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Bentley Williams almost forced 'The Bachelorette' to stop production


By Elizabeth Kwiatkowski, 06/01/2011 

Bentley Williams managed to become The Bachelorette's most-talked about seventh-season bachelor before the show even began when Michelle Money, Ashley Hebert's fellow former The Bachelor bachelorette, warned the new Bachelorette that Williams would not be appearing on the show for the right reasons before filming started.

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SPOILER WARNING: THIS INTERVIEW CONTAINS INFORMATION ABOUT THE BACHELORETTE'S NEXT EPISODE.

And once the show began, Williams wasted little time proving the warning was merited when the 28-year-old Salt Lake City businessman privately admitted he was not attracted to Hebert and was just competing for the thrill of the game while he also made crude and derogatory remarks about the Bachelorette, who brushed off Money's warning and still became smitten with him.

On Wednesday, The Bachelorette host Chris Harrison -- who had already publicly confirmed Williams will voluntarily leave the show during ABC's Monday night broadcast of the season's third episode -- talked with reporters about Williams' behavior and how his departure had a devastating impact on Hebert.

During the media conference call, Harrison told Reality TV World about the details of his own repeated warnings to Hebert, what the show's producers told Hebert about Williams after she was devastated by his exit, and how the show's producers would justify Williams' possible return later in the season.

Check back with Reality TV World on Thursday for more from Harrison's lengthy conference call.

Reality TV World: I know you've said you warned Ashley about Bentley and weren't personally aware of all his comments when the show was filming.  But to clarify, the times you warned her, did you just keep reminding her of previous fifteenth-season The Bachelor bachelorette Michelle Money's text messages, or did you actually tell her Bentley had said he wasn't interested in her? Also, of the comments you were aware of him making, did you tell her about any of the crude things he said during his private interviews?

Chris Harrison: The first time, when we sat down that first night, the producers were good about -- they didn't want me to know everything. All they said was, "Ashley's going to talk to you about something."

So, I know people think that I'm all prepared and whatever, but a lot of times, what we want is that real emotion, and to read my real reaction, and her reaction, and see how we deal with it. So, when she brought the fact up that she had received text messages warning her about Bentley, I really probed.

I'm like, "Ashley, come on. This is crazy; Don't do this! This guy is bad news." I was pretty open and honest. I was pretty -- I kind of opened up to her more than I usually do for Bachelors and Bachelorettes.

I was like, "This is crazy." The guy hadn't even got out of the limo and I'm like, "Are you sure you want to do this?" And she was like, "Well, I'll just meet him, and then I'll be able to kick him to the curb." Obviously, things just kind of took off from there.

But after that first night, I mean, on-camera, off-camera, I talked to her several times and was like, "What do you see in this guy? Are you sure? You know that he's probably just playing a game. I really have a bad feeling about this." We had several conversations -- many, many conversations -- and so did the producers with her. But she really defended him every step of the way.

Reality TV World: I watched ABC's advance screener of next week's episode this morning and after Bentley left the show, it seems like one of the things that would have really helped Ashley get over him would be to let her know about the comments she didn't know about before and how he also lied when he told her why he was leaving. So from what you knew, did you ever share that specific information with her, and if not, why?

Chris Harrison: The producers definitely shared a lot of things with her. I don't know if they ever sat her down honestly and showed her the tape of him talking [bad about her], but I know that the producers talked to her. I know they told her after he left certain things he had said.

I'm telling you. It's hard to explain, because this is you and I having a normal conversation and we are two normal adults in our right mind, if you've ever known anybody who's like falling in love and completely smitten with someone, nothing you say makes sense or a difference.

Almost to the other side, it's like you just attacking them, and she just didn't want to believe that Bentley was like that because he was so good, caring, loving, and sweet, and the doting single dad in front of her, that she just -- she wouldn't believe it. She just didn't believe that he was that kind of guy, and it was so hard to convince her, and we never really did.

Reality TV World: I know you won't say whether Bentley did actually return to the show later on during filming, but if he did, what would be your justification be for letting him come back?

Chris Harrison: The only thing we would ever do is what Ashley wants to do, and so our justification for anything we do is that it's up to Ashley. [Next] Monday night, if you [already] saw the show, I literally sit with her in the deliberation room and I'm like, "What do you want to do?" I'm like, "There's... " you know -- We cut all the rules out of the show a long time ago.

You saw that with [Ali Fedotowsky]. You'll see this with Ashley throughout the season where it's like, "What do you want to do?" It's up to you. We kind of really let them call the shots and really, at that moment, we just kind of go with it. It makes for not only better TV, but it makes for a better Bachelor/Bachelorette to give them that control and give them that power.

So, we justify everything by giving Ashley the power, and it was her job to say, "I don't want that guy in the limo the first night," or "Yeah, leave him in the limo. I want to meet him." And that's what we do. We don't step in and say, "No, no no. That's the wrong decision. That's not for us to do." We never have. That's just -- we play it out -- and you watch along with us.

Also in the call, Harrison told reporters why he doesn't believe the show went too far in airing some of Williams' more risque comments, whether he knew anything about Williams' plans before the season began filming, and if the show's producers may have opted to step in more forcefully if the bachelor had not opted to leave the show.

Do you think the show went too far in airing Bentley's remark "tickle my pickle" with a censor or do you think the show was justified in let viewers hear that?

Chris Harrison: Well, I think you gotta see what the guy said. I mean, if it upset somebody's sensibilities or if it went too far in someone's -- as far as any of our fans are concerned, I do apologize for that, but this is what the guy was saying. This is how he thought of Ashley, and I think in true context, you needed to see exactly what this guy is about and what his game was and how he was really playing her.

Ashley didn't get to see or hear a lot of that, and when he was in front of her, he was suave and said and did all the right things. So that's what -- you really had to show both sides to show exactly just how bad it was and how much she's going to have the rug ripped out from under her on Monday night.

When did you start to realize just how bad Bentley was? Because during the premiere episode, you all seemed to anticipate him just going on the show to promote his business?

Chris Harrison: I thought he was going to be trouble the moment that Ashley told me he was going to be trouble, although a little bit deeper. We talked that night and you saw some of it, but a lot of stuff you didn't see -- I was pretty adamant about my feelings towards him.

I usually try to walk that fine gray line of host, friend, confidant, but when you have that information before the guy even gets out of the limo, that is beyond a red flag. She just never heeded any of the warning signs, and part of the reason is, I think she was so anti-everything she'd done on [Brad Womack]'s season where she was closed off, and she didn't let herself go, and didn't trust her gut.

So this season, she just kind of threw caution to the wind and the did the exact opposite. We actually gave her the option before the limo even pulled up, "You don't have to meet this guy. You can pull him off. You don't have to do this."

And she said, "No. I want to meet him. I want to give him a shot. If I don't like him, then I'll kick him off." So every step of the way, she had the option and she always made the choice to go forward and in the end, defend him and stick by him.

Why was Bentley even cast on the show when the producers knew he was only interested in fifteenth-season The Bachelor bachelorette Emily Maynard, which was something he had said in his initial interview?

Chris Harrison: Even if it was Emily or [Chantal O'Brien] or [Shawntel Newton] or any of those girls, there's no guarantee that he's going to be the one or fall in love with her. He had just as much of an opportunity to fall for Ashley, and he obviously didn't say all those derogatory things in casting.

When we were picking him for the show, he might have said, "I thought it might be Emily," or "Maybe it would be cool if it was Emily," but he obviously didn't say, "If it's Ashley, I'm going to use her to destroy her." (Laughs) You know what I mean? He wasn't that open and forthright in casting.

Did you get to see any of Bentley's pre-show interviews or were you aware of anything he said during them?

Chris Harrison: I didn't. Honestly, because we are casting all the time and even while we're shooting, some of the producers will stick their heads in and they all watch tapes obviously. But I don't. I don't get involved in the casting for many reasons, but I never saw any of his stuff. I really didn't.

Bentley said some awful hurtful things about Ashley and she can get rid of bachelors at any point, so why didn't you allow her to find out that information sooner so she could move on and find someone else better for her?

Chris Harrison: It is a good point, and maybe if this had gone any further -- you have to understand too, that we're really only two weeks into this -- that first night, the first week was really just one night. So, we're about two weeks into this and things had just kind of started getting out of hand, and then him saying all these things.

If it had gone on longer, I don't know what steps I would have taken with the producers. I don't know if we would have just finally had to show her these things, but she was just privy to some of the information and a lot of what we thought, some of the producers had told her, "This guy is not good for you." And I told her some things.

So, short of showing her all the derogatory stuff, she had so much information -- more so than Ali or [Jillian Harris] ever had about [Wes Hayden] or [Justin Rego] -- and it's kind of the same situation where I went to Ali and said, "This is what we know about Justin. What do you want to do?" And she's like, "I want to kick his butt off the show," and she did.

Same thing with Jillian. She got information about Wes and she kicked him off or he was let go. So, she had that information. She had everything she needed, but she just always wanted to believe the good in the guy.

Should viewers expect a villain every season of The Bachelorette?

Chris Harrison: No, I mean, that's a thing too. Someone said, "Is he a plant or ABC put him in there?" It can't be further from the truth. I think it's just this guy -- this is the type of person he is. I think we all relate to what Ashley's about to go through and what she's going through. I think we've all been cheated on, we've all been broken-up with, we've all been played to a certain degree, and I think it makes us angry.

It makes us all defensive and it makes us, in some ways, mad at Ashley for being played. It's funny. It's really interesting the different emotions that this whole thing evokes. But you know, we didn't put this guy in there. People give us way too much credit for this all the time -- that we put this guy in there to draw up this drama.

This really doesn't turn out to be a good thing for Ashley or us. It got to the point where we almost had to shut down production, and we weren't sure if she was going to be able to move on past this. If it was two-three weeks later, we probably wouldn't.

I'm not honestly sure what we would have done with the show, because this really makes her question everything -- the rest of the guys that are staying in the house, herself, if this is going to work, if it's worth it. It was really tough for her, but it was also rough for us to kind of get her back on track, because we still had to keep going.

You said in prior seasons that you consider the Bachelors and Bachelorettes to be your friends, so how did it feel to see the man saw horrible disrespectful things about someone you consider a friend?

Chris Harrison: Well first, you bring up a good point. I want to be very clear that I did not get to hear and see all those things he said. All that stuff is shot in privacy with producers and stuff like that, so I don't watch those tapes and I didn't get to see that.

I knew he wasn't -- they let me know he was there for the wrong reasons, and I knew a lot of the inside stuff that I didn't hear a lot of the derogatory stuff. But yeah, being a friend honestly, even if it was you, and someone was speaking about you that way, I would be floored, and find it disrespectful, and rude and demeaning, and crossing the line.

Take the friendship out of it, it was a terrible thing to see any man treat -- or you know what? Any person treat -- another person like that with such disregard and such disrespect for her.

I found it pretty astounding and you'll see Monday that he leaves the show, as you guys probably know, but the way he leaves and the way it happened, I find even more disrespectful than the things he said before he left.

Would you consider Bentley the biggest villain the show has ever had?

Chris Harrison: You know, I think the villain thing -- it's almost a little too cliche and soft -- it almost like gives them a title like it's the role he's playing. I don't think that's fair. I don't think it does justice to the kind of guy he was on the show and the way he treated her. It almost like lets him off a little too easy like, "Oh, he's just the bad guy. He's playing that role."

I don't think that was it. That wasn't his -- I don't even know what his motivation was. I really find it interesting. He's a bit of an enigma where I don't know what he's thinking. I don't know why he was treating her like that. I don't know why he wanted to play her and say those things. I don't get it, because like you said, he is a father.

He has a daughter and then to use the daughter the way he does Monday night, and kind of fall back on her and use her at times, is also -- I just know that Tuesday morning, there's not a person that will wake up and not have an opinion about Bentley. I'm really, really interested to hear the viewers and our fans who followed all of these people, and hear their thoughts on how this guy acted.

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