Exclusive: Benjamin Clark talks about his time on 'Love in the Wild'
By Elizabeth Kwiatkowski, 07/31/2012
Benjamin Clark and his partner Michelle Sacco finished Love in the Wild's second-season in second place during last week's finale of the NBC reality dating series, which featured singles attempting to find love in the Dominican Republic.
As the runner-up couple, Ben and Michelle just fell short of claiming Love in the Wild's grand prize of an all-expenses paid first class trip around the world together. The pair were beaten by champions Kenneth Barrington and Yanina Beccaria in the season's grueling final adventure, which took the couples two days to complete.
Last week, Ben talked to Reality TV World about his Love in the Wild experience -- including what the status of his relationship with Michelle is like now, how the couple handled things once they got home, why he felt fellow contestant Jesse Wilson undeservedly got a bad reputation while he was on the show, and what exactly went wrong in his relationship with Jenny Blatt during the season.
Below is the first half of our exclusive interview with Ben. Check back with Reality TV World soon for the concluding portion and Michelle's interview. To begin reading what Ken and Yanina had to tell us, click here and here.
Reality TV World: At the end of last night's Love in the Wild finale, it said you two are still going strong and you plan on moving in together soon. Could you talk about your relationship a little bit? How are things going and where might the big move be?
Benjamin Clark: Well, things are going well. I've actually already moved down. I'm actually in Atlanta with Michelle -- probably about a month ago, six weeks ago. So, that's already happened. Yeah, everything's going really well.
Reality TV World: Glad to hear it, congrats on that! The finale also noted you had already met Michelle's family, so how did it go? Do you think they liked you and also, are you two planning a trip to England soon so she can meet your family?
Benjamin Clark: Yeah, yeah. She actually said she got some boarding passes to England, so we're going there as soon as we get back home and get that arranged. But yeah, I met all the family and they're lovely. I hope they like me! They all say -- Michelle tells me that they do, so that's good.
I met her sister, who lives really close, and I'm really good mates with her boyfriend. So I obviously met her sister, her sister's boyfriend, her mom, her grandma, everybody. I met her dad a couple of weeks ago, because he lives in Florida and he actually flew up the fourth of July weekend. And so, he stayed with us then. And yeah, so of the family I've met, they're all brilliant.
Reality TV World: When you and Michelle left the show, especially considering you guys live in different states, did you ever think you'd make it to the point you're at now? I know you hoped to build on your connection once you got home, but were you really confident at the time you could make that happen and form a successful relationship?
Benjamin Clark: I was. I was a little bit scared because we got along really well and I was hoping that would of course translate into the real world. Like honestly, it's a lot different. There's a lot of pressure, you know? You're not in quick sand anymore or running through the jungle or swimming.
So, I was hoping that without the beautiful surroundings and without the cameras, things would translate in the normal world -- going into the shops and walking the dog -- and it did. It was just literally like we stepped out from that environment and into this, and I was driving down every weekend. If I couldn't get there one weekend, Michelle would come down.
So every weekend, we'd see each other, and it wasn't far. It was about four hours, four-and-a-half hours. And you know, we were doing that every weekend. We just came to the conclusion after everything that there was more opportunity in Atlanta anyways compared to where I was. I was living in the outskirts of Charlotte, North Carolina. So yeah. I moved up and everything's been brilliant. I honestly couldn't be happier.
Reality TV World: While your fellow contestants haven't come right out and said they didn't think you and Michelle would make it and last as a couple, most of them have implied they thought you two just had a very strong physical connection and nothing much deeper. Now that you and Michelle are still together, what would you want to say to those people? Do you kind of have an "I told you so" mindset?
Benjamin Clark: Not really. I think a lot of people sort of marketed and thrust their relationship out there, because I think that they didn't feel it was genuine. Michelle and I, we were -- it was weird when we got off the show, because NBC told us not to be public. And for us, it was so hard because we were obviously living together and were seeing each other all the time.
So we found it so difficult to be sort of reserved, whereas other couples, they were sort of marketing it and pushing it out there and being public and trying to get people to see it. It was like they were trying to convince themselves, amongst other people in the public, that their's -- "Oh we have a relationship" -- it was like they were trying too hard.
There has to be some sort of physical connection in order for an attraction to be there to begin with, and that was what sort of worried me at first, because Michelle is my perfect girl.
She's just absolutely stunning, and even when we got on the show, when we were on the boat, I was -- they didn't show a lot of it -- but I drilled her throughout that whole boat ride [with] question after question just to make sure that she was -- I was like, "This is too good to be true. Who brought this girl on?"
She didn't get picked first and we sort of, by default, got paired together because I was last and nobody picked her. I was like, "This is fate. This girl is perfect for me." I didn't trust the situation, so I probed her. I was like, "Is she genuine?" So I gave her a really hard time when we first got together, which a lot of people didn't see that, because they weren't there with us.
And you know, I sort of got down to the nitty-gritty and asked her a lot of questions and she's just a complete sweetheart, you know? She's a lovely girl. So I thought the initial thing obviously was physical, but I was attracted to her.
I don't think that was a bad thing. Everyone obviously saw that, but you know, the other element and aspect, I thought, was absolutely there all the way. We wouldn't have made it as far and we wouldn't have gotten along together. And she's goofy and quirky and messes around more than I do, so we get along brilliantly.
Reality TV World: I was going to ask you at what moment during the season you really felt like you and Michelle clicked and had a real chance at making things work between you. So based upon what you're saying, it sounds like it was on that boat ride when you determined you could have a long-lasting relationship with her right?
Benjamin Clark: Yeah, yeah. It was. We spoke a lot and [Jenny Blatt], bless her, she was like throwing up on the boat. Her stomach was really [upset] and she had motion sickness. She spent most of the day underneath the boat, so it was basically just me and Michelle on it anyway by ourselves.
So that was probably when we had some long discussions and spoke about that and I realized she wasn't just a pretty face. There was a lot more than what people were sort of saying, that it was just purely physical. We're identical. We're very, very, very similar.
Reality TV World: Oh no, I was actually wondering where Jenny was during that date! So that makes sense. (Laughs)
Benjamin Clark: Yeah, bless her. (Laughs) She had a bucket between her legs and she was down beneath the boat.
Reality TV World: When I talked to Jesse, he said he was always "Team Ben and Michelle" all the way. Are you still good friends with Jesse and what did you think about his gameplay throughout the season? He thought he played a pretty selfless game to get the right people together, but other contestants I've spoken with believed he was playing a selfish game for his own benefit. What are your thoughts on that?
Benjamin Clark: Yeah me and Jesse are still really good friends. We met up last weekend and we talk every other day, if not every day. Jesse is a "what you see is what you get." I think he had a rough time though because he's black or he's white. There's no gray area. He's very straight forward and he's very honest, and I think a lot of people are very thin-skinned and I don't know. They're offended by his honesty.
But that's why me and Jesse got along, because we're honest and we said what we thought, and if you didn't like it then that was it. Jesse, I think, was very selfless. What he did for Michelle was a God-send. Without him, Michelle and I would definitely not have carried on until the end.
He saved Michelle and he had no idea [Ali Leitza] was going to take me. He said the producers kept them separate at the Oasis during the day for interviews, and he was sort of blindsided by Ali when Ali picked me. So, he had to think on his toes -- think quick -- and so he picked Michelle.
And Michelle is great friends with Jesse as well, you know? Jesse's actually out in Chicago with us right now and we were all out last night and watched the show together. Jesse's like an older brother, really. He got a bad [reputation] actually and Ali sort of got off scratch free with that whole scenario.
She's the one that picked me, rightly or wrongly, and Jesse sort of reacted to that. Jesse got all the grief, and I think he's been quite mature, the way he's handled everything -- because he did get bashed. He just took it all on the chin, and I felt like a lot of it was very [unnecessary]. He basically helped a friend out and then got blasted for it.
Reality TV World: When Ali picked you, you seemed very shocked while it looked like tension was high when you two competed together as a couple. So would you say the editing was accurate or were things not as bad as they appeared to be for viewers?
Benjamin Clark: The editing is spot on. I think how everyone was depicted was a really, really fair evaluation of everybody. It was. I was honestly shocked. Ali and I had spoken once. That was like Day 1 and it was a brief introduction. We had no spoken.
I had no idea she had any interest, and we literally got back to the cabin and as you could see, she basically said, "Listen, let's just" -- she was giving it the big one saying, "Let's get to know each other. I can't believe you're not giving me a chance. Michelle's all over us. I can't get to know you." It was within five minutes of getting back to the cabins, she was spitting off.
And then she was like, "Listen." She basically said, "I've got no interest. I just want to get this challenge over with. I don't want to be here." She woke up in the morning ready for the challenge like 30 minutes before we set off and she was like, "I don't want breakfast. I just want to sleep in. I don't want to do this challenge." She had no sort of drive to be there whatsoever.
So, she took me away from Michelle and then just sort of conceded that she didn't want to be there. And I was like, "We could possibly end up going home. You split me and Michelle up and I could possibly be going home."
She had no drive to do this adventure and all she did during that whole two days, when we returned, was just bash everybody. It was all her own doing and all she did was get defensive and sort of irate everybody. So, I think how she was depicted and came across was very, very true.
Reality TV World: Is it safe to say you and Michelle don't have much of a friendship with Ali now?
Benjamin Clark: Well, I can't speak for Michelle, but I know I haven't said one word to her since we were on the show to be honest. So yeah, that's a pretty fair estimation that we will not continue our friendship in the real world.
Above is the first half of our exclusive interview with Ben. Check back with Reality TV World soon for the concluding portion and Michelle's interview. To begin reading what Ken and Yanina had to tell us, click here and here.
(Photo credit NBC)
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