off hand. There’s something very real happening. For that person to go into their season really excited about that and optimistic about that happening to them, that’s the best thing we could hope for. I think in general the producers try to cast who they think would be the right person, and if it’d be right for them so that’s always been the mantra—what’s best for the show.
Is the team looking for diverse contestants to have more options for when they’re trying to cast the next bachelor or bachelorette?
I think they’re trying to see as many diverse people as possible all the time. They’re very open to that, and if that person wants to be on the show, will fit the show, and will do well and will be happy on the show.
And lastly, a fun question. Do you know what is provided to men and women on the show in terms of food and alcohol in the house?
I’m not sure about the alcohol. The food works pretty much how you would expect it to. The basics are all provided, and the girls come up with a list of things they’d like, eggs or whatever beyond you know to make, because they’re in the house together and they have to cook together, like that’s sort of like the storytelling and building relationships among them—is having them cook themselves or make their own drinks. They’re not catered to in any way, but we’ll basically go out and go shopping for them and create a list and they can cook and eat pretty much whatever they’d like. There’s always a few in the house who take on more of the cooking and are comfortable in the kitchen, but it’s fun to see what they do and a lot of that stuff doesn’t end up in the edit, but they have fun with it, and it sort of makes them feel more at home. We’re just trying to make everything feel normal, as normal as possible, so they can just focus on why they’re there.
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