The Bachelor may be known for producing dream dates, but working on the show was not a dream job for Sarah Gertrude Shapiro, a former producer on the show. Shapiro, who went on to co-create the Lifetime Bachelor spoof UnReal, says working on the rose-filled reality dating show caused her to have a real-life nervous breakdown.
In an interview with Deadline, Shapiro said she was a diehard feminist who came to Los Angeles with “dreams of feminist filmmaking” dancing in her head, but her nine-season stint working on The Bachelor was more of a nightmare.
While the longtime Bachelor producer said her original plan was to “make really important stuff and change,” she ended up as a producer on the ABC reality show, where she became the opposite of her true self.
“[I became] a mastermind at manipulating and destroying women.”
After nine seasons on The Bachelor, the producer said she had a full-fledged nervous breakdown and went to her bosses to try to get out of her contract. Shapiro ultimately moved out of state so she could get out of working on The Bachelor.
“I went to my boss and said, ‘I’m going to kill myself.'”
Interestingly, Sarah went on to co-create and executive produce Lifetime’s UnReal, which features lead character Rachel Goldberg, a stressed out reality show producer who was inspired by Shapiro’s experiences on The Bachelor. According to TV Guide, the former Bachelor producer first used her experiences with the reality dating show as inspiration for her film Sequin Raze, which served as the basis for UnReal.
Shapiro, who once said UnReal is “100 percent fiction,” previously penned an essay for the Hollywood Reporter in which she explained how she pulled herself up from her Bachelor breakdown to helm her own Lifetime series.
“I intended to make important feminist films, that’s what I was coming here to do, and then I ended up working on The Bachelor,” she wrote. “I always had the option to get fired, but I just wasn’t raised that way. I couldn’t bring myself to get fired so I literally just worked myself into horrible sickness. There were no labor laws back then, it was still un-unionized like most of reality was so I would sleep at work and not go home. I was absolutely dying inside and hating myself for what I was doing and hating what I was doing and hating what I was making and making the people around me miserable because I was miserable.”
Shapiro said she eventually moved to Portland with friends so she could get out of working on The Bachelor.
“I was so on the verge of mental collapse that I just had to get away. I knew a couple of people in Portland who I had spent some time with there during a semester away from college. So I put all my stuff in my car and drove to Portland to drop out and be a kale farmer.”
In an interview with Cosmopolitan, Shapiro said working on The Bachelor made her feel like she was destroying other women, which was about as far from her true personality as could be.
“It was destroying other women. It was almost like a cartoon, how black-and-white and diametrically opposed the show was to who I was,” she said. “Just the idea that I had spent my whole life advocating for other women, protecting other kids at school from getting bullied, talking about body image. I founded a high-school feminist club. I went to Sarah Lawrence. I had spent my entire life battling the beauty industry. I was really clear about who I was. I was day-to-day doing stuff that in my gut felt wrong for me.”
Of course, there doesn’t seem to be any love lost between the former Bachelor producer and the show’s longtime host. In an interview with Variety, Bachelor host Chris Harrison blasted Sarah’s new venture on UnReal, slamming the show as absolutely “terrible.”
“They would love to jump on our coattails—they were begging for us to talk about it and for people to write about it—at the end of the day, no one is watching. I mean, absolutely nobody is watching that show. Why? It is terrible. It is really terrible.”
Harrison said that while he respects other Bachelor spoofs on shows like Saturday Night Live, The Tonight Show, even the web-based parody series Burning Love, he draws the line at the disrespectful poke UnReal takes at the dating show genre, with producer characters that are portrayed as master manipulators who do anything it takes to get dramatic and often staged footage.
“The way that UnReal took it, it wasn’t a sign of respect,” Harrison said. “They were trying to take it another direction, but it doesn’t work that way…UnReal is just a really bad attempt, and they got what they deserved, and that is no one is watching the show.”
Season 2 of UnReal debuts June 2. Take a look at for a trailer for The Bachelor-themed scripted series below.
[Photo by Jerod Harris/Getty Images for A+E Networks]