Matt James' season of The Bachelor is underway!
The historical 25th season, which stars the franchise's first Black male lead, has been in production for over a week now at a resort in Pennsylvania, according to Variety. James, 28, met his contestants during the weekend of Sep. 10, when the limousine arrivals episode was filmed.
In light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic — and much like Clare Crawley's season of The Bachelorette, which was shot at a sprawling Palm Springs hotel — the resort in Pennsylvania is completely rented out and the entire cast and crew underwent a two-week quarantine after arriving.
As a precaution, extra contestants were brought out to Pennsylvania just in case anyone tested positive for the virus. According to Variety, all contestants tested negative and were given the green light to film.
"We brought all these women out just in case any of them tested positive," ABC Entertainment's Rob Mills told Variety. "You just never know, so we always have alternates. Maybe next time, we don't have to bring in as many people."
Of James' meeting his ladies for the first time, Mills told Variety it was "interesting" to behold.
"Matt is not on [this] season of The Bachelorette, and the reason why we take leads from a previous season is because you know them so well and we can predict which person he might like or not," he said. "But we just didn't know at all, so it was really fun to watch him interact with everyone."
According to Mills, the first episode of James' season "couldn't have gone better" and the "women were so fantastic."
Given that we're still in the midst of a global health crisis, there will be no traveling during James' season — just like on Crawley's Bachelorette season.
"We've got to stay in a bubble," Mills told Variety. "We're just not in a place in the world where we can do that. No matter what, safety is paramount."
Mills also revealed how The Bachelor will differ from The Bachelorette, detailing how they were able to grow and learn from Crawley's season.
"The look of it will be completely different. It was nice to have a change of scenery, but beyond that, the protocols and everything are the same — we have a good system in place for as long as we're in pandemic mode. There was a ton of learning from the season of Bachelorette that we were able to take and make this season of Bachelor even better. It is impressive — the bubble that they've devised is so fantastic. It really is the one way you can do it safely," he said. "Everyone is going to be so excited about this season."
Host Chris Harrison previously told Variety that James will have a "smoother ride."
"Shooting in California, our wonderful governor was just changing things on a whim," he said. "We had to adjust with our wonderful governor — my tongue is firmly planted on my cheek — so this will be a lot easier and a lot more organized because we know what we're dealing with."
Earlier this month, ABC unveiled all 43 women who could be competing for James' heart on the show's Facebook page.
The group of potential contestants includes women mostly in their 20s, with just four out of the 43 hopefuls in their 30s. The youngest contestant is 21. The final cast will be released at a later date.
James was originally included in Crawley's cast for The Bachelorette, but when her season was delayed due to the pandemic, James was announced as the franchise's next leading man.
Production on James' season will be complete around Thanksgiving, Variety reported, and will premiere on ABC in January.
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