Rob Mills spoke with ET about all things Clare and Tayshia -- and even teased Matt James' upcoming season of 'The Bachelor.'
Tayshia Adams has officially started her run as the newest Bachelorette, continuing season 16 after Clare Crawley's unprecedented decision to end her time on the show early and get engaged to frontrunner Dale Moss.
Tuesday's new episode of The Bachelorette saw Tayshia officially kick things off, meeting the guys -- 16 of whom stayed from Clare's season, plus four newcomers -- and going on her first dates. And with a new Bachelorette comes plenty of new drama, with the promise of competition, romance and tears. Tayshia herself told ET that she fell in love with "multiple men" over the course of her season.
While the major lead switch has finally been revealed, Bachelor Nation fans are eagerly following along -- the show won the night in the ratings with an average of 5.3 million viewers over its two hours -- and still have plenty of questions: How was the choice made to bring Tayshia in? What's up with the new guys? Will this be the first season in the history of The Bachelorette to feature two proposals?
ET's Lauren Zima spoke with Rob Mills, ABC’s Senior Vice President of Alternative Series, Specials & Late-Night Programming, about how the team behind the show pulled off changing its lead two weeks into production -- which was filmed on lockdown at the La Quinta Resort & Club in Palm Springs, California, amid the coronavirus pandemic -- and what Tayshia’s season will look like from here.
Read on for all the answers to your biggest Bachelorette (and Bachelor) questions!
ET: We know you've talked to Tayshia in the past about being the Bachelorette, but people like Tia Booth have also been under consideration. Why was Tayshia the right choice to bring in when you started to see how things were going with Clare?
Rob Mills: It happened really quickly. I was there [on set] for the first two episodes and then had left... by the time the producers had called me, they had picked Tayshia. I think it was the right choice, really, because of the group of guys there. She just seemed to be the one that was the most suited.
There were also some practical things like, Tayshia was in the area -- she's in Orange County, the show is shooting in Palm Springs. She could get up there quickly.
At the end of the day, all the women we've been considering to be the Bachelorette were being considered because they would be great Bachelorettes, so it's not necessarily that she was better than this one or that, but I will say, if you are going to bring someone in to console 16 broken hearts because Clare just left, I don't know if you could do much better than Tayshia.
Due to the pandemic shutdown, you had some extra time to cast Clare's men, 16 of whom remained for the beginning of Tayshia's season. What is it about these guys that you thought made them a good fit for Tayshia as well?
I think because they were aged up a little bit, both due to Clare's age and also a conscious effort from us to get people who were a little more into their adult life and maybe more ready to settle down. And I think that's really where Tayshia is. She's older, she knows what she wants, she's been through a marriage before -- so she's ready. She's ready, these guys are ready, and that seemed to make it the ideal fit.
We also saw more from Clare and Dale last night -- we got sort of an After the Final Rose sit-down with Chris Harrison, where we learned that Clare is ready for babies! Bachelor Nation went wild over that sound bite. As someone who's known Clare throughout this process, can you tell me about the reaction to that?
I think that, with anything with Clare, she's definitely -- as we've seen through her tenure as the Bachelorette -- she is definitely not traditional. She knows what she wants. Who says that marriage has to come before babies?
Well, last night, Dale did.
Dale did, but that's not a rule. That's what Dale thinks. And they'll work it out themselves. But it's not that that's a societal rule that's set in stone. Maybe they'll get married tonight and they'll start having babies. I think they both are aligned in [wanting] that, and no matter what the order, it'll come very quickly.
Just to clarify the timeline here, when was this Clare and Dale interview filmed? We'd seen pictures of Clare in the red dress on set with Chris Harrison.
Yeah, this was at La Quinta. This was pretty close to filming, this was not filmed a week ago.
So, is there a possibility that Clare Crawley is pregnant right now? We haven't had a Bachelorette baby in a while!
If she is, she hasn't confided in me. You're asking the wrong person. But we can certainly find out, we can catch up with Clare. When Clare is ready to make that announcement, she'll let everybody know. I think everyone in Bachelor Nation would be overjoyed. God knows, it would be a gorgeous baby.
In their interview, Dale certainly never disagreed with Clare's plans, but she seemed to be the one leading the charge and most excited about marriage and babies happening sooner than later. Twitter had some opinions on their dynamic, and as a couple, they insist that they're so happy and so in love. Do you have thoughts on how their energies match up in that regard?
I think it's funny that you use the term "energies," because I think that they probably balance themselves out pretty well. Clare, as we all know, is a really passionate person. She's great, she's funny, she's emotional. And Dale -- I think the anecdote she told about him pacing around the pool with her, that he came out and just knows enough to be strong and there for her. You get the sense that's never happened for her before, and that's really what she was looking for.
It sort of confirms her instincts were right -- there was this chemistry that hit like a thunderbolt, but this was the person that could be that rock for her. And I think of what we saw of Dale on the show when he wasn't with Clare, that is kind of his personality. He's just very strong and stoic, and I think that's sort of how he was. You can read anything into a freeze frame of an interview, but I think that's sort of who he is, and he's emotional in his own way about how happy he is with Clare.
We've also seen more of Clare's amazing engagement ring, and we know Chris Harrison had to FaceTime with Neil Lane to get the ring to Palm Springs in time for the proposal. How did you go about getting the perfect ring for Clare under that time crunch -- because she seems to love it!
I think, to be fair, anyone would love that ring. It's a great ring. There really wasn't time for that. This was thrown together -- and you have to remember [we were working on] parallel tracks. We're trying to figure out how we're gonna restart with Tayshia, as well as get Clare the proposal she deserves. Because she's done exactly what she set out to do, and deserves that magical moment. So it all came together quickly. Securing the ring, it was just about getting the nicest ring that you can, and they certainly succeeded.
The fans were definitely impressed. It might be the nicest ring in the history of Bachelor Nation!
Yeah, I mean, ironically, Neil wasn't there with 15 rings to choose from -- which probably worked in her favor.
Can you tell me more about the decision to have Clare and Dale's interview air this week instead of the traditional AFR at the end of the season?
Who knows when the perfect time was. I mean, I watched it last night and thought, "Gosh, should we have just done this after the proposal last week?" I don't really know if there was a perfect time. I think the season ends with Tayshia, and we always sort of play with the format… It was really about, we're still kind of wrapped up in this.
Chris astutely anticipated all the things people would be wondering about -- Had they been speaking? Had they been in touch? -- and he had talked to Clare about it, but he hadn't talked to Clare and Dale. So I think just getting that out as early as possible seemed like the right thing to do.
You guys had to do so much just to produce this season during the pandemic, and then swapping out leads midseason is even more added to the plate. Even down to something like wardrobe, which stylist Cary Fetman is usually prepping for weeks in advance, how was that wrangled at the last minute? Is Tayshia wearing things that were intended for Clare?
No, he had time, because she was quarantining for a little bit. So he had some time to do all that. But you're absolutely right, it speaks to how quick-moving everyone was. And I actually think this is the one thing where the location, being in the bubble, worked in everyone's favor. It wasn't as hard to pivot as opposed to … getting a new lead in and we have to travel.
Imagine how hard this would have been if we'd already left: Clare's in Europe and she decides Dale's her guy and this is it? Then we've gotta get Tayshia out, on an overnight flight, and Cary's gotta get a new wardrobe and all these things. It was difficult, but I think some of these things worked in the show's favor to make it doable.
Tayshia told us that she was at La Quinta shortly after receiving the call. So how long was she at the resort before she started filming?
I don't remember the specifics, but it wasn't terribly long...Clare and Dale went on their one-on-one and had their proposal, and then the show shut down for a couple of days and then Tayshia started right away.
On Tuesday's episode, we saw four new guys that joined the 16 suitors left over from Clare's group. Were these guys that had been previously cast? Were they also quarantining at the resort?
Yeah, these were guys who were sort of in the hopper and ready to go, and came in and then quarantined. There's a lot of guys who either don't make the show for various reasons or we've met through casting before, and these four seemed perfect for Tayshia. And they certainly made a splash last night.
There was a bit of deja vu at one point -- Tayshia started saying, after her one-on-one date with Brendan, that she could see herself marrying him, that she could walk away right now. Were you guys at all worried that you might have another Clare situation?
No, I think it was pretty clear with Tayshia, that she was definitely going to sort of take her time. She had just gotten there… everyone was pretty confident that she was going to give these other guys a shot. But there definitely was that instant chemistry with Brendan, absolutely.
Maybe it was more daydreaming as compared to Clare's instant certainty that she'd met her husband?
Yeah, I think so. You'll see, JoJo [Fletcher] will be on later in the season, and she has a heart-to-heart with Tayshia. I think before Clare and Dale, that was one season that was pointed to, where it was just Jordan's from night one to the end. And as we saw, that was clearly the person for JoJo, I mean, that was perfect. But she sort of says to [Tayshia], "Look, even if you think you know, make sure you know."
With Clare and Dale, that was different. I don't know if we'll ever see something like that again. But I think Tayshia knows to definitely make sure she gets to know these guys.
Now, in this promo we got last week, we saw a shot of Tayshia in a white dress standing alone in a desert -- which certainly looks like a proposal moment! What can you tease for us as far as what's to come for her this season?
What you're going to see is that classic Bachelor and Bachelorette dilemma, where they really fall in love with multiple people. And it gets really, really hard.
What the sentiment has been this season is, how much everyone loves these guys. It's simultaneously so great and so heartening to see love form with Tayshia -- who everyone is rooting for -- to see these connections happen and see her find love. But then, it's really, really difficult to see these guys get heartbroken. And Tayshia, on some level, too.
Tayshia's first night felt like a breath of fresh air, and like a return to the Bachelorette formula we all know and love. She even canceled the rose ceremony to let all the guys relax and not stress out about getting sent home. Was that a conscious decision by producers to give the guys a break and return to form?
I think every lead sort of dictates what their season is going to be like… I think that Tayshia very much wanted a straightforward season. As did Clare, by the way. But what was so great, and I think what this franchise does, at its best, is, everybody wants to find love and everybody wants to hope that there is love. And this sort of affirmed that yes, love at first sight, maybe it's a rare thing, but it is a real thing. And I think that's what was great about that.
With Tayshia, it is more straightforward, but just as great. I think you're right, everybody wants to see that. If we have things that have never happened before on the show, that can get exhausting. I think it is nice to have sort of a straightforward time watching Tayshia fall in love with many men.
You guys deliver an unprecedented show every season, but this year was something else entirely. What did this pandemic lockdown season teach you about making the show? What were the takeaways for the future?
I think the biggest takeaway is just, as great as all the bells and whistles are, we always see that our highest ratings are normally when it's Chris Harrison, our lead and whoever they chose and whoever they broke up with in the After the Final Rose special. That's the simplest form of TV, but because it's so real and so dramatic, you realize that's what people want to see.
This season, there were so many limited options. There wasn't travel -- plus, the next Bachelor was already chosen at this point, so there wasn't looking for who was gonna be the next Bachelor. What I think was really great here was, it just got back down to really the human emotion and the human drama. I think making sure that's always top of mind is definitely a good lesson for the future.
Will we be getting a Men Tell All special for the guys this season?
We will get a Men Tell All. It will be a different type of Men Tell All, there won't be an audience, but we will get to follow up with the guys. This group of guys was too good not to.
Finally, we know filming for Matt James' season of The Bachelor is currently underway. How's that going so far?
Matt's season is going fantastic. I think it's going to give everybody everything they wanted to see. There's a ton of laughs. There's a ton of tears. There's a ton of drama.
This is very different. He didn't come from a season of The Bachelorette or something else, so this was all foreign territory for him. He's a little bit different than you're used to seeing, but he is incredibly sincere, he's just great.
I think you'll see Tyler pop up, maybe a little bit but not a lot. This is not "Tyler C. the Wingman" season, this is really Matt's journey, and I think it's important we see that it's really just Matt.
The Bachelorette airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. PT/ET on ABC. See more from this season in the video below.