Jillian Harris actually the third choice to be next 'The Bachelorette' star
By John Bracchitta, 03/04/2009
Jillian Harris apparently wasn't executive producer Mike Fleiss' first choice to become the next star of The Bachelorette. In fact, she was his third option.
"Well, Melissa didn't wanna do it, Molly became [The Bachelor star Jason Mesnick's] choice, and Jillian was the next biggest fan favorite," Fleiss told reporters during a media conference call one day after The Bachelor and The Bachelorette host Chris Harrison announced that Harris --the second runner-up on Mesnick's The Bachelor season -- will serve as the star the fifth season of The Bachelorette, which will premiere on May 18.
Fleiss explained that he had originally approached Molly Malaney about serving as The Bachelorette's fiifth season star after Mesnick had rejected her in favor of Melissa Rycroft during last November's taping of Mesnick's Final Rose Ceremony, but was then forced to change gears at approached Rycroft -- who declined his offer -- after Mesnick decided to dump her and attempt to reunite with Malaney during the taping of the season's After the Final Rose special six weeks later.
"I've sorta been scrounging around out there, first I tried to talk Molly into doing it. When Jason was with Melissa I said 'Oh, well I think this Molly is fantastically telegenic and sweet she'd make a great bachelorette,' so I was on the phone with her for two-and-a-half weeks trying to talk her into doing that," Fleiss said.
While Malaney was initially upset over being rejected by Mesnick and didn't immediately show much interest in The Bachelorette role, Fleiss told reporters that she eventually began contemplating it and had gotten to the point of asking permission break the show's confidentiality agreement and reveal her The Bachelor fate to friends and family that she wanted to discuss the idea with.
"She had asked me for permission to break confidentiality and tell her friends and family that she hadn't been the chosen one at the end [so she could talk to them] about being the next Bachelorette. So she talked to them and they were all supportive of it, at least her friends were, I know that."
"She was just starting to come around of being the new Bachelorette when this thing happened with Jason," he added.
Once Mesnick broke up with Rycroft and reunited with Malaney, Fleiss said he asked Rycroft if she was interested in taking on The Bachelorette role but she passed on the offer.
"I tried to get [Melissa] to be the next Bachelorette. She didn't wanna do it," he told reporters.
With both the season's Final 2 suitors off the table, Fleiss then turned to Harris, who accepted the offer. Despite being the third choice, Fleiss maintained that she was nonetheless an ideal choice to star in The Bachelorette.
"She's super-relatable, she's got that 'Girl next door' thing, and I think she sort of has a Jennifer Aniston quality," Fleiss told reporters. "She's sweet and she's smart and she's the right age to do this, I think. She's 28 or 29, which is better than having one of the really young girls do it."
Harris was announced as the next star of The Bachelorette at the conclusion of Tuesday night's broadcast of The Bachelor: After the Final Rose Part 2 special that served as the final wrap-up to Mesnick's The Bachelor season.
"It was really a pretty easy decision for us to make," Harrison gushed as he announced Harris' The Bachelorette selection. "There was one girl on [The Bachelor] this season that really captured America's heart and the groundswell of support for her to be the next Bachelorette was overwhelming."
"I'm a very lucky person," Harris told Harrison after the announcement. "I've been a huge fan of the show since Day 1 and I've always looked at The Bachelorette as 'Oh my god, they're so lucky, how did they get there?' and now I'm sitting here -- it's very surreal."
"Although I know there are no guarantees, it is a great, great opportunity to me to meet 25 guys that are a good match for me and I fell in love once before and know that this is a great venue for me to fall in love again," Harris added. "There's something magical about it that you can't get in real life and I think anybody who has the opportunity do something like this -- it is very unlike the real world -- but it does allow you to open your heart up, which I needed."
While Harris will be the first Canadian to serve as the star of The Bachelorette, she will not be the reality franchise's first foreign star. Last year, British financier Matt Grant served as the star of The Bachelor's twelfth season.
Harris' The Bachelorette edition will premiere with a special two-hour broadcast on Monday, May 18 at 9PM ET/PT -- immediately after ABC's broadcast of Dancing with the Stars' final eighth-season performance show.