By the end of my half-hour gossip sesh with reality TV star Chad Johnson, he told me he didn’t want to “fuck over ABC too much” since he might be working with them in the future (“Who knows?” he said with a hint of mystery in his voice). But, he thinks “people need to know some of this stuff.”
Don’t ever say Chad didn’t do anything for you.
Chad made his TV debut this past year as a notable contestant and storyline on JoJo Fletcher’s season of The Bachelorette. He came in 14th place — did not find love, did not make friends. He then appeared on the third season of Bachelor spinoff franchise Bachelor in Paradise and was kicked off the premiere episode for “aggressive behavior.” Chad is considered a notorious Bachelor villain by fans of the show. He’s also a bit of public obsession. I called him to get his side of the story.
As an intellectually curious citizen of America, I have many questions re: characters like Chad. Such as, how does it happen? Do people see it coming? Maybe fall into the victim category on purpose? Are they IRL villains or just victims of tricky editing? The next season of The Bachelor premieres January 2nd. Fans are about to meet 30 new women vying for Bachelor Nick Viall’s heart, one or two of whom will surely meet similar fates. Chad was willing to talk about his experience, so I called him.
The crux of the issue, Chad told me over the phone, was that, well, every dude on the show is a piece of shit. And Chad? Chad is real (follow him on Instagram @realchadjohnson). Haters will say Chad’s mean. And perhaps a little unhinged, but we’ll get to that in a sec.
“Everyone there was really a piece of shit,” he said. (I told you!) “What are the chances that 25 guys all love the same girl?” (Rhetorical.) “When I called them out on that and ruined their whole unspoken bond that they were going to fall in love with her immediately, they hated me.”
“Like…you’re 30 years old,” he continued. “And yet you see this girl one time and you’re immediately in love and have to see her again? That’s weird! In the real world those guys aren’t going to get the girl. Those guys are going to be the weird ones who are in love with a girl they just met.” That seemed like a reasonable assumption.
He did this a lot throughout our conversation, comparing the show to real life to highlight its absurdity. Like to explain his infamous temper (“You don’t get to just get up in my face and tell me I’m the biggest piece of shit on earth. That’s just not the way the world works. You can’t stand in someone’s face and talk shit for 30 minutes without getting hit.”) and fitness obsession (“I mean, I do work out. I put a lot of emphasis on my body. Normally it’s not filmed. Normally I don’t talk about it, in the real world it’s just kinda regular.”).
I asked if he thought the other contestants were putting on an act and his answer was so emphatic I felt silly for asking. “They’ll never admit,” he said. “They’ll never admit it.” Did he develop more genuine feelings for her than they did? “There was a point there where I was actually feeling something for her, but after a while it was pretty obvious to me that she was kind of doing the same thing as every guy. Like, saying what she thought sounded good. I never really knew what was the real her versus what she portrayed.” By the way, Chad only refers to JoJo as “her” or “the girl.”
As the only Real™ contestant, Chad knew the producers would have no choice but to make him the bad guy. Depicting reality would just be bad business! Chad explained: “I had a conversation with the producers early on. I said ‘You can make the entire audience hate everyone here – which they should — and like me. But financially you can’t do that. You’re probably going to make the audience hate me and like everyone else.’ And they were like, ‘Well…yeah.'”
He later clarified: “If the audience really understood what was happening…I would have been the only liked character on the show.”
He cited examples of producers manipulating the show in service of this caricature. Like keeping certain contestants on because they antagonized him (Alex) or urging others to start shit with him (Evan). Or insisting he go back to the house for his luggage after being kicked off, then later editing the footage to make it seem like he was returning in a blind rage, against protocol. Or refilling his drink on Bachelor in Paradise when he wasn’t looking, then not telling him where his bed was when he got too drunk to find it on his own.
All in all, Chad “wasn’t very happy” with how he was portrayed on either show. “They didn’t show me trying to be nice to people or me being a regular person. They didn’t show any of that.”
I asked why he’d possibly go on Bachelor in Paradise or return to other franchises having been subject to this kind of manipulation. He chalks his stint on BIP up to naïveté. “When I heard about the show I was like, ‘I’ll just go on and be myself.’ But that’s not anything near what anyone else does. People hate me for saying that but it’s true,” he said. (How true?) “A thousand percent true. Imagine trying to have a regular conversation with someone who is thinking about everything that comes out of their mouth, planning every word and only saying what they think sounds good.” I agreed that sounded tricky. He described everyone as “walking billboards of themselves,” which I found astute. He later added, “I should have known the girls would be even worse,” which I found offensive.
Chad thinks he can better game the system going forward. Like, for instance, by skipping riskier jokes and only saying the good ones. “Because sometimes I’d make certain jokes thinking they would be funny, then I’d realize it sounded bad, and on TV it looked really bad. So now I think, ‘Okay, I’ll just not do those kinds of jokes then.'”
He also thinks he’s matured. “I was going through a hard time in my life…It was one of those things where you don’t know that you’re sad until later,” he told me, referencing his mother’s death. “I’m sure I was a little bit more defensive and closed off than I would be now. Now I’d lean towards actually attempting to make friends because I’m at a better point in my life.” Silence hung in the air. I told him I was happy for him. It was oddly intimate. He said thanks.
“Already I feel different and that was only a year ago so. I’m just going in with a different mindset.”
(That is, if he returns. Who knows?)
His qualms with the editing process aside, Chad still can’t emphasize enough how much the people on the show suck. “There is one thing I want to reiterate and that is the show is not scripted. You know? Like they can push things along but the real issue is the people on the show.” Chad told me he tells people all the time that if you asked all 25 guys the same question, you’d get 25 identical answers.
Earlier, when I asked Chad if anything good had come from his TV stints, he referenced his Instagram following, budding endorsement deals and entrepreneurial efforts in the health and apparel spaces. Later, Chad advised audiences to be wary of the contestants’ intentions. “You have to watch it from the perspective of knowing the opportunities people get by coming onto these shows. Understand the probability of Instagram followers, that kinda stuff. You have to be skeptical.”
The most profound takeaway for Chad? His unexpected platform as role model. “I get hundreds of emails from kids saying, ‘You showed me how to stand up for myself and how to stand up to bullying.’ Plenty of people call me a bully, but I think those people just don’t get it. They might not be the most intelligent, I don’t know. Just because I’m the biggest, most jacked guy in the house doesn’t mean I can’t be bullied, you know? You have to stand up for yourself at some point.”
I’m skeptical of how many bullied children watch and are inspired by The Bachelorette, but I guess I’ll have to take his word for it.
Photo provided by Chad Johnson.