The 12th season of The Bachelorette kicks off tonight, and will introduce 26 men vying for the heart of JoJo Fletcher. America met JoJo on The Bachelor last season, where she was the runner-up; but she's probably best known for the scandalous moment when Bachelor Ben Higgins told both JoJo — and the eventual winner, Lauren Bushnell — he was in love with them. JoJo's jilting turned many Team JoJo, so ABC brought the 25-year-old real estate developer from Dallas back for another shot at love.
Bachelor and Bachelorette host Chris Harrison spoke to TVGuide.com about how JoJo rebounded from rejection, guys to watch out for this season, and The Bachelor's diversity issue, which he downplays.
"I hope that while a conversation is had, that will never preclude anybody from just making the right decision," Harrison says.
Read on for more.
Coming into the season, it seems like JoJo has a really good attitude about the whole Ben fiasco. Have you talked to her about how she got through it, and how she's able to not harbor resentment against Ben?
I did. JoJo and I talked a lot about her experience on the show with Ben and the fact that she was willing and wanted to come back and be the Bachelorette. I was pleasantly surprised at her attitude and her outlook on the entire experience with Ben. If anybody had an excuse to be pissed off or a little bitter, it would have been JoJo. I think a lot of us would have been after what she went through. But I was really impressed with the way she took it. She took it as a learning experience. It's easy to give lip service to that, but when she walked into the house with the guys this season as the Bachelorette, she used Ben as a benchmark, and was really vocal about how that's where the bar is set now.
A lot of us would guard our feelings and protect ourselves from the embarrassment and maybe have a little jealousy after going through that. She had her heart broken, and was dumped in the end. I was really impressed with how she not only learned from that but then used it with the other guys as, like, "now I know what love is, this is what's out there, so you guys better step up. This is what I'm expecting." I was shocked, I have to say. I would like to think that I would be that strong, but I don't know if I would be.
She still holds Ben in high regard, which is unexpected.
It's hard. Even though Ben did what he did to JoJo, he is undeniably a very good man, and it speaks volumes to the kind of man that he is. He had to make a tough decision, and I think she understood that. Throughout the season, she will hearken back and make reference to Ben. I think she gained a lot more empathy for him and what he had to do throughout the season. She's like, "now I understand what he was going through and how tough it really was."
Until you walk in their shoes — and very few people have had that experience of being the Bachelor or the Bachelorette — you really don't understand how difficult it is to have to say goodbye and break up week in and week out, especially as the numbers get smaller and families get involved and the overnight dates when it gets intimate. It gets very difficult. Throughout the season, JoJo kept telling me on and off camera how she gained even more respect for Ben handling it the way he did now that she understands. Because she hated it. She hated the rose ceremonies. They all do, they're not fun. But she had a particularly tough time with it.
Will Ben or Lauren show up this season?
They don't. Ben does not make an appearance this season. It would be incredibly awkward for her ex-boyfriend to show up. That would be a weird addition to the show. There are some familiar faces that show up to lend a hand to JoJo, but not her ex-boyfriend from last season.
There are some real characters this season. Who should we watch out for? Who are your picks for people to watch?
Well, you gotta watch out for Santa Claus. Anytime Santa Claus comes in, you figure he's got a leg up, right? He's the jolliest, happiest, most giving human being that we know, so right there he's at a huge advantage.
Night one is always a special, interesting night, and if anyone understands about giving anybody a little break and some leeway on night one it's JoJo, who got out of the limo with a unicorn head on. Since Ben not only kept her around but she then went as far as she did, she understands that night one shouldn't make or break you. As far as somebody of interest, I was wondering who would take the unicorn theme and make the best of it, and the guy that rode up on an actual — well, not an actual, but a horse dressed up as a unicorn, if he pulled off an actual unicorn, that would have been impressive — but the guy who rode up on a horse with a unicorn horn on was pretty cool.
Earlier this year, the president of ABC Entertainment said that there was going to be more diversity on The Bachelorette this season, and it kind of seemed that one point during The Bachelor last season that Caila, who is biracial, was being set up to be the next Bachelorette. Did I interpret that incorrectly? Can you speak about this at all?
Not really, because I don't know what the higher-ups plan on and what they want. All I can tell you is it was such a no-brainer to have JoJo as our Bachelorette. Caila's wonderful, by the way. Love her to death. Maybe she would have been a great Bachelorette, but to me, the way Bachelor Nation, our fans, responded to JoJo last season, it really was just a no-brainer. There was no other choice but to go with JoJo. I know the president and the executives are talking about more diversity not just on The Bachelor but throughout the industry, and that's a wonderful thing, and it's a debate and a conversation that will continue and it should continue.
But at the end of the day, I also think that just the right decision and a good decision needs to be made, and there's a difference. I hope that while a conversation is had, that will never preclude anybody from just making the right decision. And JoJo was the right decision. And I hope that we would never get a point in any business where you would stop from just making the best choice. And she was.
The Bachelorette premieres Monday, May 23 at 9/8c on ABC.