If you’ve been keeping up with Bachelor Nation gossip, you can probably guess whom Bachelorette host Harrison was talking about: Tayshia Adams, the all-but-announced second lead of the franchise’s upcoming 2020 season, which premieres on Tuesday, October 13. Even Harrison’s own girlfriend, Entertainment Tonight personality Lauren Zima, confirmed the casting news on Instagram. However, ABC has very pointedly avoided putting fan-favorite Adams in a single teaser or promotional image. In official Bachelorette business, season 16 is entirely the Clare Crawley show — no questions asked.
Harrison suggests this move is out of respect for Crawley, who has tried to find love on everything from The Bachelor to Bachelor in Paradise and Bachelor Winter Games without lasting success (her 2018 Winter Games engagement with Benoit Beausejour-Savard ended after a few weeks). “Clare is our Bachelorette. And this whole thing was about her journey,” Harrison explained. “She has waited, and we were excited to give her this moment. She’s earned it. So it’s all about Clare. Up until the time… it doesn’t need to be. And people will have to watch and see if that happens.”
While pro-spoiler fans might be hungry for more information about the Crawley-Adams switcheroo, Harrison does make a case for giving Crawley her solo moment in the Bachelorette sun. No Bachelor Nation lead has had to go through as many production delays as Crawley, who was tapped as Bachelorette just as the COVID-19 pandemic began to shut down sets across the world.
“We were about to shoot, and then we pushed the pause button. Then we say, ‘Okay, go sit in your room for six months and just think about this,’” Harrison, who is also a Bachelorette producer, reminded viewers. “Finally we had this opportunity [to film]. Honestly, up until that moment, she had her doubts that any of it was ever going to happen. So she was very skeptical about, ‘Okay, are we really doing this? Are you going to stop again?’”
The “pressure cooker” of production shutdowns and a global health emergency had an inevitable effect on Crawley’s search for love. However, after speaking to Harrison, the results probably aren't what you're expecting for The Bachelorette season 16.
Refinery29: Was the cast more motivated to immediately open up and feel something fast while shooting during a pandemic?
Chris Harrison: “It wasn’t about ‘they needed to feel it fast.’ But I think people were really chomping at the bit. We all are, to feel and to hug and to be intimate and to have conversations and high five and all the silly little things that we miss.
“These people got to go through these safety precautions and the protocol. While it started with a little trepidation of like, ‘Okay, what are we doing?,’ it quickly turned into, ‘This is awesome! How lucky are we that we get to do this?’ There was a sense of gratefulness and appreciation.”
Clare has been through so much as a contestant through multiple franchises and as this year’s Bachelorette. Did anything strike you as unique on Night 1?
“I mean God bless her, right? When those limos arrived, there was so much relief, so much gratitude and thankfulness, that she really just dove into it. I think more than any Bachelorette. She was sincere and excited about this opportunity. She was bound and determined to make it work. She was bound and determined to take advantage of this extraordinary moment in time and find the man she wants to spend the rest of her life with.”
The entire season was filmed in a Palm Springs resort. Did that contained setting make it feel like Bachelor in Paradise for you?
“I didn’t really think about it that way. But, maybe that is why it was so good. There is a silver lining to this: the intimacy, the pressure cooker, it never got released. Usually you’re shooting, it’s like, ‘Okay, stop. We’re going to Asia. We’re going to Europe.’ There wasn’t that stop. There was no release. It was just 24/7: ‘We’re going. And it’s all about this.’
“So, yeah, it was a little bit like Paradise, but without so many different people. It was all Clare, all the time.”
From what we can see in trailers, Clare’s men were in tears from the very beginning of filming. What is it like to manage so many strangers’ emotions?
“Oddly, I don’t know why — this sounds terrible, because I don’t know what it says about me — but it feels normal. It shouldn’t — to be handling so many strangers’ emotions and delicate moments in their life. But it’s oddly familiar now and comfortable. And again, I need to go to therapy to figure out what that means.”
The interview has been edited and condensed.