New ‘Bachelorette’ hosts speak out about Chris Harrison exit

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The Season 17 premiere of “The Bachelorette” featured the usual antics — a pickup-truck ball pit, a cat costume, a life-size gift-wrapped box, and a brewing brawl between suitors — but a familiar face was absent: After Season 25 of “The Bachelor,” one colored by controversy — including his own racially insensitive remarks — longtime host Chris Harrison stepped away from the franchise indefinitely.

Following Monday’s premiere, hosted by former “Bachelorettes” Tayshia Adams and Kaitlyn Bristowe, Harrison announced that he is parting ways with Bachelor Nation after nearly 20 years. Now, Adams and Bristowe are left to usher Bachelorette Katie Thurston into the spotlight, and the franchise into a new era, as as one of reality TV’s most successful properties tries to regain its footing .

Though “good vibes only” was the mantra of the season premiere, “Bachelor” fans are fiercely split, some rejoicing at Harrison’s departure while others are reeling. The Times spoke to Adams and Bristowe about filling Harrison’s shoes, how they’re supporting the new “Bachelorette,” and what they say to fans fed up with the franchise’s reluctance to change.

In the premiere, you all emphasized the importance of reinforcing Katie’s confidence and being a supportive “girl gang.” How do you all foster that mentorship throughout the season, and how do you intend to equip Katie for the emotional toll of this process?

Tayshia Adams: I think we let Katie have her own journey, but definitely are there for her when she needs us. This is her show. She’s calling all the shots. But it does get really tough at times. The fact that she can call us at any point and say, “Look, I’m falling for several people: How do I navigate this? I’m scared to be vulnerable and open.” That’s really where we come in and our role changes day by day, just depending on what Katie needs.

Kaitlyn Bristowe: Yeah, it’s a complete different perspective that she gave us and we gave her. Like Tayshia said, it was nice to be able to relate and know that we could validate her feelings and say, “We’ve been in your position.” There’s few other people that can say that they’ve been in her position.

Do you wish you had someone from a previous season guiding you when it was your turn?

Adams: I think we both can agree that we wish that we had mentors on our seasons. I did have Rachel [Lindsay] and JoJo [Fletcher] come and help me on my season, but it was honestly for a mere few hours. It wasn’t a day-to-day thing. It was really nice actually to go through this journey with her.

Bristowe: 1,000% percent. Just hearing it from Katie gave us a lot of confidence that we helped her. She often says that it helped her so much to have women there that can say, “We relate to how you’re feeling, and even when you want to give up, we did too. That’s OK. Keep going.” I definitely could have used that. We were just down the hall at all times on standby.

What was your gut reaction upon being asked to come into this role, especially as you are the first women to be hosting?

Adams: When I got the phone call, it was very unexpected. At the same time, I have definitely spoken out about being an advocate for wanting change within the franchise. This was really something I could actually have a hand in being the change of the franchise. I definitely jumped at the opportunity just because I feel like having two female mentors in this role really would only empower the Bachelorette and really help her be more confident in herself. I think this is the change that some of us wanted to see in the franchise, something more fresh.

Bristowe: I think it’s a change that we didn’t realize we needed this bad. To have women come in, it makes so much sense. Even if it wasn’t us, if it was two other women, just seeing that dynamic and perspective was, I thought, a whole game-changer to the season.

On the note of change, what are your thoughts on Chris’ departure? Do you feel any pressure or as though there are big shoes to fill?

Bristowe: Tayshia and I talked about this earlier how we just can’t feel that pressure because we can’t compare our roles. They’re two very different roles. We’re a lot more involved in the emotions and the conversations. Katie’s very sex-positive and open with her sexuality, and we’re able to have these kinds of conversations with her. When that happened, I feel like we were just both honored and excited. Like Tayshia said, we both have spoken out about being an advocate for change in the franchise and I think it was important for us both to just really see that if we were going to be a part of it. We did, and I think that we made a great experience with it.

Adams: No one can take away from Chris’ amazing 19 years and the position that he was in — and we’re not that. We’re Katie’s mentors, and we were just helping her on our journey. However that may look like, I guess we’ll see how it unfolds, but I think it was very needed.

Can you say whether you’ll be hosting Michelle’s season?

Adams: I think it would be an amazing opportunity if we were both offered it. But we haven’t been approached about it. But we’ll see what happens in the future. I guess it all really depends on how well it’s received by everybody else.

What is your hope for Michelle’s season? How would you all like to see her be supported?

Adams: All the Bachelorettes, we’re all so different. I think it’s really hard to kind of pinpoint that exactly, but just get to know Michelle and find out what’s important for her. If it is having sex-positive conversations, let’s home in on that and let’s make sure those conversations are at the focal point of your dates. If it is having more serious conversations about race or religion, then it’s really just homing into what it means to the Bachelorette or Bachelor. It can change each season.

What is your hope moving forward with respect to the franchise? Is this sort of a reset that sets up a new era?

Bristowe: I definitely think it’s a reset. It’s a refreshing new start even to have women involved. The show is always wanting to evolve, and I think people like Bachelor Nation hold them accountable and it all works kind of as one. Bachelor Nation is so loyal. Everyone that watches is so loyal, but also very passionate. I think it’s important for the franchise to always listen to them.

Adams: I think Kaitlyn and I both have a very different audience that gravitates toward us. I feel like this is an amazing duo. Hopefully, if we can provide a different perspective and a little bit of fresh insight on how the show can change and evolve, I know that they’re open to that. I love that we can possibly have a play in the change in the future.

For fans who might feel like last season was the final straw or they may feel kind of despondent right now, what would you say to them?

Adams: Hang on. I think that change doesn’t happen overnight, unfortunately. As much as we want that to happen, it doesn’t. There have been a lot of things that maybe you haven’t seen on screen, but are happening behind the scenes to help improve this franchise. I think that we are definitely proof of that.

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