We got the behind-the-pods scoop on Netflix's new dating show, including which engagements weren't shown and how the dates really worked.

By Ruth Kinane
February 14, 2020 at 08:00 AM EST
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If Netflix had to write a bio on a dating app, it would pretty much read: Into experimenting.

The streaming service’s new matchmaking reality show, Love Is Blind enlists 15 single men and 15 single women to talk to walls in the hope of marrying the love of their life. Yes, really.

Okay, so there’s a little more to it than that: The singletons go through rounds of speed dating, but rather than get to know one another face to face, the couples are in different rooms while they talk, separated by a frosted window so that they have no idea what the other person looks like. They are, thereby, prompted to make a true “emotional connection” in favor of just wanting to jump the other’s bones.

The stakes are heightened steeply by the fact that the couple must also decide there and then, mid-wall-gaze, whether they will become engaged (knowing their wedding will take place in just four weeks time). Once truly committed to one another, they get to see the person they’ve promised to spend all eternity with in the flesh.

As with all dating experiments/shows, this process comes with varying degrees of success, as some couples find their love is only solidified by being together in the “physical world,” and others soon realize they preferred the other person with a wall keeping them apart. The first five episodes — now available to stream on Netflix — see six couples become engaged in the pods (the rooms with wall partitions in which they have their “dates”) and jet off on a vacation together to Mexico. Once south of the border, the (mostly-happily) betrothed twosomes all interact with one another, meaning the gals and guys also get to see the partners they missed out on. Imagine it like having brunch with your boyfriend and all of the tinder matches you each went on less than three dates with showed up. Fun, right?!

There’s even more challenges awaiting the couples in post-pod life when friends and family are introduced before they face the final test: their wedding! But you’ll have to wait until Feb. 20 to endure enjoy the next four episodes and Feb. 27 for the grand finale. Confused? Head here for more info on how it all works.

We had SO many questions about pod-life and beyond so we chatted with series creator Chris Coelen (of Kinetic Content) about couples coordinating dates sans phones, which participants got together after they left the show, and if love truly is blind.

Netflix

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Let’s start with the premise. How did you decide to put people in pods and have them bond through a wall?
CHRIS COELEN:
It’s very simple. We thought about what is true amongst every single human being on earth. What is the most relatable thing when it comes to relationships? That everybody wants to be loved for who they are on the inside. If you’re looking for a longterm relationship you don’t want to be loved for your money, or where you’re from, or your looks or your lack-there-of in any of those categories. You want to be loved for you. Every person wants to be who they are, right? No matter where you live or what your situation is. So, if you start with that and then you think about where we are as a society in terms of the way that people actually get together, and you think about the technology that’s supposed to enable us to do so…actually that technology — those dating apps — make a lot of people feel very disposable. It’s a very surface-level experience.

It’s not really a surprise that with all the ways that you can find love, there are more single people than ever in relation to people who actually want longterm relationships. So we thought, if you could figure out a way put the devices away and start with just bonding people and focus on what matters — which is what should matter, what people say matters — which is what’s on the inside. If you could start with pure love — real, truly pure love — how would you do that? And how would you allow people to develop that? Then if they had that and they went out into the real world, would that real love be enough to survive its tests? Every day people create and face judgments from other people. We live in a very judgment-polarized society and people also create these kind of judgments and impediments of their own. So we thought of an experiment of starting with love and seeing if it could survive the real world, then we tried to develop each facet of the show to most enable those ideas to come to the floor.

Kinetic Content also brought us Married at First Sight. Was the idea here to explore similar avenues but with the added fun of incorporating dating?
I think Married at First Sight is a very different entry point. Those are people who want to be committed and are willing to let someone else match them. They know nothing about each other. This is almost the opposite of that. Every single person on Love Is Blind makes their own decision. No decision is made for them. They decide and they feel truly like they know everything about the person when they get engaged. They feel like they knew the people they were talking to and they got engaged to better than people they had dated for five years, better than their family numbers because they weren’t able to open up in new ways. It’s crazy. We have so much content — we were only able to show so much on the show — but they were talking around the clock while they were in the pods and the depth of conversation, vulnerability and openness they had with one another was incredible. Every single person, whether they got engaged or whether they didn’t, talked about how this was a life-changing, transformative experience. They learned something about themselves, about who they are, what they want, how they react, in addition to the other people, in a way that had never, never done.

So how do you find the contestants, so to speak? Do they audition? Is there an interview process?
We have a lot of experience in doing these kind of shows. We have a great casting department and they reached out to people who they felt would be genuinely interested in this kind of commitment. I think that’s really key; we want people who aren’t just doing it for the attention. There’s certainly plenty of places for people who want to do stuff for the attention. We wanted to be really dealing with people who were genuinely interested in it.

How much do they know going in?
The truth is, for these people, when they walked in, they didn’t really know what they were walking into. They knew the general idea, but then they walked in and would say, ‘I didn’t expect this to actually happen. I thought it’d be fun. I’m going on a show and yeah, maybe I’ll find somebody that I like, but I never expected to fall in love deeper than I’ve ever fallen in love.’ That’s what we heard over and over. We had actually more success on this show, from that standpoint, than we were even able to document. As a producer I was kind of nervous like, is anybody actually gonna get engaged? Is anyone going to make it to the altar? And, in the end, we actually had more couples get engaged than we were able to follow on the show.

Oh, wow. How many got engaged in total then?
Eight.

What about people who met in the pods but didn’t get engaged, do you know if any of them got together after they left the show?
Yeah. We only have so much time to tell a story, but there are lots of interesting stories. There’s the guy, Rory [“Drybear” Newbrough, a 28-year-old livestreamer], who features in a couple of scenes.

Yes! He seemed nice — always giving everyone else advice.
Yes, he’s phenomenal. He actually got engaged to a woman who you only see for a brief moment early on named Danielle [Drouin, a 29-year-old yoga instructor/model]. They were together for a little while and then they broke up and she ended up dating the guy who appears at the very beginning of the show, Matt [Thomas, a 28-year-old director of Brawl for a Cause]. I think they were all curious. One of the things I love about the show is, ultimately, when they go on their romantic getaway, they do get to see what the other ones look like and Jessica gets to see Barnett in the flesh for the first time and you get to see whether that matters and if maybe she made the wrong choice. I love that element of the show and I think that in real life, they were all really curious to know what the others looked like.

To go back to the Pods briefly, how did the couples coordinate their dates? Like, what would happen if a guy said he wanted to see a girl again and a girl was like, ‘NOPE’?
We really wanted to create a structure where it was sort of like speed dating. We rotated people through and they got a chance to talk to everybody. As the process went along, they did exactly what it is that you’re describing, which is somebody said, ‘I really liked this one.’ If someone said, ‘I just don’t want to talk to that other person anymore,’ we would never force anyone to talk to someone they didn’t want to talk to, no matter how insistent the other person was. It had to work for both people. So there would be the various points throughout the day where we would ask people who they wanted to talk to, who they wanted to spend time with. As time went along and they figured out who they were gravitating towards, they would spend more and more time — even at the sacrifice of their sleep. They took it really seriously and I think they were having fun. You’re talking to people and getting to know them and it’s like, who needs sleep? We’re just going to stay here all night and if we fall asleep in the pods, we fall asleep!

Well at least they were provided blankets, I suppose! So how long on average were the dates? And how many did they typically go on before getting engaged? It was sometimes hard to tell in the editing how long it had really been that they’d known each other.
Oh, they would see each other multiple times every day — well, not see each other, but talk to each other. So in the beginning, just because there were so many people we had to cycle through, they’d be short, like seven to 10 minutes. Then, as time went along, they’d be spending hours together, multiple times a day.

Did it seem fast, though, to you? Watching it, it felt like Cameron and Lauren were saying ‘I love you’ and getting engaged at a crazy rate?
Well…I was hoping that people were gonna bond in this sort of way. I think I, along with everybody who participated, was blown away by the way that people ended up bonding. I think that the more committed they were to the process and really digging in, the better results they got out of it. So, of course, I am thrilled it worked.

**

The first 5 episodes of Love Is Blind are available to stream on Netflix now. Check back here for more from Chris Coelen after the next episodes drop on Feb. 20.

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