After two months of speculation, statements from lawyers, and tight-lipped teasing, Monday and Tuesday’s episodes of “Bachelor in Paradise” finally addressed the scandal involving DeMario Jackson and Corinne Olympios that shut down production.
The next day, Variety caught up with Harrison — who had not seen Tuesday’s final cut — to debrief his thoughts on the franchise’s ability to take on complex social issues, how the scandal was handled in the media (his thoughts skew Trumpian), and how the show handled and will continue to address the scandal. For one, sit-down interviews with Jackson and Olympios are expected to air during the next two weeks.
On Tuesday night’s episode, you sat down with the cast. What were your goals for that segment?
First and foremost, it was to take the temperature and feel the room. It was such an unknown and such an extraordinary situation. There were subjects that needed to be discussed. Like Corinne and DeMario … Had anyone talked to them? What was the feeling? Was anybody taking sides? How do we handle this? We knew we had to have a serious conversation before we could go back to Paradise. I think it would have been irresponsible and silly for us not to.
With Rachel Lindsay being the first black Bachelorette, and now this scandal, how does it feel for the franchise to take on social issues?
In my opinion, having been in the middle of this, we have always been at the forefront of social issues throughout the years. When we decided to do “The Bachelorette,” that was a big deal. I know it seems so silly and benign now, but honestly, from day one, “The Bachelor” has always been pushing social issues. Even Kaitlyn being slut shamed … cyber bullying … we’ve dealt with it all. Now, you’re just seeing it in a more noticeable way because it is such a big deal. But we’ve always sparked those conversations. Is it the right place or the wrong place? Who knows? Who’s to say? I think it’s part of what makes the show great. We’re trying to make a show that entertains, but it’s not lost on us, the social impact that we have.
On Monday’s episode, we saw Corinne and DeMario together in a pool. Was that the event in question?
No, the event that raised the allegations happened later. What we wanted to show is that they spent a lot of time together throughout the day. That [time in the pool that aired] happened within the first few hours of being there. That’s how quickly they hit it off.
But the event that caused production to shut down was taped?
All of that was on tape. All of it was agreed upon — and I think in everyone’s best interest — that we didn’t show it. There was nothing to be gained from showing it. I stand behind that decision 100%. I think we will show enough for everyone to form their opinion. You will see both Corinne and DeMario get the opportunity to separately sit down with me and give their sides of the story. I told them: This is your chance to say whatever you want … no holds barred… go. This is your forum.
On the show, you discussed all the speculation that surrounded the event. What was it like to be wrapped up in that?
It’s just the world we live in. I’m a parent. I’m used to saying things that fall on deaf ears. All you can do is ask for people’s patience. In this day and age, things are decided in minutes.
What really astounded me was the level of incompetence — things that were said and printed by quote-unquote reputable media, and reputable print, and even TV. It was incredible to me the things that were said out loud about Corinne, about DeMario, about the show that were so outlandish, so false, and completely fabricated. There are people’s lives in the balance that could have easily been destroyed. The fact that you can clearly see that journalism is dead, and long gone on every level — whether it’s the network, whether it’s print … it’s really sad. To see it firsthand it really is amazing.
After you had the talk with the cast, how quickly did the mood shift back to the usual “Bachelor in Paradise” silliness?
Very quickly. I wasn’t sure how it would go. You can see now why it happened so quickly. There wasn’t a huge rift in the cast. For the most part, they weren’t really involved in the situation. They didn’t really know much. It happened around them, it didn’t happen to them. Everything fell right back in line and it was fantastic.
Once you restarted production, you only had 10 days left to film. How will that impact the rest of the season?
You can’t just pick back up. We had to reimagine everything we were doing. When you consider we plan all year for these shows, to throw everything in the fire and start over … I would dare and challenge any production to try to pull that off.
It will be a very condensed schedule. In the finale, the show will continue outside of Paradise. Some relationships were still going and still brewing. I will be finding out a lot things along with the viewer.