'Bachelorette': ABC Exec Weighs In on Premiere, Arie's Claims and Garrett's Instagram Controversy (Exclusive)
By Lauren Zima
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The Bachelorette is back, and the week surrounding Becca Kufrin's season premiere has already brought plenty of drama! Her infamous Bachelor ex, Arie Luyendyk Jr., went on TV to announce his wedding date to his new fiance, Lauren Burnham, just days before the first episode aired. Plus, a scandal has arisen over a frontrunner, Garrett Y., allegedly liking offensive posts on Instagram.
We got on the phone with Robert Mills, ABC's Senior Vice President of Alternative Series, Specials and Late-Night Programming, to break it all down and find out what else fans can expect.
ET: When approaching Becca's premiere, how much did you want Arie to be part of the premiere vs. not? Obviously, Becca is here after dating him, but he was a very controversial Bachelor.
RM: The key to it is to not ignore that Arie was directly the last lead, [but] you don't want to do too much, because this is about moving forward. Honestly, it's really about the new crop of guys and getting to know them because these are the guys you're going to be invested with, not only on this season, but in Bachelor in Paradise and potentially the next Bachelor. ... You saw in the [season] super-tease, there's a two-on-one where a guy says, 'You're worse than Arie.' And you also will see there's a point where Becca is emotionally rocked by something one of the contestants does, and she says, 'I feel like I did when Arie did this.'
Arie and Lauren went on The View and announced their wedding date, and a lot of people were talking about the timing of that, because it was just a few days before Becca's premiere. Were you guys involved in setting up that interview and that announcement?
We were not involved in any of that. I found out about it the same way most people did, by watching The View. So we weren't involved. I will say, knowing Arie personally ... sometimes Arie does things that are questionable ... maybe that's not the smartest thing to do. But he's certainly not a malicious person. I don't think it was 'Geez, how can I ruin Becca's premiere. Oh I know, I'm going to announce my wedding date five days before it!' ... Maybe it was right before the Indy 500 and he knew he was going to be there. I don't know what it was. I'm sure it was some ridiculous reason, but I know it was not to hurt Becca.
They also said their wedding won't be televised. Was there ever a discussion to televise it?
No. They announced it; they didn't say to us, 'Are you guys interested? We want to get married.' They announced it themselves. I'm sure they have their reasons, which are completely understandable. ... There was never a chance to have a discussion, because they announced it on The View.
In a recent interview, Chris Harrison called Arie a knucklehead. Do you sometimes learn of his choices, and want to say to him, 'Hey, next time maybe call me, and let's talk this out'?
I think Arie just, you know, his heart is definitely a little bigger than his brain sometimes. Why he was such a good Bachelor and why people really loved him on Emily Maynard's season [of The Bachelorette is because this is a guy who loves with his whole heart, even if he's going to get destroyed, like he did by Emily. ... He acted that same way as the Bachelor, and I think he got an unfair, kind of bad rap for some of it.
Arie also claimed in a new interview with GQ that his breakup with Becca, which was touted as "unedited," was actually "edited." He says he considers it "edited" because producers were nearby, advising him to stay and keep talking to Becca. How do you respond to that?
There was nothing done that hasn’t been done on any other season. I have to say in production and the producers’ defense, if this was so unorthodox and felt so wrong, why didn’t Arie say [something]? It’s unedited. You don’t see a cut anywhere. So why didn’t Arie say, ‘No, I don’t want to do this. This isn’t right. You’re making me doing something I don’t want to do. You’re forcing me to do this. I don’t want to do this.’ It’s like blaming a bartender on getting drunk. … There was no point where Arie said, ‘No, this isn’t what I want to do. You’re forcing me to do this.’”
There is also some controversy surrounding Garrett, who Becca gave her first impression rose to. Screenshots surfaced to do with an alleged Instagram account of his. What social media advice, if any, is given to contestants? Are they given any rules?
I don't think they're given rules, and obviously, we are not blind to the fact that there's been social media issues starting with Lee [Garrett] last summer. We've made a really really big effort to make sure things like that don't happen, and we start scrubbing social media accounts. ... In the case of the Garrett thing, first of all, like you said, it's an alleged account, and it's likes, it's not things he's actually posted, which are things you actually can't scrub for unless the person has a certain number of followers. ... Obviously, we want to know every single possible thing about these contestants. So we're working harder. I mean, it is such a new frontier, social media, and I think it's important for us to really be on top of this stuff, and certainly, we never want a situation like what happened last year with Lee to ever happen again. ... We are here telling everybody we are putting the best men and women forward for the lead to date, so I think we want to make sure we are absolutely doing that.
Do you know if that was an account of his, 'liking' those controversial posts?
It is starting to be looked into, and addressed, but I don't think anything has been definitive yet. ... It's kind of hard to do anything now when the show has been shot, but I think that we will certainly look into how we would address this on the show once we get all the facts.
Which guys do you think fans should keep an eye on this season?
Jordan I remember from the minute he came into casting... he has such an interesting philosophy about life that I find fascinating. ... We made a really, really conscientious effort to make sure these are real people and even people that say, 'Oh, Jordan is kind of ridiculous, he's a male model,' I mean, he really does believe these things and there is more depth to him than would appear. ... I love Leo, who I think is sort of a very different person than we've had on the show. Wills is somebody you really should look out for ... he's a really sort of dynamic, charismatic and really stylish guy. David, who was the chicken suit man, is somebody who was actually able to overcome the stigma of appearing night one in costume, and really becomes a really three-dimensional guy for Becca. I think you're going to see a very interesting thing with Clay, the very gentle giant football player. His story takes a turn the next few weeks. But really, really a sweet guy.
What excites you most about Becca's journey overall?
Both with Arie's season and now this season, the casts have been really fantastic, in terms of diversity, both ethnically, but also in terms of personality types. ... But what I'm really excited about is how dynamic she is as a lead. ... She's one of the first ones I've seen that nine times out of 10 does everything that you're shouting at her on the TV to do!
The Bachelorette airs Mondays at 8 p.m. ET on ABC. Keep up on all the drama with ET's Bachelor Nation recap, Roses and Rose.