Locky in love: The Bachelor EP Hilary Innes on love in the time of COVID

23 women, one bachelor and a global pandemic. This year, The Bachelor had more to contend with than rose ceremonies, love triangles, complex dates, and those only on the show for fleeting fame. Executive producer Hilary Innes speaks with Mumbrella’s Hannah Blackiston about filming during COVID-19 and Survivor’s Locky Gilbert as the titular bachelor.

If you’re a fan of Australian Survivor then the newest addition to The Bachelor family will be a familiar face. Locky Gilbert has already done two seasons of tribal councils and challenges, but now he’ll be taking on a new role with Ten. What does Gilbert bring to the eighth season of the reality dating format?

Gilbert is no stranger to reality TV

“He’s from that action, adventure world, he’s a confident guy, but when you’re faced with 23 girls and all the twists and turns of [The Bachelor], it’s a bit overwhelming for any bloke. But for me the main thing about Locky is he’s such a classic. He reminds me of the originals, of Tim Robards, of Sam Wood. It’s going back to a classic. He looks fantastic on the red carpet, all the girls loved him,” says Innes.

They loved him, she says, despite not recognising him from Survivor, although a lot of them did go back to watch the show during lockdown – the lockdown which takes place in the middle of the season and causes production to shut down.

The teasers Ten is playing ahead of the show’s premiere tonight feature a dramatic cut to host Osher Gunsberg telling Gilbert and the contestants the production team could no longer keep them safe from the COVID-19 pandemic and they had to go home, indefinitely.

This provided Innes and her team with some unique barriers, but also a chance for innovation and invention, she says.

“It’s very much about being inventive, that’s the core of reality TV. The story can move in a myriad of different directions and you have to react to where it goes. Where there’s a will there’s a way for sure,” she says.

Producers were forced to go with the contestants to their homes, to follow the story in the various locations it was now based, instead of just ‘The Bachelor Mansion’. Zoom dates were implemented, both single dates and group dates, as well as getting-to-know-you sessions for the contestants. You also see more of the women, says Innes, because as a viewer, you actually follow them to their homes.

“You go to the home of that girl in Melbourne, you see her garage with the amazing cars her father collects, or you see the dog that kept her company when she’s been self-isolating at home. It’s what we’ve all been doing around the country, so it’s relatable, it’s taken The Bachelor into the real world.”

The season plays out, says Innes, across three chapters. Pre-COVID when everyone is first able to meet, during COVID, and then they are all allowed back together at the end – for a reunion which she says was fantastic to see.

And for anyone who lived through Nick ‘Honey Badger’ Cummins season and is worried about a failure to launch at the end, Innes promises Gilbert not only picks one partner at the end of the season – he falls in love with two contestants.

“There will never be another season of The Bachelor like it,” she says.


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