In the Bachelorfranchise, there are always fan favorites. But being beloved by Bachelor Nation doesn’t necessarily equal being cast as the next Bachelor or Bachelorette. Recall Hannah Godwin and Caelynn Miller-Keyes, who despite strong followings, were both passed on as Bachelorette for season 15 in favor of Hannah Brown. Before that, Colton Underwood was chosen as Bachelor from Becca Kufrin’s Bachelorette season over the largely adored Jason Tartick and Blake Horstmann.
Fan support can be seen most evidently on social media, but casting the lead is about more than just who’s amassing Instagram followers and trending on Twitter. The chosen man or woman needs to have a good story (read: Underwood was a 26-year-old virgin), be genuine and compelling on camera (read: every moment with Hannah Brown) and, presumably, be solid to work with behind the scenes for production.
Still, the fandom this season surrounding runner-up Tyler Cameron has felt especially strong. At press time, Cameron had hit 1.8 million Instagram followers, surpassing some former franchise leads on the platform. He’s grown in popularity largely because of his “respectful king” status: all season, he championed Brown as an independent woman and declared he was happy to be her cheerleader. Plus, he’s… literally a model.
“He really was sort of a different type of character,” admits Rob Mills, ABC Entertainment’s Senior Vice President, Alternative Series, Specials & Late-Night Programming. “He was really a woke hunk. He was fantastic. … I will say, yes, I'm hard pressed to find somebody that has that much [fandom]. … There's not even the, ‘Yeah, he's just not my cup of tea.’ He seems to be everybody's cup of tea.”
But then, after Brown’s split from fiance Jed Wyatt was revealed during the season’s live finale, the Alabama native asked her runner-up out for a drink. Some fans cheered -- yes, Hannah and Tyler, together again! -- others cried. They were ready for Bachelor 2020: Tyler Cameron.
On Wednesday morning, just hours after that on-stage invite for drinks, Brown told ET how real the possibility of a relationship reconciliation was. “We saw each other after the show and gave each other hugs and, ‘See you later,’ and we'll figure out when's a good time for both of us to hang out,” she explained. “[Our relationship] has only been two months ago and so my feelings don't just go away, but also we've both been hurt. I hurt him, I was hurt through that, and I was hurt through the relationship that I had. I think it's really important that if any type of relationship is going to happen for Tyler and I that we hang out, and just see where we’re at. And if that’s friends, [or] if that’s more, than I’m good with that.”
On Instagram, Cameron shared a message to Brown: “This journey with you is something that I will always cherish,” he wrote in part. “I am so grateful for all the experiences that we shared together … As one chapter closes, another one begins. The world is yours girl! Excited to see what you do with it. Looking forward to that drink.”
Some of the Florida native’s 1.8 million followers interpreted the caption’s tone as fairly platonic, and maybe even final. Brown told ET if things don’t move forward with the pair romantically, she would support Cameron as Bachelor, though it would be “hard” for her to see.
Brown later took to Instagram too, writing, “He’s a really good man, and I’m going to be his biggest fan in whatever makes him the happiest.”
Mills says Cameron will “absolutely” still be a contender for Bachelor if he and Brown don’t reconcile. Per host Chris Harrison, the new Bachelor likely won’t be announced until sometime towards the end of the upcoming season of Bachelor in Paradise, which premieres Aug. 5 on ABC.
Other candidates certainly include Peter Weber and Mike Johnson. At this season’s The Bachelorette: Men Tell All taping, Harrison told ET, “We kind of have an embarrassment of riches. I throw it back to last season [of The Bachelor]. We had two Hannahs [Hannah Godwin and Hannah Brown]. I don't think we could have gone wrong. But we chose this Hannah for the type of television -- this type of story she was gonna give us. We will see what that turns out to be for Bachelor. I think it's going to be the same thing ... all of us in a room screaming for our favorite, fighting for our version of TV that we want to make.”
Bachelor in Paradise premieres Monday, Aug. 5 on ABC.