The internet may be freaking out over ABC's announcement that Arie Luyendyk Jr. is the next Bachelor, but the network's executives aren't sweating it.
"The timing seems right," Robert Mills, ABC's Senior Vice President of Alternative Series, Specials & Late-Night Programming, told ET's Lauren Zima over the phone on Thursday. "He's incredibly sincere. He's dated a lot of women since Emily [Maynard], but he says he's never been in love since Emily, and that's a really interesting story to try to bring to completion this season on The Bachelor."
So why wasn't Luyendyk given the opportunity to complete his Bachelor journey sooner after his appearance on Maynard's 2012 season of The Bachelorette? Well, Mills says the timing was right for her third runner-up, Sean Lowe (and then Juan Pablo Galavis, Chris Soules, Ben Higgins and Nick Viall).
Luyendyk's appointment as Bachelor No. 22 seemed out of left field for many fans counting on another frontrunner, Peter Kraus from Rachel Lindsay's season of The Bachelorette, but as Mills explained, it was again all about timing -- and Kraus simply wasn't "100 percent ready" for the job.
Read ET's Q&A with Mills below:
ET: Why was Arie Luyendyk the pick this season?
Robert Mills: He was the pick because we met with him, like we do every season, we met with several guys, and it's really about timing. I mean, I could make a case for almost every guy we meet with, and some years it's right, some years it's not. Arie is somebody we actually talked to all the way back, you know, when he was the runner-up on Emily's season. And, you know, I don't think the right time was then. This year, we met with Arie, and he's really built a life for himself in Arizona. He still does the race car driving thing, but he's also built a very big business in real estate. He has a life now to share with somebody, and the timing seems right.
So will that be his compelling narrative, that he has still never been in love?
I think that will definitely be his compelling narrative, that he has not been in love since Emily, that he truly was in love with Emily. We're going to try to get his season out there for people to see, and there was something on After the Final Rose, where he said he's gone to Emily's house afterwards -- we had never seen before -- and it wasn't like, "Oh, let me have the cameras come in" -- he went by himself without telling anybody, and saw her and met with her. He really was head over heels in love with this woman. I mean, he realizes that she's married and he's happy for her. You know, she's about to have her third kid with her new husband. So he's happy for her, but it's been hard getting over it.
Peter was very much a fan favorite and considered a frontrunner. What happened with Peter? We heard that he was the pick as recently as last week.
Peter was absolutely in discussion. He sort of alluded to that as well. I think at this point in his life, the breakup with Rachel was still very raw. Sometimes you move on very quickly, sometimes you don't. I think that, for him, there were still residual feelings there, and it was a very real breakup. They all are, but this was tough. I think the finale, when that aired and everything after that was also hard on Peter. I think he just didn't know. I think Peter probably would have done it and been an amazing Bachelor, but I also don't know if he, himself, knew if this was the time when he was ready to really do this 100 percent. I think we'll always be in touch with Peter, and there might be a time... It might be a year from now, when it's better for him. It was all about timing. If Arie wasn't ready, we would have looked at him, but we want it to feel right. Peter was an incredible fan favorite, which I think was great, but I also think the double-edged sword with that is, if it's not the season that the fans want, which, you know, might have been if Peter might not have been ready to commit 100 percent, that's also disappointing, and it would have been disappointing for Peter too.
At the end of the day, was that the problem, that he wasn't ready to make the proposal?
I think it was just both sides saying, "You know what? It's not 100 percent right. Let's wait and do this when it's 100 percent right." We develop real feelings and relationships for these guys. It's hard. I personally love him, and I hope The Bachelor or another Bachelor option, something, we do something with Peter down the road, because he's a great guy. And that came through on his season of The Bachelorette, why so many people like him.
It sounds like you ended on good terms with him then.
Why not someone from a more recent season? What's the goal with a throwback contestant as the Bachelor?
It wasn't by design. It was simply, Arie is in the right place in his life to find somebody. He really has a life to go back to. He wants kids. He wants what Emily has. He's in that place. We talked to people, we talked about people from Rachel's season, from JoJo's season. I don't think there was anyone who was as ready for this as Arie is.
As with any Bachelor announcement, there's been some backlash on Twitter. Are you seeing more than usual? How do you respond to it?
What we are seeing is more passion for this announcement than ever. I've seen a ton of "I haven't been this excited in forever," "This feels like a real throwback Bachelor," "This is a real man," and then a lot for "I'll never watch the show again," "How can you do this to us?" and they're both great reactions, to be honest. Certainly, I'd imagine whether you love or hate this decision, if you care enough to weigh in, you're going to at least watch the beginning, and that's all we can ask, and it's on us to make a great season that keeps you there, and hopefully by word of mouth it brings new people in. I've worked on seasons, we're talking over 10 years ago, where nobody cared, and apathy is the worst thing for any TV show, but certainly for this one. I'm glad that people care. I think the great thing with Arie is he has a great sense of humor... If you hate Arie, you say, "He's a lesser version of Peter," or "Oh my god, he's old. I don't remember him. He's got gray hair!" He's going to take that in stride. He gets it. He's in on the joke, so I think that's going to serve him well as the Bachelor.
How quickly were you able to make the decision on Arie?
We can move pretty nimbly. This came together quick. Like any contestant on any reality TV show, he passed all his background checks and everything else. He's an upstanding citizen. All the right people were in the room when we met with him and we all deemed him sincere, and he's easy on the eyes and charming, and the decision can be made quickly when it all comes together like that.
Casting had been under way for a while. Now that you have Arie on the table, will casting change at all?
At the end of the day, the goal is always the same, which is for them to find their person. You're going to see with Arie, he's very similar to Nick. They're open to everybody, so you'll see the same diversity as the last few cycles. What is good is when you make an announcement like today, that people are coming out of the woodwork to try to date him, so we're vetting people very quickly. There's a lot of people who assumed it might be Peter, and their age range is somewhat similar. There's a lot of similarities between Peter and Arie, so I think a lot of thew women who applied are going to be happy with Arie. So it's going to be great.
Do you see people who when they find out who the Bachelor is, say that they actually don't want to do the show?
You do see some fallout, yes, absolutely. That's why we like to get [the announcement] out as early as possible. You don't want someone who doesn't know or want the Bachelor. Part of the reason it's gotten so much better when we use people from past cycles is that before they were just meeting them cold the first night. A lot of times it wouldn't work because they were feigning interest. So this season is going to be much more real. I think that's why you see the couples last much more.
How will you educate fans on who Arie is?
We'll hopefully put Emily's season online, so people can watch the whole season. If you want to know who Arie is, all you have to do is watch that season. We have a lot of great material we'll get out socially. He'll do all the press that our Bachelors do on GMA, Kelly and Ryan, Ellen. They'll know Arie well by the time the premiere airs.
One word to describe Arie?
I'm really torn between dreamy and sincere. He's sincerely dreamy.