Colton Underwood’s Grandmother Texted Him About Bachelor Erections — & More Secrets From His New Tell-All

Photo: Craig Sjodin/Getty Images.
Former Bachelor Colton Underwood apparently has a new hobby. With the release of his new book, The First Time: Finding Myself And Looking For Love On Reality TV (which is now available online), he’s managed to tightrope walk through all of Bachelor Nation without plunging into the depths of outright Bachelor bashing. 
He maintains that he’s still close with franchise figureheads like host-slash-romance-sherpa Chris Harrison, and yet, in his new memoir he continually calls out the producers of The Bachelor, The Bachelorette, and Bachelor in Paradise for “crossing lines” in his many budding relationships throughout his time on the show. It seems clear though, during our phone interview just days after the book’s release, that he still struggles to maintain a balance between what he calls “getting back control of his life” and playing nice with his former co-workers. 
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Not only has Underwood gained back control over his half of his relationship with Bachelor winner Cassie Randolph — the duo are quite happy, per the new book — but over what he says about his journey to that happily ever after. Underwood’s nondisclosure agreement ended around the time that the most recent Bachelor, Peter Weber, ended his season 24 run, so naturally, it was time to release a tell-all, or at least, a tell-a-lot. The First Time title refers largely to the uncomfortable obsession with Underwood’s virginity on all three franchise shows (one of the many lines he says the series crossed in his book), but also to the fact that he can finally say whatever he wants about the time he gave the reins of his life to a group of producers. 
Now that he’s on the mend — oddly enough, a week before his book release, he was publicly diagnosed with COVID-19 and documented his symptoms on Instagram — Underwood is ready to clarify a few things fans may have gleaned from his book. And don’t worry, I asked him why in the world he decided to include that wildly gratuitous detail about hiding on-camera erections in his book. 
Refinery29: What’s been the response to the book so far? 
Colton Underwood: “I'm obviously so excited for it to be out, but I'm also so grateful and appreciative that it's been so openly welcomed. For me it was very emotional and very therapeutic to write this, so to see it sort of come together even though it's sort of a weird time to be releasing a book, given the circumstances and everything going on in this world, but it's been so nice to see those responses. Everybody started to embrace it.”
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You decided not to reveal anything specific about your sex life, so were you prepared for people to dig for clues and try to piece something more definitive together? 
“There was a part of me that probably expected it. I have a line in the book that sums it up pretty well: ‘Nobody talks about your sex life unless you don't have one,’ and then that's all they want to talk about. I was embracing that and figured people were doing ask about it. I certainly didn't shy away from it given the title. That’s more so me taking ownership and embracing everything that's been going on this last year. I gave up a lot of my privacy and rights with the reality show and letting it sort of dictate and narrate my life. In the weirdest way, this was so emotional and nice for me to feel like I'm getting back control of my life.”
The book definitely doesn’t shy away from spicier details, like your stories about hiding, shall we say, the signs of excitement between you and the contestants. Why did you decide to include that detail?
“I was always looking for a moment to take viewers behind the scenes without really exposing the franchise or doing them dirty or a disservice to them. I thought that was just sort of a moment that maybe people were wondering what, you know, happens. And I could answer that. It would be sort of funny and cool, so I didn't shy away from it. I know it's a little... my grandma even texted me, ‘I was sort of always wondering, but at the same time I didn't need to hear that from you.’ So my grandma called me out for it.” 
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I have wondered about those moments, but I've never thought to ask that.
“I don't really ever shy away from anything, so I might as well just address it head on. Maybe people were curious; maybe they thought I was oversharing. I have a tendency to overdo that.”
The book touches on things like producer manipulation, but you're still close with people who work on the show like Chris Harrison. Have you talked to them since the book has come out? 
“They all obviously texted me when I was sick. It's so hard to really articulate my relationship with the franchise. On one hand, I'm so grateful for them, and I'm appreciative of the opportunity to become their Bachelor and represent. At the same time, there were just some things and some lines that, in my opinion, were crossed professionally that I just wasn't okay with. I try to always stay professional with it all, but it's hard to separate. Everybody always says, ‘It's show business. You can't take things personally.’ But when it's a show like The Bachelor, it is personal. It's your real life. They move onto The Bachelorette and they move on to their next Bachelor. So I always kept that in mind while we were filming and stuff.”

"But there are also times I felt frustrated for Peter. I feel like certain situations could have been handled much better for him. I don't know if he was necessarily ready to step up and fight for some things."

Colton Underwood
You seem to have a strong sense of self, too, because you write about having strategies to counter some of the producer plotting. Why do you think you were susceptible to going along with things like Tia in Paradise?
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“Because I was okay with making a TV show. that was an open conversation that I had with the producers and everybody involved. It was, Hey, I understand. We have to make good TV here, and I'm going to have to do certain things to be the Bachelor. There were certain things I went along with. Like I said, it's such a weird, weird relationship because I'm okay with certain things, and there's other things that I'm not okay with. At times you really have to lean in and trust production as far as them having a good grasp on your cast and knowing who’s there for you and who might have had an off night or who they see potential with. That was always a constant battle for me. But there is no doubt that at times I took ownership and played the game a little bit. In the book I talk about my relationship with Tia and how we were very open, like, This was a fun experience. This is a cool thing to do. You're in your 20s. Why not? I always was up for anything and wanted to say ‘yes’ to everything after my football career.”
After Peter Weber’s season, most people know how heavily producers are involved in the show. They think it's all manipulated. What do you make of that loss of faith?
“I actually didn't watch Peter's, but I obviously have social media and I paid attention to what people were saying and what I was getting tagged in. We're at a time in television where nobody wants to feel tricked or duped. We can read a lot of the manipulation. We can see there are a lot of staged or set-up moments. I will say this: This show is not scripted. I would consider it ‘guided.’ But there are also times I felt frustrated for Peter. I feel like certain situations could have been handled much better for him. I don't know if he was necessarily ready to step up and fight for some things. But I do agree that this year was the first year that fans sort of saw behind the BS.”
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A lot of the hindsight conversation has been about whether Peter was prepared to be the Bachelor. Do you think that there's enough of a playbook when you become the Bachelor? 
“There's nothing that can prepare you to be the Bachelor. I thought that I had it all figured out. I openly admit that I had some strategy going in, and that playbook goes out the window 100% of the time because it's real people, it's real emotions, it's real things going on. You have to take it day by day. Everybody is always asking, ‘What advice do you have for Peter?’ I don't have any advice for anybody that is stepping into that because the role is so unique. It's obviously a hit show for a reason because of how real it gets.”

"I feel like there's times that they might have crossed the line, especially in Paradise ... And you probably have things happen behind the scenes, too. That's why everybody in Bachelor Nation is so close, because there's that constant frustration."

Colton Underwood
Another topic that came out of Peter season was there were some people in Bachelor Nation, notably Blake Horstmann, who actually threw out the term “bully” when he was talking about producers. Do you think it's fair to use that word?
“It’s just such a unique relationship, and it's a constant battle that you're always fighting with yourself or with the producer of how much do you stand up for yourself? How much do you fight that fight? What do you think is really going on? I totally feel Blake. I feel like there's times that they might have crossed the line, especially in Paradise, on his behalf. And you probably have things happen behind the scenes, too. That's why everybody in Bachelor Nation is so close, because there's that constant frustration. But at the end of the day, we signed up for it. We never want to bite the hand, that in a weird way, feeds us. So, in my way, for this book, there's no hard feelings. It's more me sort of just stating my side of things. I really wanted people to get an understanding of like, Hey, I acknowledge that sometimes it's frustrating to watch certain things go down, but you also have to understand we're making a TV show. It's entertainment, but at the end of the day, we're still real people, not characters.”
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You used Instagram to share your own story about being diagnosed with COVID-19, but with that came a lot of feedback — some of it positive, some of it not so positive. Looking back, would you share as much as you did again? 
“I try to live with no regrets. I will admit this: I could've handled certain situations much better. That's a no brainer. I think everybody can look back at certain aspects of their life and say, Oh, I could've handled that situation better. I'm learning. I'm growing. Everybody in this world is in it together, and we're doing a thing called life. I'm trying my best and I'm trying to learn on the fly with everybody else.”
You said on Good Morning America that you are hoping to donate plasma to help other COVID-19 patients. Now that you're an accidental symbol of promoting safe distancing and taking care of ourselves, do you have any other plans to try and help with what's going on right now?
“I'm in talks with my doctor right now about things that I could do to help out. And then just following the guidelines of the health department and our case worker that is assigned to our home. I’m trying to do what's best for not only myself, but the community, and help out how I can. If that means donating blood, doing that, but I'm willing and ready to step up however I can.”
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
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