Chris Harrison Says 'Bachelor' Matt James Was 'Stripped Naked Emotionally' on the Show (Exclusive)
By Jennifer Drysdale
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Bachelor Nation doesn't know much about Matt James -- but they do know he's never been in love. The 29-year-old made that confession in the first promo for his upcoming season of The Bachelor, and according to Chris Harrison, it's the first of many reveals.
"You all see a certain side of him on social media. There is so much more," Chris told ET's Lauren Zima. "You're seeing the 5% of the iceberg. There is so much depth, there is so many layers to this man that you're going to get to know, good and bad."
"There's just stuff in his past, in is family," he hinted. "We all have baggage that has made us who we are. There is baggage that has made Matt the man he is. He's a great man, but there are things that he's going to have to get past, some hurdles he will have to clear, before he can find that happily ever after."
Matt was announced as the next Bachelor in June -- making him the franchise's first Black male lead. He's also the first Bachelor in 12 years to be cast without previously appearing on The Bachelorette; Matt was supposed to be a contestant on Clare Crawley's season of The Bachelorette, but ABC cast him as Bachelor amid the show's production delay due to coronavirus.
"There's good and bad to it," Chris said of having a lead who was unfamiliar with the franchise. (Apparently, Matt didn't even watch BFF Tyler Cameron on The Bachelorette!). "Overall it was great, because it was endearing. There were these genuine moments where he was so excited, it was like Christmas morning. He was like, 'Oh, I get to do this? There's a group date? What's a group date?'"
"But then at the same time, there were these moments where we're moving at 1000 miles per hour -- like we do -- and he would stop and be like, 'Guys, what are arrivals? What's the rose ceremony? What do I do?'... We had to step back a little bit and really carry him, but overall, there was this genuine excitement because it was so new."
Viewers will get to know Matt on Jan. 4 -- and go deep. Chris likened Matt's journey to that of Ben Higgins in 2016, sharing that the new lead was "stripped naked emotionally."
"There is a lot of depth and a lot of issues that we have to get over," he shared. "I was trying to think of another Bachelor, maybe like a Ben Higgins of a guy that went on this journey and all of the sudden kind of got stripped naked emotionally and realized, 'Wow, there are a lot of things I have to deal with in my life to get to where I want to be in a relationship.'"
As for that reveal about never having been in love, Chris said it's a little complicated.
"Matt, he didn't realize until he was the Bachelor that the words he was saying didn't have the meaning that he wanted them to have," he explained. "He said, 'I love you' before, he thought he had been in love, but when you dive into this, it really does strip you down."
"It really takes you to places in your emotions you've never been before, and I think Matt realized, 'Wow, I really have never felt this before.' So it is a wild ride. And if I do my job correctly, I will fix it," he teased. "Do I? We'll see."
Chris also teased that the 32 women ABC announced on Friday aren't the only contestants vying for Matt's heart.
"Look, this is 2020, there are no rules, anything goes," he shared. "But in all seriousness, this goes back to we had a record number of people trying to get on this show and 32 wasn't enough. We had so many, we thought, 'OK, let's just try this. Let's just get more and more.'"
"And then there was a single woman from our Bachelor family that wanted a shot to find love, and you'll see it play out in a very different, interesting moment unlike anything we have seen before," he added.
Matt's season of The Bachelor premieres Monday, Jan. 4 at 8 p.m. ET/PT on ABC. In the meantime, Tayshia Adams' journey as The Bachelorette continues, airing Mondays and Tuesdays at 8 p.m. ET/PT on ABC.