© Photo by Sherri Tilley
You know him as the stabilizing force behind the increasingly dramatic rose ceremonies on ABC's hit reality television shows The Bachelor and The Bachelorette. But did you know that he grew up in Dallas, planned on being a sportscaster, and played on a Hollywood soccer team with well-known rock stars? He's witnessed romance in dozens of cities across the globe, thinks dating is brutal, and sometimes feels like a psychiatrist in a fascinating study of human behavior. Now, in this revealing interview, it's Chris Harrison's turn as 'The Bachelor: The Man Tells All.'
TFL: Describe the transition from sportscaster to television host.
CH: It was a very odd transition I guess because I didn't really intend for it to happen; it wasn't a goal of mine to end up in Hollywood and do anything other than sportscasting. I was going to move back to Dallas, and my goal was to work at Channel 8 and be a sportscaster and cover my Cowboys and live happily ever after. And I had an opportunity to move to L.A. back in 1999 and start up a horse racing network of all things. At the time, I was younger and married but didn't have kids; so we thought,
Let's just go to L.A. for a while and have fun, and we can always come home. One thing led to another; and once I was out there, I had my eyes opened to this other world and quickly got a home and gardens show and did a game show and then The Bachelor ended up falling into my lap in 2001. And 'the rest is history' as they say.
TFL: That's a fantastic ride.
CH: Yeah, it's been over twelve years now. It's been a crazy run and huge success and those things just don't happen. It's one of those home runs that even in the history of home runs in pretty spectacular. It's in the pantheon of the longest running shows in television history now. It's just insane.
TFL: Do you find that people consider you to be an expert in love, and what have you learned about love so far?
CH: They do tend to feel like I know more, but it's more of that they just feel like they know me ... which I like, it's a good thing. I have a lot of actor friends who play characters on whatever show, and people will come up and be mad or sad or happy for them depending on what their character is doing that week in the show. People kind of lose that filter of,
You know that's not them, right? All that is written. Whereas, my character really isn't one. It's just me. I'm acting as myself, and I say a lot of the things I want. So I feel like when people come up to me in a bar or at Chili's or the airport or whatever, they know me. And I've gotten to know them. They feel like they can tell me anything, and often they do to an embarrassing degree sometimes about their sex life or about their married life. But I like the fact that people think they can approach me. What I've learned about love? I don't know if it's love or life experiences or maybe all of the above and being around this show ... life just isn't so black and white anymore. And the way that pertains to relationships ... people will ask if I have an opinion or if I will tell someone if I think they're making a mistake, but what we think is a mistake may not be a mistake to them, or there might be reasons behind what they're doing or how they're acting. And so, to me, instead of 'things are right or wrong' or someone's the 'bad person' or the 'good person,' it's 'why are they like that'? What's from their past or what are they experiencing that's making them like that? That's what I love about my job; it's a little like being a psychiatrist.
TFL: What about your job do you enjoy the most and what makes it fun?
CH: People. I love people. I like getting to know them; I like figuring out what makes them tick and why we do what we do and why they're on the show in the first place. Why are they seemingly beautiful, intelligent, successful, people that would come on this show? Now that I'm single myself, I realize that it's tough out there. It's brutal dating. This is an incredible environment with an amazing experience wrapped up in it - the travel and getting to do that - it's a viable option and it works. It's that mix that I love from the show. It's the actress from L.A., but it's the small town girl from Alabama, and it's the lawyer from Dallas. When you put all of that together, the study in human behavior is incredible to watch. You know who rises to the top and who gets covered up in a situation and can't really handle it very well. When you take people's devices away as well and things they rely on - their mommy or daddy or their phones or their go-to defense mechanisms - when they're left vulnerable, it's interesting to see how they react.
TFL: What do you wish more people knew about you?
CH: I think the public perception of my life and how I live is very different from how boring my life probably really is. We travel so much on the show and we get to do amazing things around the world; so when I'm home, I'm home. I'm going to my daughter's soccer games and practices; I coach her team. You know how it is if you're a parent, you pick your kids up at 2:30; and until we go to bed, I'm a taxi driver and I'm cooking dinner. But I love that; that's my real life. I'm not a big 'go out' kind of guy. I'm pretty quiet; I like my privacy. I was on The View last Monday and someone asked me about being The Bachelor; and I said that despite what I do for a living - I love being a host - I'm actually a pretty private person and I don't really live out loud.
TFL: Have you played much soccer since college?
CH: It was my life growing up, and when I got out to L.A.it's funny - I played with a couple of teams, and one of them ended up being Rod Stewart's team. That was like my introduction into Hollywood. Everything you do is on steroids out there. Some of the guys from the Sex Pistols were on the team, Billy Duffy from the band The Cult, and it was just this crazy squad of people. It was a soccer team called the Exiles, and Rod Stewart was the head of the team. I was on another team called the Gypsies, the Gypos; and so I played on one side and Chef Gordon Ramsey played on the other side. It'd be funny; we'd get on the field and play these teams in L.A., and they'd stop and be like,
Is that Gordon? Is that Chris? What an odd team! But, you know, it's always been a love of mine and a passion. I love coaching my kids, and I love being around it as much as I can.
TFL: What's coming up next for you that viewers should keep an eye out for?
CH: We're in production [of The Bachelor] with Juan Pablo, and that comes out on January sixth. Later that month, we have our live wedding with Sean and Catherine, a Dallas couple, who were on the show last year. They're going to get married; and we're going to do it live, which is very cool. After the show is done taping, then I get to my fun stuff ... The View or I host Miss America, stuff like that. I call it my 'silly season'; I get to do the stuff I love.
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