On the first two episodes of our favorite summer series, viewers saw a sneak peek at a different side to the man who famously threw buddy Clint under the bus and admitted to cheating on his wife. And although host Chris Harrison already warned us we'd be pleasantly surprised by the single dad, it wasn't until we chatted with the cast following the season premiere that we became convinced we might actually fall in love with him.
"I've always known J.J. was a great guy," fan favorite Jared told us. "He struggled early on in The Bachelorette, he definitely made some mistakes, but J.J.'s true colors came out in Paradise and I think he'll surprise people with how great of a human being he is."
Read on to get more of the cast's reaction, as well as Harrison's take, on the three hours of dates, first kisses, boozing and tears, including whether Ashley I. really cries as much as it appears, just how awkward Clare and Mikey T.'s date was, what to expect from the early pairings and more.
Ashley I. brings her sister and she's not like a virgin
"I was a little shocked she was so open about her promiscuity like, 'Oh, OK,'" Harrison said. "But if people think Ashley I. is a train wreck, wait until you meet her sister. So how did Ashley feel about it? "It was harder having my sister there because I had to constantly be concerned with how she was feeling and I thought she's just have a good time and come along for the ride, but she made it more stressful for me," Ashley told us. "But they captured some great moments."
Yes, Ashley really cries that much
"I cry very easily, let's be clear about that," she said, before adding, "but I hadn't cried for over a month until this week. ... I had a breakdown. That's what usually happens with me there's lots of dryness and then waterfalls. But there is something about this show that takes it to a totally other extreme." Said Harrison, "It's funny because she's just a crier. When you talk to her or hang out with her, you can't imagine it's the same girl that just loses it on a moments notice, but she does. She's an emotional person and it's her go-to."
How Jared felt about said tears
"The first night, I never thought Ashley I. would be interested in me, but once we got to know each other [I realized] we're very similar in a lot of ways even though I thought we'd be complete opposites," he said. "I could feel she had a vibe towards me, so when she asked me out, I thought a lot about it and I decided I'd go. I certainly never want to cause any drama or hurt anybody's feelings and there are a lot connections being made and I'd never want to step on anybody's toes, so also makes it difficult."
Clare joins the Paradise party
"I told her this is not going to end well," Harrison said. "She's like, 'I'm here to change things, I'm here to prove myself' and I'm like, 'You realize that's not going to happen.' Bless her heart. She's a glutton for punishment. And I think she tried to stay above the fray, but she just can't help it. She falls into that abyss." So what's Clare's response to that? She's glad she came back for a third time. "You don't get opportunities like this that often and if you were to tell me there's a small percentage to find the one that can be my forever the chance is worth it. The dating part is the icing on the cake, but I've grown so much as a woman and it blows my mind how good it feels. So it's worth it, [crazy] edits and all."
About that date with Mikey T.
"It was uncomfortable in the fact that I didn't want to lead him on," Clare said. "He's a go-getter and I didn't want him to misinterpret me having fun. And it was close and intimate. I wanted an adventure date because I always get the romantic dates and so when I got that, it was hard." Added Harrison, "It's like the Cody thing — those guys may want to step out of the gym a little bit because it's a lot. But Mikey is a lovable, sweet man and a great guy that I loved having back. I don't know if he's the ultimate friend zone guy or what. "
Those early pairings
"Kirk and Carly are just crazy enough to work," Harrison said. "They're cute, I like Kirk and Carly is a sweet girl, and it's a bit surprising, but the more I thought about it, I thought it could be a good call. Ashley S. and anyone would surprise me. I mean, what guy would you see her with and be like, 'Oh yeah, that makes sense'? She was talking to a parrot! But [she and Dan] have made it work for the time being."
The first Bachelor in Paradise wedding
"I hope that didn't get brushed under the rug because it was really cool and I was honored to marry them," Harrison said. "They are a sweet, sweet couple and love each other very much, so it was neat to see. I was thinking about how [our producer] Cassie and [her daughter] Georgia were at 'After the Final Rose' and Mike [Fleiss] and [his wife] Laura, and then with Ashley and J.P. I have three babies in the world from my marriages! It's bizarre."
All about J.J.
"Hands down, J.J. will surprise people the most," Ashley I. said. "I was so not into the thought of him leading into the season, but he's my closest guy friend of the entire group." Added Clare, "I had my judgments about him and he will change everybody's mind about him. He's an amazing man."
J.J. seeks redemption
Did he come to Paradise to clear his name? "Yes," he said. "I didn't go on Paradise for necessarily the right reasons, I was a little jaded like, I'm not going to find someone and this is my obligation almost, but I feel like I left for the right reasons. But I didn't change! I literally was the exact same person the difference was that the guys [on Paradise] knew who I was and understood my humor and we were friends so that helped; there wasn't a rough transition. The whole thing with Clint was very tongue in cheek and we actually never did anything to be mean. It also wasn't as cutthroat here since we're not fighting for one girl, so it wasn't so aggressive." Although speaking of aggressive, he teased, "Joe knocked me out on the two-on-one, but Joe might have something coming back his way."
America's villain meets America's sweetheart
"I didn't know who Tenley was," J.J. said. "I asked her out because I just thought she was pretty and we had a lot in common with background and family and someone after says, 'You know, she's America's sweetheart. This is really good for you.' I was like, 'I don't even know who she is. I just think she's cool.' What a combination though! But Tenley is an amazing friend and it was fun to explore things for her."
What did you think of the first two episodes of Bachelor in Paradise?