In the early 2000s, Jesse Palmer played for the New York Giants and San Francisco 49ers. In 2004, he moved from the football field to television as the star of “The Bachelor” Season 5. Now, nearly two decades later, Palmer is the host of the reality dating show — and the former NFL quarterback says, it’s true: men love “The Bachelor.”
“When I take photos, the guy will be like, ‘I’m doing it for my wife, trust me,’” Palmer says with a laugh. “And then he’ll walk away and the wife is like, ‘That was for him. He watches every Monday.’”
An ESPN analyst since 2007, Palmer is aiming to bridge the gap between sports audiences and reality TV viewers within Disney’s umbrella.
Palmer’s hosting gig came amid controversy when longtime host Chris Harrison departed the franchise after 19 years when his racially insensitive commentary during an interview received widespread backlash.
When Palmer got the job, he signed on for Season 26, but was not announced as Harrison’s permanent replacement going forward. At the time, the network didn’t comment on his deal terms beyond one season, but sources explained that the idea was for Palmer to continue with the franchise in the future, both on the flagship “Bachelor” and “The Bachelorette,” though likely not “Bachelor in Paradise.”
ABC has not announced any plans for the host beyond this season, and when speaking with Variety, Palmer did not indicate whether he’d be returning, coyly responding, “Right now, I have my hands totally full with Clayton.”
However, he says he’s a huge fan of the franchise and would be interested in conversations about continuing his role as host for more seasons to come.
“I’ve been a big fan of the franchise ever since I was ‘The Bachelor,’ and so to have this chance to come back was really great and it really has brought it full circle,” Palmer says. “I’m a huge fan of Clayton and so, really the pressure I feel in this role is really trying to do right by him and help him on his journey.
He adds, “I can officially now say without any question, it is way less stressful hosting the show than actually being ‘The Bachelor.’”
Here, Jesse Palmer talks to Variety about hosting this season of “The Bachelor,” whether he’ll be back and teases more drama to come this season.
When I spoke to Clayton, he said you’re like a big brother to him and you’ve really been a mentor. I’m sure you’ve seen the tweets that people seem to think that you guys are a clone of each other. Have you been keeping up with those?
Yeah, I secretly hate Clayton because Clayton’s like my younger, taller, more athletic, better looking brother, which just drives me nuts and he doesn’t let me forget it. We have this brotherly sibling rivalry. We take shots at each other a lot. If you follow us on social media, you’ll totally see that. The very first time I met him was when he got out of the limo in front of the mansion… and I remember looking at him and first thinking, ‘My God, he’s way bigger than I thought he was going to be.’ And I’ve been in NFL locker rooms around big people.
There’s been a lot of cross promotion with your roles at ESPN and ABC with a fun promo for college football during “The Bachelor.” Are you succeeding on your quest to bring the college frat bros over to Bachelor Nation?
I hope so. We’ll find out. We’re now in a time where it’s cool to bro out, get some rosé and get your pool going because “The Bachelor,” now we have pools — it’s like fantasy leagues. Get involved! Get going on this! It doesn’t have to just be like you lost the remote fight with your significant other, your wife or your girlfriend on Monday night and now you have to watch this. Get involved. You got Clayton, a former Missouri Tiger on his quest finding love.
I feel like the worst kept secret of “The Bachelor” fandom is that men actually love “The Bachelor.”
It’s so true. When I take photos, the guy will be like, “I’m doing it for my wife, trust me, this is a big thing.” And then he’ll walk away and the wife is like, “That was for him. He watches every Monday. He loves the show. He saw you in 2004. He was a big Giants fan and you were on ‘The Bachelor.’”
Is this just for one season, or are you the forever host?
Right now, I have my hands totally full with Clayton. He’s the six-foot-six football player and I’m trying to make sure I just get them to the next rose ceremony on time, so I’m just focused on that. But I will say, I’m a huge fan of the show and of the franchise and if they want to have those conversations, I would be completely willing to do that. But for now it’s a football mentality: play the next down, try to get another first down, try to help Clayton in any way I can. So that’s where my focus is at this point.
But if they do ask you to return for another season, whether it’s “Bachelor” or “Bachelorette,” you would be game?
Can I get a private jet?
You are very busy. You have a lot of jobs. I don’t know how you do it.
Could they just parachute me out when Clayton or whoever is on his way back, or just drop me off where there’s college football or baking? And then I could just hop back on? If they had the jet, I’d totally be game for it. Absolutely.
Strahan and Seacrest must have the company jet because they have a gazillion jobs, so the model is there.
I just have to make a lot more money. That’s the only thing you’re leaving out because I think Strahan and Seacrest and their gross income bubble is a lot higher than where mine is right now [laughing].
Clayton tells two women that he sleeps with them and he tells multiple women that he loves them, and in the promos, it appears as if you can see who he’s talking to, so we’d know how the season ends. There’s a rumor that there are multiple promos, so it’s a fake out. What intel can you give me there?
Well, what I would say is that there are very intelligent people working on the show that are very thoughtful about what they’re putting out and what they’re showing people at home. It’s hard to imagine a world where they would just give everybody the ending before the show’s even started.
Okay, so we don’t know how this is going to end?
The big theme to this season is that on “The Bachelor,” there are no rules. Clayton is willing to do whatever it takes and take risks and take chances in order to find his person — the most authentic and true way for him to do that, he feels, is by being an open book and by doing things his way. We’ve already seen a lot of firsts… Fans at home will see multiple things this season that have never been seen in 20 years at “The Bachelor” and there were multiple times where myself, as the host, and our producers were literally on the edge of our seats because we had no idea what was coming next. We’ve just scratched the surface. There are going to be eye-popping moments for Bachelor Nation fans at home.
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