Yes, there have always been roses, flutes of champagne, trails of tears and a journey that (hopefully) ends with a Neil Lane engagement ring. But more than a decade before Nick Viall’s ladies shoveled cow poop for attention, ABC’s The Bachelor was, well, pretty tame. And relatively unknown. At least, according to season 3 star Andrew Firestone. (Refresher: He proposed on the finale to Jen Schefft with a 2.8-carat ring. They split after 10 months and she went on to star on the third season of The Bachelorette.)
“The girls knew who Nick was ahead of time,” Firestone, 41, exclusively tells Us Weekly. “When I was on, it was a total surprise. I remember distinctly the first time I was on Good Morning America and nobody knew who I was. I came marching out there and probably 30 percent of the women in the audience were like, ‘Ugh, OK.’ It was such an experiment. Nobody knew if the show was going to be popular.”
The 2003 season’s most dramatic moments would hardly faze audiences today: Firestone accidentally fed lamb to a vegetarian, a drunk contestant sobbed on the bathroom floor, and his runner-up proclaimed “I want to throw up” after she was rejected. That’s nothing next to Chad Johnson’s threats to cut off his competitors’ legs. Or, hey, the time Corinne Olympios shipped in a bounce house to score alone time with Viall.
Now married to wife Ivana — they met (off-camera!) two years after the show — the dad of three enjoys the seres’ often ridiculous scene-stealers. “There are moments that are memorable and then ones that are cringeworthy,” he says. “My kids actually have a bounce house that is very similar. I look at it very differently these days!”
Antics aside, the series’ original premise lives on. “It’s all about rolling the dice on love and taking a chance,” says the heir to the Firestone tire fortune. “You put yourself out there, knowing that it’s a long shot. But God, when it works it’s so good.”
He’d even consider letting kids Brooks, 7, Anja, 5, and Shane, 3, sign up someday – well, maybe. “I’d be a hypocrite to say no because I’m a firm believer in following your own path and living your own experiences,” he tells Us. “But I would probably shave my daughter’s head before she went on!”
Nonetheless, he always hopes his fellow alums get their happy ending. “Nick might’ve been in diapers when I was on the show, but we have this commonality. I duck my head under the covers when I get anxious for Nick,” he explains. “We belong to this weird fraternity whether we like it or not. It makes us root for one another.”
And rather than dole out roses — “they give me a nervous twitch” — he hands out advice to alum including season 20 star Ben Higgins. “We played golf with [Chris] Harrison when his show was going last year. We talked a lot about life after The Bachelor. I mostly talk about about life after The Bachelor with those guys,” says Firestone, whose company StonePark Capital has partnered with La Quinta Inns and Suites and is building its fourth hotel on the west coast. “How you accumulate and re-enter the atmosphere from outer space, which is the show. The Bachelor is one of many chapters in my life. But you don’t want it to encompass your entire life.”
These days, his life is his family. “We consider ourselves a frat house, between the 7-year-old, the 5-year-old and the 3-year-old. It’s just mayhem!” Firestone jokes. “Someone is always up, someone is always hungry, someone is always thirsty, someone is always making a mess. I absolutely love it!”
The Bachelor airs on ABC Mondays at 8 p.m. ET.
For access to all our exclusive celebrity videos and interviews – Subscribe on YouTube!