TORONTO — Take 26 singles who’ve been cooped up during the pandemic, put them in Ontario’s cottage country for dates, drinks and deer sightings — and the result is “a lot of tea spilling, a lot of drama,” says “Bachelor in Paradise Canada” host Jesse Jones.
The spinoff of the U.S. matchmaking franchise debuts Sunday on Citytv with romance-seekers hooking up at Camp Paradise, described as a “secluded love nest on the lake.”
“Man, let me tell you, people were wound up in quarantine, so when you let them out of quarantine — look out,” Jones said in a recent phone interview from Brampton, Ont., where he lives.
“I’m welcoming people off the dock into Paradise and had to move out of the way sometimes, because they didn’t even want to talk to me. They were just like: ‘I need to get to the bar, I need to get to the action. Where is it? And how fast can we begin here?’”
The series promises “never-before-seen twists” as 12 Canadian and U.S. “Bachelor” alumni shack up with 14 Canadian franchise fans known as Bachelor Nation.
This is the first time the franchise has cast fans on the TV show where contestants choose mates in weekly rose ceremonies, and either break up or get engaged at the end.
The “Camp Paradise resident bartender” is Toronto firefighter Kevin Wendt of “Bachelor in Paradise” season 5.
Each episode will be followed by “The Bachelor After Show: After Paradise Canada.”
“You’re going to see a lot of activity in the lake, you’re going to see people shedding a lot of clothing,” said Jones who, above his hosting duties, is an entrepreneur, actor and head of the Jones & Jones Group, which helps companies connect to Afro-Caribbean and multicultural communities nationally.
“You know how we’ve been in this time where everybody’s on Zoom calls and pants are optional? In Paradise, that’s definitely a thing.”
Filming took place early this past summer under pandemic protocols at an undisclosed location outfitted with a hot tub. Jones said protocols included a lengthy quarantine before cameras rolled and frequent COVID-19 testing.
Two to three days of dating on “Bachelor in Paradise” is akin to two to three months spent together in the regular world, said Jones.
“You’re learning stuff that sometimes you don’t even get in six months,” he said.
Add in pent-up pandemic dating desires and cameras rolling at all hours, and “the stakes definitely were higher” with “a lot of emotion right off the bat.”
“Dating today is wild. Truly connecting with anybody today is wild,” Jones said. “For these cast members to participate in this wonderful social experiment where they have to remove themselves from all things and be present and open to the opportunities in front of them, that’s something we can all take a page from.”
Jones said the series features “a lot of Canadiana,” with a “summer camp experience” complete with a lakefront cottage, cosy fires, canoe rides, deer sightings.
Prior to becoming host, he was “a passive viewer” of the “Bachelor” franchise, watching it with his grandmother, who is a “massive fan.”
“I remember she would say: ‘Jesse, I think you would be perfect on this show to find your forever person as well,’” he said.
But when he called to tell her he was hosting, she wasn’t impressed.
“My grandmother says, ‘Hosting? You mean you’re not going to be the bachelor?’” Jones recalled with a laugh.
“She doesn’t care about the hosting part. She’s like, ‘You need to get in there.’ I’m like, ‘Grandma that’s not going to be happening on this season here. I am hosting, I am facilitating, grandma.’
“She goes, ‘OK, fine, but next time get in there.’”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 8, 2021.