Season 20 of The Bachelor has kicked off and already Ben Higgins is proving why he’s the ideal candidate for the gig.
During the two-hour premiere, we met Ben’s parents in Indiana where we got a sneak peek at his Midwestern roots before he stood on that infamous stretch of pavement where he met the women who would vie for his affections. Among them was the eccentric Mandi, who inexplicably thought that wearing a giant rose on her head would be the way to Ben’s heart. There was also a set of twins, an adorable little horse, two women from Chris Soules’ season, and one kiss — followed by an aggressive attempt at a do-over. Through it all, Ben remained calm, charming, and confident, and as down-to-earth as seen during his run on Kaitlyn Bristowe’s season of The Bachelorette. So what does our favorite Rose Master have to say about Ben’s first night? Keep reading to find out which women viewers should keep an eye on, how Harrison feels about reaching a milestone season for the ABC reality series, and who got a “hall pass” from Ben. Plus, be sure to watch episode 1 of The Most Dramatic Bachelor Recap Ever in the video up top!
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Congratulations on making it to season 20! How does it feel?
CHRIS HARRISON: We’ve had 31 [total] seasons, but still there’s something iconic about getting to 20 of any particular show. It’s a huge honor. I’ve always felt blessed to be a part of this franchise, especially since just a few of us have been there since day 1 and from the very first limo, so it’s surreal and oddly emotional to think about. It doesn’t happen in this business no matter how great your show is — there’s usually a shelf life.
So let’s get to Ben! He seemed pretty perfect on Kaitlyn’s season of The Bachelorette. Will that change now that he’s the Bachelor?
He is a great guy, but you’ll see a lot more humanity and not by any means is he perfect. He’s dynamic and there’s also fragility there and some self-deprecating humor that really balances it out. So it won’t just be like, “Here’s the perfect guy looking for the perfect love.” There’s a lot more depth that you’ll see. If I had to pinpoint someone he reminds me of, it’s Sean … but with more vulnerability. In the same way that people fell in love with Sean as they got to know him better, that’s what’s going to happen with Ben. You didn’t get to see the whole picture of who he is and what he has to offer on The Bachelorette. I think [viewers will] think he’s pretty special.
How do you think he handled the first night?
I think he took it all very well. I think he wanted to be patient, but at the same time you can only be so patient when you have all those women vying for your attention and needing to make an impression and prove they’re the one. So maybe left to his own devices he’d be even more patient, but time is of the essence here.
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Lace certainly stood out as trying to make a big first impression. Are you surprised he kept her?
Ben was really careful the first night about giving everyone a hall pass. Lace came out a little aggressive, whether she had a few too many cocktails or not, but he gave her the benefit of the doubt.
What did you think when you learned Becca and Amber were returning?
I was torn and I’ll be honest I wasn’t sure I loved it on several levels. I thought Ben was so strong and has so much to offer that from a producer standpoint I didn’t want anything to take away from him. So I didn’t know if it was the right move. On the other hand, I really like these two women and they have a lot to offer as well. They’re kind and sincere; it’s not like we brought back the class clown or two controversial figures. They’re actually two of the more quiet [past contestants]! So that’s what swayed me.
What did Ben think?
Ben was very shocked and also blown away by the whole thing. But he knew who they were and I think he was glad they came in on the first night so they were on even footing rather than joining in the middle of the season. He [still] had to figure it out that night because it does change things and because they’ve been through this before and [especially Becca] went pretty far. So I think it was on Becca and Amber to set the stage and the women kind of let it go.
So who are the women to watch?
Olivia is obviously one to watch because she got the first impression rose. But also Amanda [who] is the only mom and has two kids. She’s sweet and kind and nurturing and family is important to Ben.
Give us your final tease for the season.
This season is definitely worthy of being season 20 and I’m glad! Ben is great, the women are great and the stories are great. Top to bottom Ben is one of our favorite [Bachelors]. If you ask anyone from wardrobe to security to camera to audio — everybody loved working with him and wanted good for him. When that’s the case, everyone is so motivated and excited and it’s amazing how it trickles down when people love the person we’re there for.
The Bachelor airs Mondays at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.