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Everything’s Coming Up Roses for The Bachelor’s Chris Harrison

The host of ABC’s longtime reality TV franchise talks his latest spin-off and his partnership with Seagram’s Escapes

For super fans of The Bachelor, Monday nights are sacred. If you’re a part of Bachelor Nation, you can’t wait to slip into comfy clothes, pour a glass of wine, and tune into, as host Chris Harrison frequently puts it, “the most dramatic season ever.” The face of the long-running reality television franchise filled with romance, heartbreak, and meme-able moments, is pretty much a pop culture icon. With spin-off The Bachelor Presents: Listen to Your Heart airing now, and a special journey into the archives set to premiere in June 2020, Harrison is helping to produce some much needed content while filming for The Bachelorette and Bachelor in Paradise remains on hold due to COVID-19. On top of that, to ring in summer, he launched a Tropical Rosè beverage with his audience in mind.

Before diving into the nitty-gritty of Bachelor-verse, Harrison tells me a bit about life at home. “I have turned into the lighting crew and the set decorator, and I’ve basically become her one-man crew for shooting,” Harrison says of assisting girlfriend Lauren Zima with her Entertainment Tonight work. “I have my two kids here and they are going to school online, so they’re hard at work most of the day in their rooms and I’m, well, putting and chipping golf balls,” he admits with a laugh. In his down time, he’s also playing chef. “I’m a big cook. I don’t get to do it very often, so it’s been fun to actually have time to cook dinner every night.”

We talk about how production for Listen to Your Heart was wrapped up unconventionally. “I was literally doing voice overs in my closet for the show each week,” he reveals. But, that wasn’t the most challenging part of creating the new show, which combines a singing competition with dating. “We wanted it to be familiar. We had to walk that line of wanting it to be The Bachelor and The Bachelorette, but not,” explains Harrison. “The toughest part any time you’re doing television is building the characters and getting people to care about those characters.” He adds that it was fun to do a show where the cast didn’t know what was coming next—they were “just excited to be there.”

When it came to the show’s celebrity judges, Harrison was most surprised about how many of them were a part of Bachelor Nation. “I had no idea Kesha was a huge Bachelor fan—she was all into it and so was Jason Mraz,” says Harrison. Even after 18 years, he’s still “blown away” by the franchise’s Hollywood following, adding, “I recently heard Rita Wilson watches the show and I’m thinking ‘are Rita and Tom Hanks sitting back watching the show on Monday nights? It’s incredibly flattering.”

On The Bachelorette front, I ask him what he thinks filming might look like for Clare Crawley’s upcoming season. “It’s going to be interesting to see how people date afterwards,” says Harrison. “I think there are some great things about how we shoot and how we have a closed campus. Maybe our show is more conducive to shooting during quarantine or post-quarantine because we can kind of test everybody and lock down and do this. But, I also think it’s important to not make everything about the quarantine when it’s over. That’s what we want to escape.”

With such an expansive history on the show, Harrison recalls a few of his favorite Bachelor moments. “I go back to the beginning when my life was changing and the show was really taking off. Season two with Aaron Buerge was a monumental moment—so was Trista Sutter’s season. She was our first Bachelorette. Those two were just so iconic and so groundbreaking, and that’s when the show and the franchise really took off. We had 33 million viewers watching Aaron’s finale, and Trista’s season of The Bachelorette was our highest rated season. That’s when I knew we had something really special and my life had changed.”

Over the years, the show brought him to some amazing places (Bora Bora, the Maldives, Vietnam, South Africa, etc.), and he can’t help but reminisce about his favorites. “I think about my kids and being in Paris for a couple of months while we shot season eight of The Bachelor—they were growing up enjoying the Eiffel Tower and getting crepes at night,” Harrison says. Then, he describes staying in a little town outside of Rome named Frascati. “I just remember my kids having pizza and eating gelato every day on the steps of the church by our apartment,” he says, adding that he’s so grateful for the memories.

Heading into summertime, Chris Harrison is eager for fans to try his Seagram’s Escapes Tropical Rosé. “I wanted to be very hands-on in creating it. I flew to Chicago and went to the tasting room, where I helped create the flavor, the look, and the whole vibe of the drink,” he explains. “I wanted it to be light, refreshing, and low in calories—something you could enjoy on the boat, by the pool, or Monday night watching your favorite show,” he says warmly.