Standing beside a table bearing a vase of red roses, ABC’s The Bachelor host Chris Harrison spoke at Wallis Annenberg Hall Monday, sharing his experiences in the television industry.
Harrison came to USC as a guest speaker for students in the “Entertainment, Business and Media in Today’s Society” journalism course. In his talk, he acknowledged that he was at a place in his life where he had the age and experience to give advice to a room full of college students.
Growing up in Oklahoma City, Harrison initially had no interest in studying journalism, or hosting, much less becoming a television personality.
“My goal in life was to play soccer,” Harrison said. “I wanted to go to college through soccer. That was my end all be all.”
Harrison’s dream changed during his junior year of college when he was approached to be a sportscaster for basketball games. After delving into sportscasting, Harrison realized he had a new passion and changed his career focus.
“As soon as I did it, that was my drug,” Harrison said. “I was addicted. That was my passion. If you know me, when I love something I go into it. That’s it.”
Following college, he landed a job based on his knowledge of the Dallas Cowboys. He eventually moved out to Los Angeles, where he discovered a love for producing and television hosting.
Regarding his one of his most popular television shows The Bachelor, Harrison spoke about the show’s efforts in incorporating diversity into its casting. Harrison said that the show felt pressure from media outlets for years to cast a black bachelor or bachelorette but that the producers were waiting for the right person to assume the role.
“ABC gave us the time to do it correctly,” Harrison said. “It was important to have the right person, man or woman, earn their spot and be popular.”
Harrison discussed claims that The Bachelor had “taken a step back” in diversity with its current season featuring a white bachelor, previously having casted the show’s first black bachelorette. Harrison refuted this, saying the show has had a history of casting people of color to make sure viewers feel represented.
“What is important to me is people,” Harrison said. “When they don’t see themselves represented on television, they don’t feel included.”
According to Harrison, the audience at home ultimately determines the direction of the show. The Bachelor is more socially relevant now than it was when it first premiered, mainly because of its presence on social media, Harrison said.
“We have the most educated, affluent audience in television,” Harrison said.
Harrison answered the audience’s questions about how The Bachelor fits into the #MeToo movement. He said that it takes steps to ensure the safety of its contestants by hosting a “consent camp” and other initiatives.
He addressed the handling of the controversial last season of Bachelor in Paradise, in which a contestant was accused of sexual misconduct. Harrison said that he and the other producers removed both contestants to give them the benefit of the doubt and find out the truth behind the scandal.
“We’re so quick to judge people,” Harrison said. “The news is so quick to put a name out there.”
Harrison said that a successful television host must be natural on camera. He found his “vibe” by getting in front of it as much as possible. He also learned to push himself to reach for different opportunities, which led him to get casted in The Bachelor and Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.
“My mantra in life has been, ‘What would you attempt to do if [you] knew [you] could not fail,’” Harrison said. “I don’t always succeed, [but] the failure in life is not giving yourself a chance to succeed.”
Senior Joseph Salvato, a senior majoring in broadcast and digital journalism and cinema and media studies, agreed with Harrison’s sentiment and found his openness with the audience refreshing.
“Normally, [interviews with] entertainment people [seem] very guarded,” Salvato said. “He just gave a very open and honest, all-encompassing interview.”