In a guest column for Hollywood Reporter, Evan Bass is coming forward to defend Bachelor in Paradise on which he fell in love and got engaged to Carly Waddell during the summer of 2016.
“Bachelor in Paradise is my show. It’s my jam. Personal redemption, lifelong friends and the woman of my dreams are just a few of the many takeaways I found living on set for weeks. When the news about Paradise production broke the internet, it also broke my heart. While to some it’s a silly TV show, for me, it was an experience that changed my life in unimaginable ways. I am troubled thinking about the allegations happening on my favorite beach, and I’m sad that some couples will not have the opportunity to find love in a powerful and unique way. I can’t help but think about [season-one couple] Jade and Tanner [Tolbert], the fast-approaching birth of their baby and how that beautiful family wouldn’t exist without Paradise. And for me, I will be forever grateful to Paradise for guiding me to an incredible stepmother to my own children.
Family creation aside, I’m equally disturbed by the way the production of the show is being portrayed. At first I wanted to stay quiet and let the dust settle before speaking out, but as the show has come under more sensationalized hostility and more unnamed “sources” speak out, I feel compelled to share my experiences with the show and its production team. Between Carly and I, we’ve appeared on five Bachelor-themed series, including appearances on the entire seasons of BIP two and three. So we know how this show works, why it works, and I’m going to tell you why ABC should keep the show.
Since I wasn’t involved and have no firsthand knowledge of the situation, I want to share my Paradise experience. When I first got the call to do Paradise, I was extremely nervous about joining the cast because of how terrible I came across on JoJo’s season of The Bachelorette. I felt kind of stupid about my behavior, and most of Bachelor Nation thought I was strange, to put it mildly. I avoided Twitter because I was constantly being trolled, and it honestly hurt a bunch. But I decided that if there was a chance I could find redemption, and maybe even love, that it was worth it. My heart was so ready to find a partner.
I found a clear headspace on Paradise where I was able to (after some ambulance theatrics) win the heart of a beautiful, smart and wildly amazing woman. The castmembers who get the most out of the experience are the ones who treat it as therapy.
I can’t talk too much about our contracts with the show, but let me say this: It’s very, very clear that, as contestants, our actions and words are our responsibility, including alcohol consumption. But in reality, the producers are always there to help when things get fuzzy.
It’s common knowledge that there is alcohol on the show. But what I want people to know is that my friends and I were never once prodded or forced to drink alcohol. Hell, the furthest production goes is asking what type of beverage you’d like. And saying “water” is a perfectly fine response. Alcohol is treated with the respect it deserves, and sometimes contestants are asked to stop. In fact, I wasn’t allowed to drink for two weeks because of medication I was taking, and although I badly wanted a glass of wine for rose ceremonies, the staff would come running from all directions to stop me when I tried to sneak a sip or order a drink. I’ve watched staff and producers stop many situations before they became a problem, even at the expense of making “great TV.” Their interventions were not only beneficial, but also truly assisted in my process of finding love.
There are many amazing people on staff to assist us when we were doing something stupid, but Chris Harrison and [bartender] Jorge are truly great men. Jorge and Chris Harrison, like the producers, have two goals: to reveal character and assist in finding love — great TV naturally follows both of those things. The cast grows very close with the producers. There are hours and hours of unaired interviews where we talk about heart and soul issues.
The producers helped guide me to a place where I was able to break down the barrier of my heart that “I wasn’t good enough for Carly”… and “I’m not good enough for love.” I had deep wounds in my heart, and — I’m crying as I’m writing this — they helped me heal. And that’s what they do — help us navigate feelings and make decisions that are in line with our values when we get stuck. They are always watching and always approachable for us when we need them. The producers I know would never allow someone to do something against their will or get to a place where something bad would occur. That’s what makes this situation so tough. I know this cast and the production staff so well, I find this alleged situation unimaginable.
On the other hand, I think we are all glad the production staff, ABC and Warner Bros. are taking it seriously. I know for a fact that no one on the show would want anyone to be violated in any way for ratings. I don’t know DeMario [Jackson], but the cast members I’ve spoken to that have gotten to know him say he’s a good guy. I just don’t believe that he thought he was hurting Corinne or that he knew she wasn’t able to give consent. But that’s where all men can learn. Getting approval not just once but multiple times is the right thing and should become our society’s norm. And I think the show is doing that by shutting down production to ensure they’ve done everything they can do to guarantee safety.
Another thing I often hear people trying to discredit the show say is, “There’s no way you can find love in a matter of weeks.” or “How could you really find love in a month?” Well, it’s quite amazing, actually. We spend all day, everyday with our fellow cast mates. In a “real life” dating situation, you go on a date for a few hours, text a bit, maybe set up another date a few days later, and you do that for a few months. So Paradise condenses it. You quickly find out almost everything about a potential match, especially the important stuff.
There is no “ghosting” or hiding behind phones. But really, you watch how people interact with others, what pisses them off, how they respond to pressure, even what foods they like. It was adorable watching Carly order avocado, eggs and a black coffee every single morning. Spending quality time with others is a lost art to the game of texting, but Paradise brings back QT. Carly and I sat on a beach for weeks talking. At first I creeped her out, but because of the time allowed to just hang after she friend-zoned me, she came to realize that she not only liked my flavor of creepiness, but wanted to marry it as well!
I’m sure people will say I drank the Paradise Kool-Aid, got paid to write nice things — which I didn’t — or whatever, but I truly believe in the show and its production staff. They are all good people who work harder than anyone I’ve ever met and are genuinely fighting for love, and a great story. I believe I have one of the most epic love stories of any reality TV love, and I don’t want these stories to end.
I’ve received countless tweets and comments that Carly and I have strengthened relationships because couples identify with us. One girl said she was able to find love because her guy “is a lot like you, Evan.” She ended up giving him a chance, and now they’re happy. Reading the awesome comments and watching the very real positive outcomes people have from watching make me happy.
And Paradise must come back, if not this season, then next season. I want to watch love form and grow on ABC Mondays and Tuesdays. I want to watch the next steady Jade and Tanner and also the next roller-coaster relationship like I had. Love always wins, and I trust in Paradise.”