Why is the estate that serves as home base for The Bachelor and The Bachelorette so big? Because it’s full of secrets! The 9,000 square-foot private home, owned by Southern California contractor Marshall Haraden, has hosted ABC’s reality dating franchise since 2007 (including three seasons of Bachelor Pad, may it rest in peace). Recently I spent 12 hours on the set of The Bachelor’s season 23 premiere, and along the way I uncovered some fascinating details about the Agoura Hills mansion (also known as Villa de la Vina) where every Bachelor and Bachelorette begins his or her “journey” to find “love.”
Not all of the mansion’s roses smell sweet
The day before the limos arrived, Bachelor Colton Underwood and host Chris Harrison sat by the pool to film their welcome chat for the season premiere. Before the cameras rolled, I wandered outside to explore the backyard patio, which is lined with flowered bushes. Many of the blooms are real, but — as I discovered when I leaned down to smell a pink rose — the bushes are also adorned with fake flowers tied strategically to their stems.
Male and female contestants have very different snack needs
While the cast is staying at the mansion, the chef’s kitchen is always fully stocked — including the snack bar area along the wall. Because women were about to move in, the jars (and the drawers below them) were filled with cookies, red licorice and other assorted candies. But Chris Harrison says thing take a healthier turn when the male Bachelorette contestants move in. “When the guys are here,” he says, “the jars are filled with whey protein powder.” (Blech.)
The “ladies” have help staying camera-ready on night one
Ever wonder how the women keep their hair from wilting and their makeup from running as the first night shoot stretches from night until the first light of dawn? Production sets up a mini glam station across the hall from the kitchen (next to a bathroom that doubles as a storage space for stray pillows, bedspreads, and rugs), where two stylists will give the contestants touch-ups off-camera.
All of the candles you see are real, except…
Any longtime member of Bachelor Nation knows that it takes an absurd number of candles to create a proper level of romantic ambiance. So many, in fact, that production is required to have a special-effects expert on hand to monitor all the open flames. This is fine for most shots in the mansion, but it can get awkward when the FX person insists on being on hand when the Bachelor or Bachelorette shoots a private chat with a producer in one of the small interview rooms — especially if there are tears involved. For that reason, an exec producer told me, the show now uses flameless candles in the interview rooms.
The beds are now safe for all sleepers
David Ravitz probably thought his most memorable moment on Becca’s season of The Bachelorette would be arriving at the mansion in a bright yellow chicken suit. But instead he’ll probably always be remembered as the guy who fell out of the top bunk and landed on his face — requiring a middle-of-the-night trip to the hospital. Starting this season, all of the contestants’ bunk beds (which are squeezed into several of the mansion’s upstairs bedrooms) come equipped with safety rails. (Harrison says the show affectionately refers to these modifications as “chicken rails.”)
The Bachelor premieres Monday, Jan. 7 at 8 p.m. on ABC.