The Bachelor approaches me with his arms outstretched. “I’m a hugger,” he says, wrapping me in a flannel embrace. He smells manly, a mix of woody (but not overpowering) cologne and clean sweat. It’s the day before the limos arrive, and Colton Underwood, 26, is “very excited” and “a little nervous” about starting his TV “journey.” We sit down on a grey velvet couch in a sunny room off the patio; in a little over 24 hours, he’ll be handing out roses to his first batch of potential wives.
Colton knows a lot of people didn’t want him to be the Bachelor. Hell, he knows that I didn’t want him to be the Bachelor. But he is unfailingly polite, and all throughout our conversation, he holds eye contact with me to an almost unnerving degree. Overall, our chat registered about a 6.4 on the Awkward Scale. Read on, rose lovers!
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What are some “do’s and don’ts” for women hoping to get a rose from you?
COLTON UNDERWOOD: I don’t know if I have a “don’t,” but if you make a mistake or mess up, own it. If you can own being awkward and being goofy and you know that’s who you are, that would be cool. Don’t… have bad breath? I don’t know. Little things like that.
You have very nice teeth.
Thank you. Just brush your teeth, put some deodorant on, come on out, smell good, you’ll be fine.
The first-night shoot can stretch on for 12 hours — what will you do to stay awake and alert?
Coffee, lots of it. I’m gonna take lots of naps tomorrow and get ready, but it is a long night. You have to have your focus and attention on every relationship and every lady, and be engaging, so it is a long, stressful, tough night, but I’m looking forward to it. The adrenaline and excitement will get me through it.
Colton talks with producers outside the Bachelor mansion
You’ve done it once before, but you didn’t have to be the center of attention the whole night.
No, I had to be energetic in my moments with Becca [on The Bachelorette], but then I could go eat meatballs and hang out with some of the guys in the kitchen. I crushed some meatballs at like 3 in the morning. It was great.
When did producers start talking to you about possibly being the Bachelor? Had you come back from Bachelor in Paradise?
Oh yeah. It was about a month and a half or two months after we filmed Paradise.
What was your gut reaction when they first approached you?
To be honest with you, I took the meeting, but I wasn’t expecting much out of it.
What were your concerns?
Just the concern of it not working at the end of this. This is an environment that is built for the success of a relationship, and if I get to the end of this and I’m in love and I get down on one knee and it doesn’t get reciprocated, that’s gonna be hard. That’d be the hardest thing. That’s my greatest fear in all of this.
What if you fall in love with someone who doesn’t like dogs?
That’s gonna be tough, that’s gonna be a hurdle. [But] there’s more to a person than whether or not they like dogs.
But you seem, like, really into dogs.
I obviously have a very strong love for dogs. But the one thing that I can’t wait is to hear and see what their interests and their hobbies are. The other question I always get too is, Do they have to be athletic? No, they just have to have a passion, they have to have an interest, and a love [for something].
I was personally concerned about you being the Bachelor — you seemed very sad on Paradise, and it seemed like the best thing for you would be to go live off-camera. I am concerned for your mental health.
I’m fine! I see a therapist once, twice a week sometimes.
Are you going to keep doing that while you’re shooting?
Yeah, if that’s what it comes to. And it’s not like that’s the biggest ordeal. My mental health is something that I’ve been focusing on my whole entire football career, it’s a normal thing. Everybody goes through this. I mean, obviously I saw your article, I know where you stood with all of it, and I get where you’re coming [from] with most of it. But the other thing is you don’t have to be this perfect person to deserve love. You don’t have to be this perfect person to put yourself out there. And it’s okay not to be perfect. It’s okay not to be polished.
Right, but to me it seems like you feel that you have to be perfect, and that you were putting pressure on yourself. I worry about you being put in a situation where you feel pressure to pick someone in the end or lose your virginity.
[The publicist, who has been sitting across from us this whole time, interrupts to say Colton only has one more minute.]
I have no concerns with being pressured into anything. I’ve lived 26 years in one of the toughest industries and battled that pressure every single day. I’ve had people thrown at me and [been] put in some uncomfortable positions, and I hold my own and stay true to who I am and hold on to my willpower. I’m going to stay true to who I am like I have done on the last two shows, and continue to be true to myself. It’s been good to me so far.
The Bachelor premieres Monday, Jan. 7 at 8 p.m. on ABC.