SPOILER ALERT:Do not read if you have not watched the Nov. 5 episode of “The Bachelorette.”
For the first time in the “Bachelor” franchise’s two-decade history, the star of “The Bachelorette” was replaced.
After months of rumors pouring out from the quarantined set, viewers finally learned that Tayshia Adams is taking over the leading lady spot from Clare Crawley on the 16th season.
Crawley fell head-over-heels for contestant Dale Moss immediately when the season began filming in a bubble at La Quinta Resort & Club near Palm Springs, Calif. As viewers witnessed in the premiere, once Moss walked out of the limo on the first night, Crawley said she believed she had met her husband. Then, as the days (and episodes) went on, Crawley only had eyes for Moss, and therefore, was not paying much attention to the other suitors, which became the main storyline of the season. Host Chris Harrison told Crawley that the way things were unfolding was not fair for the other men, and so, a new Bachelorette was brought in with Adams.
Adams previously met with the casting team behind “The Bachelorette” to be considered as the lead after she first was introduced on Colton Underwood’s season of “The Bachelor.” She wasn’t picked at that point, but because producers realized that Crawley was falling hard for Moss, they began to consider their options to keep the drama alive throughout the current season.
“There really wasn’t the luxury of time, so it was really instinctual. We had gotten to know the guys,” Rob Mills, senior vice president of alternative series, specials and late-night programming at ABC Entertainment, tells Variety. “The guys felt a little spurned that they’re going all in for Clare. They’ve left their jobs to be there, they’ve quarantined there, it’s insanely hot in Palm Springs, and they never really had a chance because Clare only had eyes for one guy. You just go with instinct at that point.”
And so, their minds jumped to Adams.
Here, Mills talks with Variety about having to abandon the usual format a few episodes in, how they got Adams on board and what the status of Crawley and Moss’ relationship is now.
What was your reaction when Clare said she thought Dale was her husband, at the moment she met him?
Clare sees Dale and she gives this guy a hug, and her knees almost buckled and she said, “Oh my god, I think I just met my husband.” All of us in the control room were texting each other and we were like, “Whoa. That was crazy.” It’s always great when you see something that you’ve never seen happen before. Obviously we have the first impression rose, but this was truly, “Holy cow. This could be love at first sight.” So, we made sure that Chris asked her about it. Then, he got the first impression rose, but then we didn’t think too much about Dale after that. She seemed to be making other connections, which was great.
So at what point did you know that Clare was all-in for Dale?
Night 1 started like every other night in “The Bachelor.” Watching the first limo pull up, Clare was so excited. She had seen these guys and she looked them up. With Dale, she saw that he was going through things with his family, just like she was with her mom, and I think that created some empathy there. Then, Episode 2 was unfolding in the way that it normally would, but she insisted on Dale being there for the first group date. That was important to her. You could see the chemistry there, so the concern started in Episode 2 that Dale has got this thing wrapped up.
There has been a lot of Twitter chatter throughout the first three episodes, with Bachelor Nation saying they don’t think this is fair at all to the guys. As you were filming, did you start to feel like this wasn’t fair to the contestants?
At that point, the guys had checked out. They were just sort of done. They’re stuck in this one place — it’s not like we could travel and have that to look forward to — so the bubble was starting to close in on itself, and I think that’s when it was like, “Let’s see what happens with Clare and Dale.” But then we’ve got to proceed as if this is ending soon.
As early as Episode 2, did you start to think that you might need to figure out a Plan B for the rest of the season?
The worry, at that point, was, “Oh my goodness. How do we make this a horse race?” We have to keep people invested for 10 weeks, and they’re just going to see her wanting to be with Dale. She made other connections with other guys — she was okay kissing them and there was definitely a lot of great drama and all of the typical things that you like on “The Bachelor.” But our one big worry was that we wanted to make sure that she really wanted to be with Dale and wouldn’t make another connection with someone else. But by Week 3, she was really emotional over it and she was crying and there were real feelings there.
To clarify, Episode 3 is when you knew that you might be replacing Clare with Tayshia?
At that point, the producers started discussing like, “What would happen if she wants to leave with Dale?” And that’s when the producers thought that maybe we should reach out to Tayshia.
It’s pretty clear from watching that Clare was all-in with Dale, but since you were concerned that she might change her mind, how did you ensure that she really wanted to be with him?
At that point, Clare started to feel like Dale is the one, so she needed a one-on-one quickly to spell this out and that’s why they had an overnight. Plus, one of the benefits of having Chris Harrison living on site is that he was able to talk Clare through everything at a moment’s notice. He steps in as a parent and a therapist. We had to make sure that Dale feels this way, too, and that it wasn’t just Clare. It’s incredible how nimble the producers and the art department were to get the proposal site ready. Clare basically called him there to say that she felt this way, and he said he felt this way, too. They both acknowledged that this was crazy, but they basically said, “When you know, you know.”
With this franchise, you want to entertain audiences and get big ratings, but technically, the point of the show is for the stars to find love. Were the producers concerned that this is too good to be true, given the quick timeline?
When Clare lost her dad, that was such a huge loss and she swore on her father’s grave she didn’t want to waste any time anymore. She felt like she wasted a lot of time with men who weren’t worth it, and she didn’t want to wait another minute for the one who was worth it.
How are Clare and Dale doing now?
We had a very abbreviated journey for a happy couple. And they’re still doing great.
Will we continue to see Clare on this season?
Yes, you will see her. You haven’t seen the last of Clare after Episode 4. She stayed. We kept her in quarantine so that she could have some happy couple time with Dale, and we also didn’t want her home because it would confirm that she was home and not filming “Bachelorette” anymore.
On recent seasons with Peter Weber, Arie Luyendyk Jr. and Hannah Brown, we’ve seen that everything blows up after the finale and you’ve kept cameras rolling. In other words, the proposal isn’t the real finale. Did you keep filming for those purposes with Clare and Dale?
It’s pretty much done-done, but look, you never know. We are ready for everything and as things happen, we will stay abreast and will be ready for anything. But it seemed to end with Clare and Dale after the final episode — but I also said that after Arie’s episode and after Hannah B.’s season, so you just never know.
OK, so let’s backtrack — you essentially know that Clare is done at Episode 3. Then what?
We had to proceed as if this is ending soon after these three-and-a-half weeks, and then we’re going to bring in Tayshia and roll the dice. Clare had her one-on-one and had her overnight, and that was it. We just had to figure out how to [get] Neil Lane in the bubble and get that ring here.
How did you break the news to Tayshia?
We had met with her earlier [in consideration for “The Bachelorette”], and told her that this time, it’s going to be Clare, so since this was so unexpected, she came in and basically said, “You never know when things are going to shake up in your life.” And we are so lucky that we ended up getting two all-time “Bachelorettes.”
Why did you think that Tayshia would be a good fit for the guys when they were originally cast for Clare?
I don’t think they’re as different as you might think on the surface. Tayshia had been through a divorce, so I think there is a lot of maturity that comes with that, and she is super serious about settling down, just like Clare was, so it actually did not seem like a huge stretch for these guys. Also, you have to remember that we cast a lot of guys that weren’t necessarily announced for Clare because she was announced as “The Bachelorette” so late, so some of these guys would have been there for someone else that was chosen as the lead, anyway. It all ended up working out incredibly well, even though it provided some hurdles at first.
Was Tayshia OK with coming in to meet guys that had already been there to date Clare?
She was open to all the guys and she was so excited.
What was the guys’ reaction to Tayshia coming in?
Clare went and told the guys herself because that was only fair. She had to tell them that she was leaving because it wouldn’t be fair to them if she’s only there for one guy. So, after that, they were so excited. They were in these close quarters, and even though it’s a beautiful resort, they’re in the same place for weeks on end and it was so hot outside, so then to have this amazing woman in Tayshia come in, everyone was just overjoyed.
I’d imagine that switching the lead of the show, especially with all of the COVID-19 protocols, was not an easy task. How did this shake things up from a production standpoint?
One advantage of being in the bubble is that we only had to bring one person in because everyone was already there. A lot of the dates were tailored to Clare, so the producers had to re-work those dates and that was the hardest part. It’s a testament to how great these producers are. But once she was in the bubble, it was so easy. And we were blessed that these guys were so great because even though it felt like we were starting all over with a new Bachelorette, you don’t have to meet 25 new guys. You already care about them.
What can you tease about Tayshia’s journey?
It’s just as emotional as Clare’s, but in a totally different way. Tayshia really allowed herself to fall in love with multiple guys. It’s always such a roller coaster. At the end, there are a lot of heartbreaking, devastating moments. There’s not really a villain. It’s more like, “I want her to end up with him. Wait no, I want her to be with this guy!”
Have you ever had another situation on the franchise that maybe viewers don’t know about that was similar in any way to what happened this season with Clare?
We knew on JoJo [Fletcher]’s season that her person clearly was Jordan [Rodgers]. And she definitely knew with Jordan, but she wasn’t ready to stop the show. She definitely had feelings for a lot of these other guys, and there were some great guys, so I don’t think she was ready until the end. But if she — or anyone else — had said that, I think we have to listen to that. Clare essentially said, “I can’t do this anymore,” so how could we not listen to her? She said, “When I’m with other guys, all I think about is Dale.”
There’s been a lot of tabloid and blog reports questioning the validity of this Clare-Tayshia storyline — that it seems pre-meditated and perfectly made-for-TV. What do you say about that?
It is insane. You just think, “Oh my gosh, I swear we didn’t plan this.”
“The Bachelorette” airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. on ABC.