Bachelorette heartthrob Joe Park on being the purest soul ever
The New York City-based anesthesiologist talks to EW about his Bachelorette "journey," battling COVID at work and at home, and what he's looking for in a woman. (Yes, he's still single!)
How did you wind up on The Bachelorette?
It was the height of the pandemic and quarantine in New York City, it was sometime in late spring, and actually somebody from the show reached out to me. They said, "Would you be interested in going on a popular television dating show?" Honestly, I'd been in my apartment for the past few months, pretty much in my 400 square-foot cell, and going to work. If COVID has taught us anything, it would be seize the moment and just take advantage of opportunities given to you. This is not something that I would normally have done, but at this junction I was like, 2020 is such a weird year, so... That's kind of how it happened.
When did you actually find out that Clare was the Bachelorette?
So the first phone call we had [with casting producers], it was made known. And apparently, it was the first time where the contestants or the cast members knew who the Bachelorette was beforehand, which honestly — I hadn't watched the show before and I thought that was kind of ridiculous. But in this case, we did know. [The producer] told us from the very beginning, and she said, you can look her up and if you're interested and you might want to pursue something, then you can keep going along with the process.
When Tayshia took over as the Bachelorette, did you know who she was when she first stepped into the room?
Uh, I had no idea who she was. She walked in and she really does have a vibrance about her that is undeniable — outside of the really bright [sequined] dress she was wearing that was like kind of blinding in and of itself. Outside of that, she really does have like this aura about her. I can't even put it into words, there's a je ne sais quoi, I don't know, but it's there. If I could drop another French phrase, there's a joie de vivre, a joy of life, that's undeniable.
As a healthcare worker, we know you've seen a lot of tragedy this year, but you'd never know it based on what we saw of you on The Bachelorette. People fell in love with you for your gentle spirit, your kindness, and your optimism. How do you hold on to your upbeat nature, especially now?
First of all, this whole thing — even the fact that I'm talking to you right now, and the fact that I lasted this long [on the show] — is a mystery to me. But I'll take it. I mean, I'm grateful for it and I appreciate it, but I'm like, what's happening right now?
I will say interestingly, it is precisely because of [what I've gone through], that I was that way. I don't want to get too dark, but during that time, it taught me so much about what's really important. I think all of us collectively realized, you know what's important? Being around friends, being around family, traveling, collectively experiencing things, shared experiences, like concerts and things like that. And what's not important are the things that you were stuck with in your house — except your TV. You couldn't live without your TV, right? We were stuck with all the things that we wanted, all the material things — but there's no happiness at all, or very little.
I would go to work, and it was obviously a very harrowing time in my life and in the lives of thousands, if not millions of other people, especially in New York City. Seeing so many people pass away during that time, it definitely gave me an appreciation for [life's] moments. I had COVID and I recovered from it. And I was thankful for that because I saw plenty of people in their 40s and a couple in their 30s who didn't do as well. My family was okay for the most part, and I was just so grateful.
So when I was able to go do the show, and just to be able to go to the desert and pursue love without masks, without seeing people around me sick in this war zone that the hospital was... [In New York], everyone was scared, and we saw the refrigerator trucks [for the bodies] outside. I mean, I don't want to paint this like super-bleak picture, but that's what it was. And so when I got to the show, it was like, man, this is such a beautiful thing to be out here. I was just grateful, you know?
One of your most amazing Bachelorette moments was on the wrestling date in episode 5. You and the guys were supposed to practice trash-talking each other, but instead you just loudly told Spencer that he was "a really nice guy" and complimented his eyes. I need to know everything about that moment. Is it just not in you to trash talk?
[Laughs] Not really, no. The older I get, the more I'm like, "Man, we're all in this together. We're all just trying to do the best we can." I didn't have it, I don't have that killer instinct anymore.
Also, Spencer in particular — people were like s---ing on Spencer before [when he arrived]. I had breakfast with Spencer the day after the Splash Ball date. The [wrestling date] wasn't that far removed from that date, and from what everyone had said about him. And I was just like, "Hey Spencer, you're a really misunderstood guy! You're a really nice guy!" I just wanted the world to know for the hell of it because that's what was in my brain. And, also, have you seen his eyes? The first time I saw his eyes up close, I was like, "Woah."
I need you to address some allegations from fans on Twitter, who say you are "too good for this world," "so pure," and "a sweet, unproblematic king." Your response?
Um, I'll be honest with you. In third grade, I definitely stole a piece of candy from a convenience store one time. I'm going to dry out that dirty laundry right here. My mom did scold me, and I think I'm a changed man after that. I did my time, I got grounded and I'm trying to live a pretty decent life thereafter. No, but every guy on this show is a stud. To a man, for the most part, they are really quality people.
In addition to the outpouring of love for you on Twitter, for example, people are calling for you to be the first ever Asian Bachelor. What are your thoughts about that?
The first thought when I saw that was like — I know Matt James is the Bachelor now, and I was like, man, I hope I'm not still single by 2022. I hope I'm in a committed relationship by then! I appreciate it, don't get me wrong. It's flattering. But it's like, jeeze, I'm not getting any younger. Again, if quarantine has taught us anything, it's that tomorrow's not guaranteed, and you really have to make the most of it now and take advantage of any opportunity that you're given. And also, there are much better options out there. In earnest, the first night, I was the third-shortest guy there! Body-wise, I was the lightest of all the guys there. It's flattering, but I hope I'm not single until then, if I'm honest with you.
If Bachelor in Paradise happens this summer, would you go?
I would say the same thing. Though I didn't unfortunately find love on this show, I realized that love is possible from this show. I think it's something you have to evaluate when [the opportunity] happens. It's hard to say now.
As of now you're still single?
Um, very single. That is correct. Thanks for reminding me, Kristen.
It says on your bio that your biggest turn-off is someone who litters. Did you ever date someone who litters?
No, I haven't, but I just like thought experiments. The thought experiment that I always pose to my friends is like, "Okay, you went on four great dates with someone. You guys are vibing, your values are the same. You like the same music, everything's great. But then you guys go get some take-out, and as she's walking, she just takes a ball of trash and throws it over her shoulder and keeps walking. Is that reconcilable to you, for someone you want to pursue a relationship with?" It gives people pause. And for me, I'm not sure if I could [stay in the relationship]. Like, what does that say about you? All of it, environmentalism, being thoughtful — there's more to it than just littering.
What are you looking for in a woman?
That's a great question. Kindness and gentleness is a quality [that's lacking] in this drama-filled world. There's this calmness that I think is missing, calmness and gentleness and kindness is something that I find rare. Where you can just be still for a little bit. And obviously, you have to be physically attracted to someone, that has to be there. I try to just have fun in conversations, because that's what [a relationship] is built on in general, you have to have fun with the person you're with. You can't just dive into, like, "So, do you want kids? Where do you want to live?" When I was watching the show, I was like, Jesus Christ, you guys dove so deep, so fast!
You mentioned earlier that you had COVID. When was that?
I had COVID in late March, early April... My hospital was probably the second-worst hit hospital in New York City. It was a red zone and it was everywhere. It was kind of the beginning stages. We had PPE, thankfully, but people weren't as fastidious with their PPE at that time. And there were hundreds and hundreds of patients that we treated with COVID.
What would you say to people who think it's okay to travel and have gatherings this Thanksgiving?
I think we're so close to a huge breakthrough with these vaccines. I think there are three candidates now. We've gone through so much together, we've struggled so much together, and we're going to get out of it together. We just have to hunker down a little bit more and just sacrifice the short-term for the long-term gain. Everybody wants to get together, but sacrifice is love, too. You should be proud that you are sacrificing for them and you're willing to do that for them. That's real. We'll get through it and let's just hunker down just for a little bit longer because it looks like there's a light at the end of this tunnel.
Without giving anything away, which of the remaining guys do think Tayshia is the most compatible with?
I mean, I fell in love with Brendan. They had a one-on-one and it seems like they had a great time. I think he's definitely a top dog. Outside of just being like a gorgeous human being, he's a great listener and he's very thoughtful. He's just somebody who you want to be around. He's really funny, he has that off-the-cuff, subtle humor.
Ivan is a great, great dude. Really smart, good heart. Obviously a stud also — I don't know if you've seen shirtless pictures of Ivan, but he's shredded. He has a great family, and he's got great family values. Both of those guys are as like nice and sweet in person as in the show. Honestly, those two guys, I pulled for them. Every time they got a rose at the rose ceremony, I smiled. After every rose ceremony, I'd be like, "All right, my guys made it."