Melissa Rycroft Melissa Rycroft

In 14 seasons of The Bachelor and six seasons of The Bachelorette, a few people fighting for the final rose have also been in the race for money and fame (see: Justin, the "Rated R" wrestler). So it was only a matter of time before producers turned one of reality TV's biggest dating shows into a competition for love AND money. Bachelor Pad, premiering Monday at 8/7c on ABC, brings 19 contestants back to see who will find chemistry, who will walk away with some extra cash, and who will choose love over money? Bachelor winner-turned-runner-up Melissa Rycroft, now married and expecting her first child, returns to the show as a co-host. She talked to about how it was "awkward" going from contestant to host and the "unreal" drama coming up this season.

Bachelor Pad: Meet the players What made you want to come back and host Bachelor Pad?
Melissa Rycroft: My name has always been associated with The Bachelor franchise. You know I'm always going to be the girl. So I look at where my life is now and I owe not only my professional life but my personal life to The Bachelor. I don't think my husband and I would have been on the path that we were on if we hadn't had the whole Bachelor fiasco happen. When the opportunity came up, I said, "Why wouldn't I want to be apart of it?" I'm not in the house, I'm not at the point in my life where I could necessarily go in the house, but watching it with Chris Harrison from the other side was very intriguing. How was it teaming up with Chris and going from being a contestant to a host?
Rycroft: It was a lot of fun getting to work with Chris every day. From what I get to see of what he does on Bachelor and Bachelorette, I got to do it myself. When it was time for challenges, we got to run them. Elimination ceremonies — we got to run those as well. It's an easier feeling instead of the uneasiness you feel being the contestant and sitting back going, "I have no idea what's going to happen," you know exactly what's happening and you get to sit back and watch. What was it like serving as a host when you had lived in the house with some of the contestants on The Bachelor?
Rycroft: It was awesome. The very first time I had to walk into the house and gather everybody up, I was looking and Nikki [Kappke] and Natalie [Getz] are from my season and I went, "Oh my gosh. I haven't seen you guys in so long." A few other people I had met along the way. It's fun. It's slightly awkward in that I feel I should be in the room with them because we were all in this together, so it felt weird when I was the one telling them what to do ... but it started to feel more natural like I was just talking with my friends and hanging out with my friends.

Melissa Rycroft and husband expecting baby What would you say was the most surprising part of the show and this experience?
Rycroft: I didn't think you could get more drama from a show than you already get from The Bachelor and Bachelorette and in watching this whole progression that is Bachelor Pad, the drama is unreal. From romances and breakups and hookups and alliances being made and broken, and competition and eliminating each other off, emotions are just running crazy. I totally understand it — you're trying to decide who's playing the game and whose here for love and it's greatness. Are there any individuals who you think will surprise viewers or who have changed a lot from their last appearance?
Rycroft: I'm not going to give definite names, but I saw people who I knew and I kind of saw a different side of them throughout the show and I was going, "Wait a minute, this is not the side of you that I've always seen. You were always nice and cordial and now, you're backstabbing and flipping the game around." It's going to be interesting because when you do put money at the end of something, true colors do come out. Looking back on the season, if you were in different circumstances, would you want to compete on Bachelor Pad?
Rycroft: If I were not married and not in the stage of my life that I am in now, I would go on Bachelor Pad because you've got nothing to lose. Best-case scenario, you have romance and you have money at the end. Worst-case scenario, you had a great time with friends and you got to play some fun challenges and then you go home. So yeah, different stage in my life, I'd absolutely move in.