In the days since Warner Bros. announced that it had officially halted production of Bachelor in Paradise due to an investigation into allegations of misconduct, a spotlight has been cast on the popular reality show — prompting new focus on the role producers play.
PEOPLE sources previously confirmed season 4 production was suspended after a producer raised concerns about an alleged sexual encounter between contestant DeMario Jackson and Corinne Olympios, both of whom had reportedly been drinking heavily all day. Olympios and Jackson have since both retained legal representation.
While the specific details of the alleged incident remain unclear, a source close to production tells PEOPLE that the investigation is still ongoing, and that includes reviewing the tapes, but the source believes the matter will be resolved within a week.
Until then, many questions persist surrounding the production team’s involvement: Do they intervene when things are going too far, or contestants are drinking too much? How involved are they with the storylines?
PEOPLE caught up with several insiders, including former contestants and a past producer of the franchise, in order to shed some light on what goes on behind the scenes in Bachelor Nation.
Alcohol & Personal Responsibility
One point widely agreed upon by all is that while alcohol is readily available and heavily consumed by many, it’s certainly not forced on the contestants by the producers. But are they encouraging certain behaviors?
“Producers aren’t forcing people to do questionable things,” insists a former producer. “There are no storylines written. The worst thing they’ll do is let people know that the people who succeed here tend to make a lot of friends, or find someone to be in a relationship with.”
And several former contestants agree.
“When I was filming any Bachelor franchise show, I was in charge of my choices — I never once felt like I couldn’t make a decision for myself, or that I was expected to do anything outside of my own will,” BiP season 2 contestant Tenley Molzahn tells PEOPLE.
“All of us cast members have a choice as to how we want to behave — how far we’ll go, how much we drink,” she says. “We sign a lot of legal paperwork acknowledging that we know we have these choices.”
How “Scripted” Are the Situations?
“The producers are there to help people interact with each other and ask questions, but in no way are they there to tell you what to do and to behave certain ways,” says season 2 contestant Daniel Maguire. “We’re all able to do and say what we want, and we’re all responsible for our own actions.”
Speaking with PEOPLE about her experience, current season 4 cast member Jasmine Goode says, “From my point of view, I just want to say that producers, they always engaged with the cast members — but the cast is never encouraged or forced to engage in behaviors, or make any statements or consume alcohol. Producers definitely check in on us and they make sure we’re comfortable with what they need but they never force us to do anything we don’t want to do.”
“I’m not bashing any side, but from what I know, production hasn’t ever made us do anything we don’t want to do or forced us to drink and things like that. And that’s what I think is being claimed right now,” says Goode, who adds that Jackson “was definitely like the type of guy who checked up on the girls and was attentive while we were there.”
“I was talked through as a friend in situations,” he said this week on his iHeartRadio podcast with Ashley Iaconetti, Almost Famous. “If I was confused, they would sit with me and allow me to speak my mind and help me process. Yes, there’s producing that is done. It’s a show! There are situations that happen that they need to get something out of, but it’s never a forced situation.”
Season 3 BiP contestant Ryan Beckett tells PEOPLE that while producers encouraged him to “be more open,” that was as far as their prodding went.
“I didn’t get any encouragement to go sleep with a girl or to go hook up with a girl,” he says. “But I definitely had encouragement in terms of moral support to boost my confidence.”
“It might be surprising, but I really think that they try to keep it, relatively speaking, as genuine as possible,” he adds. “They may insert an idea in your head, but they want it to come from you more than anything. There’s some leading the horse to water, but at the end of the day, it’s always the cast that has to decide if they want to drink or hook up.”
But other contestants have experienced a different side of things.
“People are pissed,” another contestant from the current season previously told PEOPLE. “We’re pissed that this whole thing happened. They could have stopped this. They could have stopped this before it got this far. But they decided to let it go, and let it happen, and see what happened? So I’m angry at the show, and everyone else is, too.”
Leah Block, who appeared on season 3, tells PEOPLE she “absolutely” felt manipulated by producers.
“The whole show was dumb — I completely regret doing it,” she says. “I really have nothing good to say about it. I thought that they had my best interests at heart, and they did not. They took advantage of me.”
“Of course some people have really great experiences and it’s going to be different for everyone,” she adds. “But in my situation, I definitely felt like I was being pushed to do things and pushed to say things.”
“It definitely didn’t get out of hand, but more so my edit was not what actually happened, and that was totally out of my control. So they definitely set things up to make sure things the way they want it to.”
Goode also tells PEOPLE she believes at one point another contestant asked producers if they should intervene with Olympios’ drinking, and were told she “was fine.”
Storylines aside, where is the line drawn when it comes to actual producer intervention?
“I’ve seen producers intervene for sure — especially if someone has gotten too drunk and can’t handle themselves,” says the former producer. “If someone’s had a few drinks, but seem to know what they’re doing, you’re probably going to let that go. If someone is passing out or slurring, you’re going to take care of them.”
“Producers absolutely step in if they think there is something bad going on,” he adds. “They’re all over the place and monitoring absolutely everything. The majority of producers are women and there’s a real sensitivity to this sort of stuff about being taken advantage of.”
“In my experience, the producers definitely step in,” says former contestant Beckett. “I would not imagine that a number of producers would stand idly by. I would expect two drunk contestants to do something stupid, but it would be surprising to me that something nefarious was going on and it was allowed to go on.”
Notorious franchise villain Chad Johnson has experienced producer intervention firsthand: He was kicked off Paradise last year after being verbally abusive and threatening.
“I mean, are really cautious,” he recently told Entertainment Tonight. “With me, it became a thing where they sent me home just because … even though they had it on camera that I didn’t actually swing at a guy, just because it slightly looked like it. They asked him and he said I did. And so, because he said that I swung at him, they sent me home. If somebody says they feel threatened, they have to send the person home.”
“I don’t think they would let something bad happen,” he added. “Like I said, they would pull me aside every few minutes and make sure I wasn’t going to rip someone’s head off.”
Warner Bros. has not commented on the matter since its initial statement, but longtime host of the franchise Chris Harrison insists “the safety and care of the cast and crew of our show is of the utmost importance to us.”
“It is with this thought in mind that we made the decision to suspend filming,” he said in a statement earlier this week. “An investigation into the situation was started immediately. Warner Bros. is handling the details of that investigation. They’re moving quickly to gather all the facts, and once that’s done, a clear, concise decision can be made about where we go from here.”
“There are a lot of competing details in the various press accounts of the incident. And there’s a lot of misinformation out there too,” he added. “We urge everyone to be patient until the investigation is complete.”
—With GILLIAN TELLING, CHAR ADAMS, PATRICK GOMEZ & LINDSAY KIMBLE