"I had no idea how difficult a journey and a mission this was going to be. I've done a lot of things... getting to be a doctor, I've done the Iron Man [triathalon] six times... and this was hard. It is very physically and emotionally challenging," Baldwin told reporters during a Tuesday afternoon media conference call. "But well worth the journey. I came out with an amazing woman and I'm totally in love."
Baldwin will star in the tenth installment of ABC's The Bachelor, titled Officer and a Gentleman, when the series premieres on Monday, April 2 at 9:45PM ET/PT on ABC. While he may be the tenth in a long line of men who have tried their hand at the reality dating series, Baldwin said he doesn't want to be judged based on the performances of those who came before him.
"Relationships don't work out, people are different," explained Baldwin. "I am myself, and I bring my integrity and my character and my dreams to this show. And I think I'm very much a different type of bachelor then what's been on in the past. I'm not going to put any stock in what's happened in the past based on what I've found and the love I've found. I'd say look more towards me as an individual then comparing me to the way relationships have worked out it the past."
Although skeptics frequently note that few The Bachelor couples have remained together for more than a couple of months after their season's finale and only sixth season The Bachelor couple Byron Velvick and Mary Delgado and seventh season The Bachelor couple Charlie O'Connell and Sarah Brice currently still remain together, The Bachelor's executive producer Mike Fleiss insists that if a bachelor enters the show with a sincere commitment to finding a life partner, The Bachelor can be successful.
"This has worked. And if you go into it with the right attitude... then it can work," said Fleiss.
However after two most recent editions in which The Bachelor's couples seemed to end their relationships even before the show's finale aired, even Fleiss admits that not all of the show's previous bachelors seem to have been sincerely committed to finding lasting love.
"Andy said sending the girls home was the hardest part for him, and I think that's the answer," said Fleiss. "Andy came into this with real sincerity, and that's something we haven't had from all the bachelors, unfortunately. It was harder on Andy and made it harder on the girls. They made deeper connections faster than we've seen before because of the way he came into the show... so open-minded, so committed. This guy's like one of the most committed guys I've ever met, and he brought the same level of commitment to the show."
A 30-year-old U.S. Navy Lieutenant and undersea medical officer stationed in Pearl Harbor, HI, Baldwin first came to The Bachelor's attention after -- unbeknownst to Baldwin -- a friend gave his phone number to one of The Bachelor's casting directors. However even after his commanding officers gave him the go ahead to do the show, Baldwin says he was still unsure about participating.
To help improve his odds of finding a compatible partner, Baldwin says he asked ABC to -- unlike the way the network handled the casting of most previous Bachelor editions but consistent with the manner in which last fall's The Bachelor: Rome was cast -- to publicly announce his identity before beginning the show's bachelorette casting search.
"I definitely was skeptical going in, and that's why I really worked with ABC and [Fleiss] to really shape a virtuous and genuine type experience," said Baldwin. "I really wanted to bring women in who knew what they were getting and really wanted to get to know me as a person. I went in with an open mind and an open heart, and it was fabulous."
And for those who still knock the match-making ability of The Bachelor, Baldwin was quick to point out "people find love in other stranger ways."
"Where do people find the love of their life? How are the odds of finding it in a nightclub, at a bar or at a library?" asked Baldwin. "I think the way that this is set-up, it's very possible you can find something that's meaningful and loving. I'm glad I took the risk and took the journey because I came out very, very happy on the other end."
The Bachelor: Officer and a Gentleman -- which wrapped production in Hawaii last week -- will begin with Baldwin meeting his 25 suitors during a cocktail party on the Los Angeles-anchored yacht that will serve as his private refuge. By the end of what he termed a "whirlwind" night, Baldwin had to eliminate 10 of the women.
"It was definitely very challenging at times, but from that first night when I saw all those women come out of the limo and got to know them, I was just blown away beyond my wildest expectations and I knew it was going to be good," said Baldwin. "That was one thing I didn't know, the 25 cards I was going to be dealt... I was beaming from ear to ear. Never have I meet such an amazing pool of women before."
Not a fan of selfish women or smokers, Baldwin said he wants a woman "with an open mind but who also does have an opinion."
"What I look for most in a woman is one who can challenge me and who I can challenge back," said Baldwin. "I think if you're going to be successful in a marriage, you need to have that component. It takes a lot more than just a pretty face and somebody who's athletic. I look for someone who makes me laugh, witty, and has the same family values as me."
Growing up in Lancaster, PA, Baldwin said he had a "wonderful family" and really hopes to "emulate the type of family I had growing up in the very near future." Baldwin -- who was one of Cosmopolitan magazine's 50 Hottest Bachelors in 2005 -- said he's had a number of "very long term relationships," there was always just "something missing."
His most recent relationship prior to The Bachelor lasted about a year, and Baldwin said they went separate ways when she "wanted to put her career ahead of having a family." Baldwin said his longest relationship last two years at the tale-end of medical school. But in the end, he said he realized she "didn't want to be challenged and couldn't really challenge me."
"I'm not willing to settle for anything less than what's right for me," said Baldwin. "Right now, I've reached a point where I'm ready to settle down. I put my whole heart and soul in it, and I'm totally in love right now... I'm a believer... I'm definitely committed."
Baldwin said he never imagined he'd appear on The Bachelor, and said he only decided it was the right choice based on "timing."
"I went in with an open mind. I feel like this opportunity came to me at the right time. And I felt like I could really make a difference," said Baldwin. "I thought I'd be doing a disservice to myself to not put my entire heart and soul in this, and to not go into it with an open mind. I've worked really hard in my life to get where I am today and I have no ulterior motives. I went in to see if I could find love. At the end of the day, I'm the same old thing. That's the way I approached it, and I feel I'd be really letting these woman down if i didn't do that."
Later in the conference call, Fleiss reiterated how he feels that Baldwin's approach made him stand-out from The Bachelor's previous bachelors.
"It's just the whole sincerity... Andy's a real guy. He's accomplished real things on his own in his young life," said Fleiss. "So many of our other bachelors were a product of their father's... they've been given something or inherited something. Andy, he's just a remarkably accomplished young guy. Even though he's not the oldest of any of the bachelors, he probably has the greatest maturity."
Baldwin admitted "there definitely were a lot [of girls] that stood out," which made the decision of who got the final rose even more difficult.
"It was very hard coming down to the end... my heart was getting pulled in numerous directions. I was feeling love towards a number of [the women]," said Baldwin. "That will come out. I really had to reach down into my heart and see who I have the deepest connection with, and I'm sure that will be hard for her to see, but I've been up front and talked with her about that. She's such an amazing person, she really understands that."
While he's "totally in love" with the woman who he chose, Baldwin said actually watching episodes of The Bachelor should be a revealing experience.
"I think we are going to see things that might be a little eye opening," he said. "But in the end, we know what the result was and we know how we feel about each other. Now it's really up to us to further our love for each other into the future."
The Bachelor's tenth edition is scheduled for an eight-episode run with a finale broadcast on Monday, May 21 -- a two-month separation that's already making Baldwin anxious. "I'm looking towards the end of the show so I can reunite with the woman I'm in love with," said Baldwin. "That's what I'm looking most forward to."
Fleiss assured Baldwin he won't have to wait that long.
"We do a pretty good job of getting our couples together for a rendezvous," explained Fleiss. "It's at undisclosed locations at undisclosed times to make sure they get to see each other a little bit. It's another seven weeks before they can go walking down the street hand-in-hand." Added Baldwin, "I think that's very, very crucial that... the amazing spark and fire we have going is maintained."
Baldwin said he has "another year at least" stationed in Hawaii, and then he'll probably look "to do another tour" there. But he was quick to add the Aloha State isn't his final resting place. "That's another thing the women coming on the show really had to take into account was I am a Naval officer and I can get called away on deployment at any time," he said.
Since The Bachelor: Officer and a Gentleman won't premiere until April 2, Baldwin he's doesn't think he's fully realized how the experience has impacted him yet.
"I'm so happy I did it," he said. "I feel like not only did I meet an amazing woman, but I also feel like I was able to showcase and demonstrate to America what goes into being a United States Naval Officer, the values we hold and honor, and bring some virtue back to the pursuit of love. I'm also an athlete, and somebody that believes strongly in health and fitness, and to spout those traits as well... it'd be great to be an inspiration for others through this as well."