Luke Pell was signed to be the next star of The Bachelor, but producers pulled a fast one and cut him from the lead role at the last minute. Now, some fans are furious as newly crowned Bachelor Nick Viall gets a fourth shot at love and Luke gets nothing.
While fans believed hunky war veteran Luke Pell was a shoo-in for the high-profile role, Bachelor executive producer Mike Fleiss teased that he had a last minute change of heart after he headed to Hawaii to “swim with the sharks.”
Ahead of the casting announcement, Bachelor fans had been following Fleiss’ “clues” to the identity of the show’s next star, including hints about sunrises (Luke has an image of one on his Instagram), and The Beatles (The Fab Four clue could point to Luke’s status as fourth place finisher on The Bachelorette). One of the most pointed “Luke” clues was a photo of Stars Wars character, Yoda. Luke Skywalker is the leading man in the film franchise.
So, with so many clues pointing to Luke Pell, why did Bachelor producers switch gears and go with Viall, seemingly at the last minute? Fleiss tweeted that things change and that the clues “merely reflected the thinking at the time.”
During an appearance on Good Morning America, host Chris Harrison confirmed that Pell was a frontrunner for the job.
“At the end of the day, when we were discussing all of the candidates — and Luke and Chase [McNary] were definitely on the board — it just got down to that final question of ‘Who is the most deserving? Who have we watched time and time again come on the show to find love and come up short each and every time?'” Harrison said. “We all just kept coming back to Nick, and it’s just crazy enough to work.”
Harrison later told People magazine that Viall was the most sincere candidate, while a source close to the situation told Yahoo TV that Luke Pell was dragging his feet on finalizing his Bachelor contract, which started to raise questions about his sincerity.
In an interview with Us Weekly, Luke Pell revealed that he was all packed and ready to head to Los Angeles to star as The Bachelor when he got a last minute call from producers.
“We were all satisfied, had agreed to the contracts and everything was moving forward. I was checked in to my flight to come to L.A.,” Pell said.
“I got a call from producers Sunday night at about 10 p.m. They said ABC had decided to quote-unquote go in a different direction. I was supposed to fly out Monday morning at 9 a.m. I had my bags packed and everything.”
Pell added that his Bachelor intro package had already been planned and that his sister was even supposed to make a cameo to give him advice on his Bachelor journey.
“I met with the wardrobe guys. Everything was moving forward. Everyone on the production level was expecting it to be me, as well,” Pell said.
Luke Pell revealed that while he was “emotionally and mentally all prepared” to be The Bachelor, he’s now “recalculating” what he’s going to do next. Pell added that he’s “happy” to get back to his life in Nashville as an entrepreneur and songwriter and that he is ready to move on.
“From all my years in the military, I’ve learned that some things are out of my control. I put it in the past, and I’m moving forward. It was a huge surprise, but the element of surprise and unexpected decisions is what the show thrives off of.”
Indeed, this is not the first time Bachelor producers have pulled a fast one on fans — or on an already-signed lead. Fan favorite Arie Luyendyk Jr. told Us Weekly he was blindsided by producers when Sean Lowe was chosen to lead Season 18 of the show instead of him.
“Same exact deal,” Luyendyk told Us. “Maybe this a common practice now to throw off fans — I don’t know.”
More recently, ahead of JoJo Fletcher’s casting as The Bachelorette earlier this year, Fleiss posted a tweet that teased he was ready to make a change to the all-white female leads on the show.
Many fans took the tweet to mean that Bachelor alum Caila Quinn, who is half Filipino and half German/Irish/Swiss, would be the next Bachelorette. In fact, Quinn had already taped her Bachelorette opening package and was considered to be a done deal. But producers had a change of heart even after sending a camera crew to Quinn’s Hudson, Ohio, hometown and her alma mater, Western Reserve Academy, to shoot her intro package.
After JoJo Fletcher was announced as The Bachelorette instead, Fleiss tweeted that he “chickened out,” adding that “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
According to ET Online, Luke Pell’s situation is not a unique one for the franchise, as Bachelor producers routinely have multiple candidates sign contracts before they announce the show’s lead.
“Luke was all set to be the Bachelor,” an insider told ET. “He had signed a contract and was getting ready to leave. Producers have made their top two favorites both sign contracts to lock them in for the gig, and then will pull one contract when they make up their minds as to who they want.”
Still, many fans are now petitioning for ABC to add Luke Pell as a second lead, and even Fletcher said she’d like to see Luke as one of two Bachelors next season. The franchise pulled a similar stunt two Bachelorette seasons ago when Kaitlyn Bristowe and Britt Nilsson both started out as leading ladies before their suitors chose which woman would continue on in the role.
But Pell told Us Weekly that he doubts he would take on The Bachelor role if producers change their mind in the future.
“I don’t want to wait in the wings for what decisions they can make for my life,” Pell said. “I want to head back into taking control of my own destiny.”
After the announcement, Luke Pell posted an Instagram message to fans, thanking them for their support.
“Thanks for all the love and support over the past few months, sometimes in life we are faced with unexpected changes. I’m happy to be back home in Nashville and so excited about what the future holds.”
Luke also shared a poignant message from his mom, Susie Pell, who praised her son’s strength during this “stressful” time.
Luke Pell wasn’t the only person blindsided by Bachelor producers’ change of heart. A source told ET that Nick Viall had “no idea” he was even being considered for the role as the show’s leading man. ABC reportedly called Nick just a couple of days before the announcement and made him an offer.
Of course, Mike Fleiss isn’t done talking about The Bachelor casting drama. The showrunner promised fans an explanation of his seemingly meaningless casting clues as well as “more official announcements” to come.
Take a look at the video below for more on the shocking Bachelor announcement.
[Image: ABC Luke Pell Facebook]