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Home Entertainment ‘The Golden Bachelor’ Star Gerry Turner on His Cast of Female Contestants: I Told Producers ‘60 to 70, but Feel Free to Blur the Lines’ (EXCLUSIVE)

‘The Golden Bachelor’ Star Gerry Turner on His Cast of Female Contestants: I Told Producers ‘60 to 70, but Feel Free to Blur the Lines’ (EXCLUSIVE)

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After years in development, ABC’s senior citizen spinoff of “The Bachelor” is finally underway — and Variety has the first interview with the leading man himself since production has begun.

Still weeks away from “The Golden Bachelor” premiere this fall, Gerry Turner, a 71-year-old grandpa from Indiana, is currently filming his season at “The Bachelor” mansion in Los Angeles, Calif., in hopes of finding love later in life.

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With little details revealed about the new show, Gerry Turner (pronounced like “Gary”) tells Variety about his conversations with producers. “I’m really curious to see what is going to happen on the first night,” Turner says, in conversation last week, just days before he starting filming and met his female contestants.

Turner says he did not have a big say in casting, but explains that he gave producers “a general range of age” of women he would be interested in dating. “I think I said 60 to 70, but feel free to blur the lines,” he says. (The cast of women has yet to be revealed.)

“The Golden Bachelor” is the latest spinoff in the “The Bachelor” franchise, which has aired 60 seasons since it debuted in 2002. The upcoming series will showcase a love story “for the golden years,” per ABC’s synopsis, which says a “hopeless romantic is given a second chance at love in the search for a partner with whom to share the sunset years of life.” The spinoff is a new twist to ABC’s long-running dating show franchise, which for two decades has mostly centers around 20-something and 30-something casts.

Turner is a retired restaurateur and doting father and grandfather, who lives in his dream house on a beautiful lake in Indiana. He’s often busy hosting barbecues, playing pickleball, cheering on his favorite Chicago sports teams, four-wheeling and spending time with friends and family at restaurants and local haunts. Turner married his high school sweetheart, Toni, in 1974. They lived a happy life together for 43 years, with their two daughters, Angie and Jenny, and later, their two granddaughters, Charlee and Payton. Sadly, Toni suddenly fell ill and died in 2017. Six years after her passing, and with the support of his family, Turner is now ready to find love again.

Here, the star of “The Golden Bachelor,” Gerry Turner, speaks to Variety…

How did you end up becoming the first “Golden Bachelor?”

It’s a fairly long story. It started well before Covid, and I was at a period where I wasn’t dating anyone. I hadn’t met the good circle of friends that I have now. And so, I was feeling kind of down on my luck and I saw the ad, and I mentioned it to my daughters. They’re big fans of the show, and they kind of got me watching the show and they said, “Dad, you should do it.” And to my surprise, I filled out the online interview and heard shortly after, within the next several days. And then, of course, things went dead with Covid, and lo and behold, when it was announced that again it was going to happen, my phone rang and it’s been off to the races since then. That was mid-February, I think.

You saw the casting call on TV, you apply and you get a call back. When you applied, did it actually occur to you that this might truly become a reality?

No, it did not. It was almost like, I’m really bored and I’m going to fill my time with something, and this looks as interesting as anything else. So, no. To answer your question, I didn’t really grasp the reality of it getting to this point.

You said that your daughters are fans of the show. Were you a fan of the show? Had you ever watched “The Bachelor” before?

I have. I can’t say that I was a faithful follower, but I’ve probably watched a lot more than I’ve not watched.

What do your daughters and granddaughters think about all of this?

They are genuinely excited and thrilled. My granddaughters have had guests to my house since this all started, and they pick their friends that are big fans of the show.

Do you think that it is truly possible to find love on television?

I do. At first I thought, there’s no way. I was really skeptical. But as I’ve thought about it and I’ve seen the process evolve and so forth, I really do think it’s possible. So we’ll see. I’m hopeful. Very hopeful.

What is your hope for how this all ends?

I think a good reasonable goal is to find that person that I pretty much know is the right person, and by the look in her eye, she knows I’m the right person. Where that happens on the timeline, I think is less important than the chemistry of it and the realization that it’s real and it’s something that could be knitted into a permanent relationship.

Prior to applying for this show, were you thinking about marriage again? Was that something that was important to you?

Boy, it kind of depends on which month of the year you would ask, but I’d go through phases. I was happily married for 43 years. That’s a wonderful lifestyle for me. And then I’d go, “Nah, I’m pretty happy by myself.” I can get up and cook my bacon and eggs anytime I want, and I don’t have to answer to anyone. But at the end of the day, I always come back to that belief that people are designed to be with another person [and] that they compliment each other and they make each other better.

You have spoken about your wife, and I am so sorry for your loss. It sounds like you had a beautiful love story over decades together. What do you think that she would think about all of this?

I have her picture in my closet. No one can see it but me. Most every morning, I would look at the picture and I’d say, “Well, what do you think?” And I’d try to be alone with my thoughts just for a moment. Early on, it was like, “Oh, I don’t know what she’d think of this.” I think I still felt as if I was being disloyal or unfaithful. And over time, I got to realize that I think she would be an encouraging supporter. We talked about it when we were alive that we both wanted the other to be happy if one of us passed, and we established our financial setup that way. This is the way it should be.

Over the years, people have said that the contestants are too young, they’re not ready for marriage, they aren’t really looking for that final person, they’re on this show for fame, they’re not in it for the right reasons. What do you think the advantage is, coming at this show with so much more life experience?

Every generation brings certain advantages to a situation. Granted, there’s been a negative side with some people thinking that it’s maybe the wrong reasons people are there — I make no judgment on that. I have no idea. But what I can say is when you’ve lived a long, full, happy, productive life, almost by accident, you gain some wisdom and knowledge. I think the age factor, whether it’s for me or for the women, is a really strong advantage in ways that I don’t think everyone sees quite yet. I think there’ll be some surprising reveals on the show where that age is such an advantage.

There’s a lot of talk about ageism in Hollywood, and we certainly don’t see love stories for people of a certain age. What sort of impact do you think that you may have on audiences?

The mantra that I always say and that I try to beat the drum as much as possible is to never give up. If you don’t find love in one situation, don’t give up. Don’t sit home thinking you’re too old to do it.

What sort of conversations have you had with producers or executives about what your season will look like?

I’ve asked many of those questions, and true to form, they’ve told me that I’ll have to live through it to find out — so the curiosity keeps me going as much as some of the other excitement. But I’m going to be surprised, just like you, when we see the show.

Do you have any say in casting for your season?

I wouldn’t want say in casting. My wife’s been gone six years — of that six, I’ve dated about four [years], and I wasn’t very good at casting for myself, so I’m happy that I don’t have that job. I think that the process that they’ve used in the past and they’ve refined will bring some really fantastic candidates.

Did you give producers any prerequisites for the type of women that you would like to date?

Not very much. They’d ask several questions and some of the things that I said were I’d like someone who enjoys activity [such as] golf or pickleball or some sport and they use that to stay fit. And there was a general range of age, but not much else.

What was that general age range that you gave for the type of women you’d like to date?

I think my answer was this: I think I said 60 to 70, but feel free to blur the lines.

Prior to coming onto this show, were you on dating apps, or were you meeting people in real life?

A little bit of both. The area I live in…a lot of people would look at it as a retirement community. People live there because they’ve moved there later in life and enjoy that lake life. There’s always that friend of a friend that I’m always happy to go to dinner with… And then there is a dating site that I was on. And I’m moderately skeptical of that, but it did produce several very nice women that I dated for a while.

Any horror stories from these dating sites?

Yeah, but nothing I would want to share. [Laughing]

What are you most nervous for on the show?

I’m nervous about remembering names [on night one at the mansion]. But really, the much more important thing, I’m really nervous about not finding the right words to carefully let someone down and tell them that they don’t have a rose. I know these women have invested an awful lot in this…and I have the nice advantage of always being there after those cocktail parties are done, and not all of them do. I so desperately want to make sure that if there is any way to not hurt feelings that I can find that way.

Are you going to be passing out red roses or is it a gold rose like we saw in the promo?

That’s not for me to answer. I don’t know.

You don’t know anything?

I really don’t. I know that there are some icons of the show that are going to be honored, and I definitely embrace that.

What has the reaction been like since you have been revealed as “The Golden Bachelor?

Oh, that’s been very fun. I think one of the joys of doing this — because there is a lot of nervousness and there is a lot of responsibility along with it — the joy is seeing all the people that want to join the ride. People on the lake, pickleball friends especially, they’ve all been extremely supportive and extremely happy. Of course, some of them give me a bit of a hard time about it, but that’s to be expected.

Are you ready for all of the attention that comes with this role?

I like it… I’m not going to lie. I like it. I find it an early reward for the work that is ahead of me.

What do your granddaughters and daughters think of all this new attention coming your way?

The funniest thing is my lack of knowledge of social media. I’ve never really cared that much. And so, they will send me information… They’re very excited. They’re thrilled. They send me a lot of positive reinforcement.

You’ll become an expert in social media by the end of this.

I think I need to. I need to apply a little more effort there.

Is there any advice that Jesse Palmer has given you, being that he is a former “Bachelor” himself?

To enjoy every moment, to take it deliberately and to take in everything you possibly can. And that’s very good advice.

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