When The Bachelor first premiered, America watched to see if true love could be found under such extraordinary circumstances. With a mix of successful and failed pairings in previous seasons, the show opens its ninth premiere (tonight at 9 pm/ET) with the ultimate fairy tale: An Italian prince searching for his soul mate while surrounded by Rome's romantic lights and an actual castle. No, we're not reading a storybook. TVGuide.com went to longtime Bachelor host Chris Harrison for the scoop on the show's latest changes and surprises.
TVGuide.com: What was it like working on an edition where the bachelor, Lorenzo Borghese, is a prince?
Chris Harrison: It was actually very cool, because not only was he a prince but we did the whole show in a castle that his family [has] owned for several hundred years. It was impressive to me, so I can only imagine how impressive that is to a girl looking for a husband.
TVGuide.com: You're lucky that you get to spend time in these romantic cities!
Harrison: Oh, it was awesome. I took my family, too, so my wife and I got to hang out in Rome and travel around.
TVGuide.com: Along with the special rose that is given to one lucky girl the first night, she also receives a special gift as well?
Harrison: [For] the First Impression Rose, we kind of raised the stakes a little bit. It's a double-edged sword, but we gave her a pair of two-karat diamond earrings. Usually the girl who gets the First Impression Rose is not the most popular girl in the house, because obviously she captured his attention, so now she not only gets the first rose and is safe, but she also gets diamond earrings.
TVGuide.com: And for the first time ever the rose ceremony will take place in the morning?
Harrison: That was one of the crueler things they did to the host of the show. [Laughs] We told the prince, "You have all night, until the sun comes up, to make your decision," to give it that touch of Cinderella. It was literally five, six in the morning when we were doing the rose ceremony, so it felt like one big hangover.
TVGuide.com: And what was the reasoning behind that?
Harrison: Just to be fair to him, because we threw him a curveball in the middle of the first cocktail party. He had 25 women and then, unbeknownst to him, two other women arrived the Italian women. This is an Italian prince and we're doing the show in Rome, so the Italians should have the same shot at one of their princes as well. That kind of threw a monkey wrench into our usual plan, so we had to extend the time period just to give him time to meet everybody.
TVGuide.com: So the Italian women get just as much of a chance as the others?
Harrison: Absolutely. We brought the 25 girls in the limos, the same way we usually do, and they started mixing and mingling when I stopped the party and brought in the Italian girls. The girls suddenly realized there was more competition to deal with and these weren't ugly Italian women. These were beautiful Italian women.
TVGuide.com: Will the dates be different?
Harrison: Having a prince in Italy kind of gave us this huge open door to have a good time in Rome. But he's not Italian he was born there, but he's an American and he speaks very little Italian, which was really funny. A lot of the girls just assumed he would speak Italian, so some of them practiced, and he just looked at them like, "Yeah, I don't speak Italian." I told him that's criminal to be an Italian prince and not speak Italian.
TVGuide.com: So he discovers the country with the women.
Harrison: He knew a lot about his family, obviously, but I think he learned a lot being there for such a long time, too. The girls were like, "You're a prince!" But he said, "Yeah, but it's just something that happened in my family hundreds and hundreds of years ago. It didn't define me growing up, so I don't want it to define me now." Some girls knew more about him and what he was worth than he did, and obviously that freaks you out when you're meeting someone for the first time and they come out knowing your tax bracket. Some girls, literally, by the time they got on the show were borderline stalkers.
TVGuide.com: What are the women like this season?
Harrison: The Italian girls are great, and the sexuality they brought to the show is just completely different from the American women. We have some great characters. I think my favorite of all time is a girl named Erica, who is Paris Hilton on steroids, a debutante to the nth degree. She wore a real diamond tiara and was just unbelievable. And he actually liked her! It was really interesting, because she was used to having her butler and her staff and her driver, and to being pampered.
TVGuide.com: Does that mean there will be the usual catfights and cliques?
Harrison: It wasn't as catty, although we did have great moments. I mean, you can't have that many women living together and not. It was crazy in a different way. There wasn't as much animosity in this group.
TVGuide.com: Usually there's a drama queen who stirs up trouble.
Harrison: We did have that. There's definitely a girl who became the villain and then it kind of became her against the world. As usual, the bachelor didn't see everything and so of course you at home will see all the drama going on and you'll be wondering, "Why is he keeping these girls?" But he wasn't privy to any of that information.
TVGuide.com: Anything else we should be excited for?
Harrison: Just the fact that it's probably one of the most romantic seasons we've ever had. People will just enjoy a good guy and a great season, a great story. We always preach the ultimate romance and fairy tale, but to actually have a prince in his own castle that his family owned in Italy, it was a little much. It was like, "Wow, this is really cool."
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