TV & Movies

Trista Sutter Isn't the First: 10 Times Bachelor Nation Stars Alleged Producer Manipulation

From Colton Underwood to Clare Crawley, these are the stars of Bachelor Nation who've gotten real about what's going on behind the scenes of America's favorite reality TV franchise.

Trista Sutter has all of Bachelor Nation talking.

Appearing on the Lady Gang podcast in early November, the original Bachelorette opened up about what really went down when she and husband Ryan Sutter tied the knot in a televised ceremony nearly 17 years ago. And while fans at home watched what looked like a fairy tale unfold, the reality TV pioneer admitted that it was a little bit more complicated than that.

Not only was runner-up Charlie Maher wedged into his ex's big day by producers, essentially serving as its host—something Sutter admitted was "a little bit awkward"—but she said that a production binder full of "storylines" assigned to her friends and family was discovered at the bachelorette party. Additionally, she revealed that her guest list was "super limited in number" because of all the execs whose presence had to be accommodated, leading to a "really big fight" between her and Ryan. 

In the end, Sutter holds no grudge over the obvious interference in her big day. "There's no way in hell I ever would have been able to have the kind of wedding, even a fraction of the kind of wedding, that I had on my own," she said. "I wanted to save my parents a s–t ton of money. And we got to take over an entire resort. So, it was super fun."

E! News has reached out to ABC for comment but has yet to hear back.

But Sutter's not the first member of Bachelor Nation to have pulled back the curtain on the ways in which producers on the franchise have—allegedly—manipulated the action to get the entertainment they want. Check out all those who've made such claims before her in the gallery below!

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While promoting his 2020 memoir The First Time: Finding Myself and Looking for Love on Reality TV, the former Bachelor expressed his frustrations with producers who he felt "crossed the line" during filming on season 23. "I understand it's show business, I understand what I signed up for, but it's still also my personal life. They have another season, another Bachelor to move onto, and I have my life—and my decisions that I make on the show carry on into my real life," Underwood told Yahoo! Entertainment. "When it came to my relationship, I didn't want them to get in the way, and I felt at times there were some certain things that happened that just sort of crossed the line in my opinion."

Elaborating on the book's revelation that he felt producers were discouraging his relationship with now ex-girlfriend Cassie Randolph by inviting her dad to Thailand, Underwood said, "There was a part of me that maybe thought they just wanted an engagement, and they wanted me to go with somebody who was going to be ready for that, and I don't think they thought Cassie was ready at the time. But that wasn't for them to decide."

Following his breakup with Randolph, Underwood would go on to accuse the producers and host Chris Harrison of "abuse" and taking "advantage" of his ex during a virtual interview in July. "Stop worrying about me or painting me to be this controlling or angry person," he said in August, during an interview on Reality Steve's podcast. "I'm not angry. If there's anybody I'm upset about or upset with it's you guys."

During an April 2020 appearance on The Ben and Ashley I Almost Famous Podcast, the season 24 contestant shared that she felt producers intentionally kept her away from Bachelor Peter Weber. "The first couple of weeks I saw him look at me differently compared to when we got on our one-on-one and I could tell 100 percent that, like, producers were in his head," the lawyer said. "On the one-on-one, nothing happened between us but he had this, like, demeanor toward me that was so pissed off and I was looking at him, like, 'What the hell were you told?' And so right then and there, I knew something was going on behind the scenes, and I was like, 'This is bulls–t.'"

Flanagan said that what viewers didn't see during that date was her asking Weber to "speak freely" before alleging that producers were keeping her from him. "[I told him], 'They don't let me see you. They locked me up in a closet for three hours last week, and they won't let me see you.' I said, 'You clearly know they push some people forward, and they don't push others forward, and I was like, 'You've been in my position before. What do you want me to do?' I saw…like things were getting in his head [and] that he wasn't able to make his own decision and it just kind of pissed me off."

She was eliminated before the hometown dates and allegedly not invited to participate in Women Tell All—though she was seated in the audience at the finale—but, in the end, she and Weber appear to have gotten the last laugh. After calling off his engagement with Hannah Ann Sluss and parting ways with Madison Prewett, the erstwhile Bachelor and Flanagan have spent much of 2020 at one another's side.

The contestant from Juan Pablo Galavis' season was one of a handful who went on record in Amy Kaufman's 2018 expose Bachelor Nation: Inside the World of America's Favorite Guilty Pleasure. In the book, Joynt recalled being resistant to producers' instructions to confess she was falling in love with the Bachelor during her "In the Moment" interviews, making them last an hour, rather than the typical 20 minutes.

The contestant who famously left Desiree Hartsock days before the final rose ceremony on her season of The Bachelorette also spoke to Kaufman, alleging producer manipulation during "ITM" interviews. "They'd try to get me to talk about something from my childhood, for example," he said, "or say something really personal about a family member…then try to attach that to what's happening in the world of The Bachelor."

After competing for Emily Maynard's heart on season eight of The Bachelorette—and returning for four subsequent appearances in various Bachelor Nation spinoffs—Bukowski told Kaufman that his "ITM" interviews were often more like police interrogations. "I was saying lines verbatim from producers because I'd been sitting in a stupid room for an hour and just wanted to go," he claimed. "You would say something you totally didn't even believe or want to say, but they just keep asking you and asking you and asking you—just like you're being interrogated."

The season 16 contestant told Page Six in 2015 that her infamously awkward first kiss with Bachlelor Ben Flajnik was the result of some behind-the-scenes encouragement. After telling producers that she wanted to "open up" to Flajnik, she was approached in the bathroom and told by the crew that Flajnik planned to pull her aside during the first rose ceremony that night. Otis said she told producers she wouldn't be able to kiss him point-blank without some liquid courage, at which point she alleged she was delivered two vodka sodas over the next 20 minutes, which she drank.

"Then we were talking about what I'm going to do and that he's going to pull me [to the side] first and I would just go and I would kiss him and make out with him," Otis continued. "And I had barely spoken [on the show]…and then the rest is history." The stunt, which saw her straddle him, didn't work. She was eliminated that night.

"During my exit interview, a producer asked, 'Don't you miss your family?' and I just lost it," she told the outlet. "So as I'm talking about my family and how I miss them, I'm then asked about how I feel about Ben. I'm crying, and it appears that I'm devastated that Ben didn't choose me."

According to the Bachelorette contestant-turned-Bachelor, the order that the limos carrying the hopefuls arrive is quite strategic. "I remember one of the producers said to me [before filming The Bachelorette], 'You are going to be the first one out of the limo,'" he told Glamour in 2015. "I didn't think much of it. But then he said, 'Because you are first, everyone here thinks you are going to do well.' They want to get the show started off on the right foot."

Before she returned as the Bachelorette in 2020, Crawley had told the L.A. Times that she was done with the franchise, saying she'd been treated cruelly by the editors—who'd made her appear to be confiding in a raccoon during a Bachelor in Paradise appearance—and with indifference by producers when she called out her portrayal on the show. "'That's how it goes. You know what you signed up for,'" she recalled the people she'd become "super close" with responding when she made her grievances known. 

She added, "The whole process makes you so raw and so vulnerable, and that's why it works. You don't have any outside distraction, so they're your people. At the end of the day, I'm a person who builds friendships. I had to keep reminding myself — and to this day, I still have to remind myself when they call me — that this is their job. And I have to make peace with that…This show either builds you or breaks you. And I'm not going to let it break me, because they're making money off of people like me. I'll be damned if they, or anybody else, chooses how my life goes."

As fans of her season know well, she managed to stay true to her convictions, departing early with fiancé Dale Moss.

During the premiere of Galavis' season, Lewis was the unlucky contestant who learned, as she was trying to accept one of the Bachelor's roses, that he'd actually called out another name. She went on to tell TMZ (per Us Weekly) that she believed her ultimate rejection had been orchestrated, alleging that producers made her dye her naturally strawberry-blonde hair a darker red and change out of a purple dress into a pink one, while advising she tweet at Galavis after their introduction. In a different interview with Chicago radio station B96, she also said her limo entrance was suggested by producers, as well. "And I agreed to it—it's not that they force you to do anything," she continued. "It's just that they come up with the ideas, and then you go with it."

During a November 2020 interview on the LadyGang podcast, the first Bachelorette revealed the hand producers played in her marriage to Ryan Sutter. The appearance of runner-up Charlie Maher, serving as host for the televised version of the big day, was thrust on her, she claimed. "They came to us and they said to us, 'Do you want us to be in your face all day long—all day?' And we were like, 'No, of course not,'" she recalled. She later added, "They were like, 'If you don't want us around all day long, then you're going to have to have Charlie be the commentator or the correspondent.'"

And then there's the story of the misplaced binder. "At our wedding, maybe actually it was at our bachelor/bachelorette party, one of the producers left their binder out—like they forgot their binder somewhere. And one of the people who was at the bachelor/bachelorette party picked it up and gave it to us. And it had, like, their characters, like the storylines for every person," she revealed.  "They had all of our friends who were invited to the bachelor/bachelorette parties," Trista continued. "They had, you know, all of their bios and, you know, probably some stuff that they interviewed about. And then, I think they had, like, titles, like maybe like the villain or the sweetheart."

The Bachelorette airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. on ABC.

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