Evan Bass defends 'Bachelor in Paradise' producers amid scandal and begs for show's return
By Elizabeth Kwiatkowski, 06/19/2017
Evan Bass has penned a deeply personal and opinionated guest column, begging ABC not to cancel Bachelor in Paradiseamid "misconduct" allegations he claims have been "blown way out of proportion."
"Bachelor in Paradise is my show. It's my jam. Personal redemption, lifelong friends and the woman of my dreams are just a few of the many takeaways I found living on set for weeks at the air-condition-less resort. When the news about Paradise production broke the Internet, it also broke my heart. While to some it's a silly TV show, for me, it was an experience that changed my life in unimaginable ways," Evan wrote in a column for The Hollywood Reporter.
After competing for JoJo Fletcher's heart on The Bachelorette's twelfth season -- and arguably receiving an unflattering edit -- Evan gathered the courage and confidence to appear on Bachelor n Paradise 3, where he fell in love with Carly Waddell and proposed to her during last summer's season finale.
"I am troubled thinking about the allegations happening on my favorite beach, and I'm sad that some couples will not have the opportunity to find love in a powerful and unique way. I can't help but think about [Season 2 couple Roper and Tanner Tolbert], the fast-approaching birth of their baby and how that beautiful family wouldn't exist without Paradise," wrote Evan, who got married to Carly in Mexico this past weekend.
"And for me, I will be forever grateful to Paradise for guiding me to an incredible stepmother to my own children. Family creation aside, I'm equally disturbed by the way the production of the show is being portrayed."
Production on Season 4 of Bachelor in Paradise was indefinitely suspended earlier this month following a June 4 incident in which DeMario Jackson and Corinne Olympios drunkenly hooked up in a pool at the Mexican resort. A producer reportedly filed a complaint to Warner Bros. in fear Corinne was too intoxicated to consent to aggressive PDA, and an investigation is still ongoing.
In recent days, Corinne has called herself a traumatized "victim," while DeMario claims his character has been wrongly "assassinated" and that Bachelor in Paradise footage will prove any sexual activity between the pair was consensual and he is innocent. Both parties have hired legal representation.
In the meantime, Bachelor in Paradise producers have been blamed for not preventing such drunken behavior to begin with or at least intervening when necessary. TMZ recently reported that Corinne's potential lawsuit is more aimed at the producers for allegedly not taking care of her, rather than DeMario for alleged sexual assault.
"At first I wanted to stay quiet and let the dust settle before speaking out, but as the show has come under more sensationalized hostility and more unnamed 'sources' speak out, I feel compelled to share my experiences with the show and its production team. Between Carly and I, we've appeared on five Bachelor-themed series, including appearances on the entire seasons of BIP two and three," Evan explained in his guest column.
"I'm not here to pontificate about rumors or conjecture, and we must absolutely allow time for the truth to come out... I'm anxiously hopeful that the full story is given the light of day before misinformation does any more damage. I've talked with several cast members who were on-site, and from their perspectives, this was not anywhere close to what's being portrayed in the media."
Evan told The Reporter that the "overwhelming theme" from the Season 4 cast is that, although such "misconduct" allegations should be taken seriously, "the actual events have been blown way out of proportion and 'consent' was not an issue that day or in the days following."
"Their anger is not so much directed at Corinne but more at the rogue 'newbie' producers who manufactured something out of nothing. Now that Corinne has lawyered up, she's following the natural path of a scandal by protecting herself, as she has every right to do," Evan wrote.
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Evan said it's always easier for people on the show to blame others rather than accept responsibility for their actions.
"We are never forced to do what we don't want to do... I can't talk too much about our contracts with the show, but let me say this: It's very, very clear that, as contestants, our actions and words are our responsibility, including alcohol consumption. But in reality, the producers are always there to help when things get fuzzy," Evan explained.
"My friends and I were never once prodded or forced to drink alcohol. Hell, the furthest production goes is asking what type of beverage you'd like. And saying 'water' is a perfectly fine response. On BIP Season 3, none of us imbibed to the point of being more than 'tipsy,' except [Chad Johnson] -- and he readily admits that he did that on his own, with no prodding."
Evan wrote that Bachelor in Paradise naturally produces degrees of pressure in light of cameras, but it's "fascinating" to watch how different people deal with that pressure.
"Some get very quiet, some drink too much, and some, like me, do ridiculous things like fake my own death. That's what makes the show interesting to watch. Alcohol is treated with the respect it deserves, and sometimes contestants are asked to stop," Evan revealed.
"In fact, I wasn't allowed to drink for two weeks because of medication I was taking, and although I badly wanted a glass of wine for Rose Ceremonies, the staff would come running from all directions to stop me when I tried to sneak a sip or order a drink. I've watched staff and producers stop many situations before they became a problem, even at the expense of making 'great TV.'"
Evan said producers' interventions were not only beneficial to his time in Paradise, but they also assisted in his process of finding love.
"There are many amazing people on staff to assist us when we were doing something stupid, [and] Chris Harrison and [bartender] Jorge are truly great men... The cast grows very close with the producers," he noted.
Evan recalled how the producers helped him break down the barriers of his heart, navigate his feelings and make decisions that were in line with his values. He wrote that producers are "always watching and always approachable."
"The producers I know would never allow someone to do something against their will or get to a place where something bad would occur. That's what makes this situation so tough. I know this cast and the production staff so well, I find this alleged situation unimaginable," Evan told The Reporter.
"On the other hand, I think we are all glad the production staff, ABC and Warner Bros. are taking it seriously. I know for a fact that no one on the show would want anyone to be violated in any way for ratings. The show doesn't cast intentionally bad people. Sometimes contestants are misguided, ridiculous and narcissistic, but no one shows up ready to hurt someone."
Evan continued, "I don't know DeMario, but the cast members I've spoken to that have gotten to know him say he's a good guy. I just don't believe that he thought he was hurting Corinne or that he knew she wasn't able to give consent."
Evan believes the topic of consent if where "all men can learn."
"Getting approval not just once but multiple times is the right thing and should become our society's norm. In our society, we must learn to go above and beyond to make sure people feel safe. And I think the show is doing that by shutting down production to ensure they've done everything they can do to guarantee safety," he explained.
Evan insisted he truly believes in the show and its production staff, as they are all "good people" who work really hard and genuinely fight for love and a great story.
"I don't want these stories to end. I'm sure adjustments will be made, but ultimately one bad incident does not have to tarnish a show's legacy, and I'm sure as hell not going to let it affect my relationship with Carly in any way. I am incredibly grateful for the producers, the staff and everyone involved in Paradise for choosing to illuminate my story and help me become a better man," Evan wrote.
"But beyond the cast, the Bachelor shows are important to millions. The shows are a beautiful juxtaposition of parody and melodrama that illuminate on our own lives [and] bring people together by helping us see our own ridiculousness. Live-tweeting has become a collective event."
"The shows, and especially Paradise," he wrote, "break stereotypes and help people learn about themselves as human beings. We identify with some of the characters, and... the shows also highlights important topics the public wrestles with."
Evan said the current Bachelor in Paradise scandal had the "unintended consequence" of bringing the discussion about "consent" to the forefront of people's minds and it's been a powerful learning experience for those who strive to be in healthy relationships with mutual respect.
"As this [controversy] plays out, it will help many people treat consent on a new level and understand personal responsibility versus the duty of others to act. The show has recently introduced [Rachel Lindsay] as the first African-American lead, and she is doing a fantastic job as the Bachelorette. Healthy conversations about race are happening everywhere because of it," Evan insisted.
"I do not want to downplay the seriousness of this very difficult situation. My heart goes out to Corinne and everyone negatively affected by this. I pray for peace and healing to begin and personal growth for all."
But Evan concluded, "Paradise must come back, if not this season, then next season. I want to watch love form and grow on ABC Mondays and Tuesdays. I want to watch the next steady Jade and Tanner and also the next roller-coaster relationship like I had. Love always wins, and I trust in Paradise."