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Love Is Blind’s Creator Answers Our Burning Season-Two Finale Questions

Photo: Netflix

Spoilers for Love Is Blind season two below.

There is a spectrum of reality dating shows. On one end there’s The Bachelor. The behemoth TV franchise insists on tying romance to competition and increasingly looks and feels like a dinosaur: endlessly repetitive drama, cookie-cutter participants (Who’s the villain? Who’s the virgin? Who’s the goofball?), and a stucco-walled mansion with fake roses and pre-set chairs carefully arranged for good lighting in a well-mic’d nook.

On the other end of the spectrum, there’s Love Is Blind, the Netflix reality show now completing its second season. In some ways, it’s just as carefully orchestrated and unreal as any Bachelor season. The premise of the early episodes is that no one can see one another; they must meet and fall in love through absurdly restrictive “pod” dates. But showrunner Chris Coelen insists Love Is Blind is more an experiment than a traditional reality show. Its grip on formula is looser: There are no rote, predesigned outcomes, and participants go back to their home cities and spend time with their real friends and family. There are fewer pre-built sets and organized interactions because the cameras are meant to simply follow the cast. Conversations happen more organically, and Coelen insists producers try not to interfere.

After Love Is Blind’s second season finale, I spoke with Coelen about the series — about his adamance that it is sincerely an experiment, how he thinks about inclusive casting, and how little the producers actually know about what’s about to happen.

Tell me for real: How much do you and the other producers know going into the weddings?
We all embrace it as a journey. It’s an experiment! You strip away all the devices, all the distractions, and you are with a group of people who share a stated common interest in finding someone to spend their life with. We tell them if they’re going to do it, they really have to get deep. It’s up to them to talk about the things they think are going to be important.

Because that’s the mission statement of the show, everybody embraces that. It’s crazy, truly — I’m there on the wedding day, and I go in to talk to someone, and I say, “How’re you doing? What do you think is going to happen today?” And they’ll say, “I’m going to make the decision when I’m up there. I’m going to look him or her in the eye, and that’s when I’ll know.” Wow! Okay! You feel like, Are they serious? Are they not serious? But it’s not my business to question them. We’re supportive of them. It’s about them making the right choice for themselves, whatever they do.

They have a producing team with them the entire time they’re on the show, and a producer will say, “I think they’re going to do this.” Then you sit back in the control room where the monitors are. You’re like, “Oh my God! What! How could that happen?!” There are moments where the air sucked out of that entire room and nobody saw it coming. It’s like I’m at the Super Bowl. My adrenaline is just … I can only imagine what they’re feeling.

The feeling that you’re flying without a net on this show — we have no idea whether people are actually going to get engaged. They might not! And then it’s like, Hey, we wasted a lot of Netflix’s money! 

In season two, people have been saying, “Oh, the producers wanted a certain kind of person.” It could not be further from the truth. We wanted to be very broadly inclusive, starting with a few things they have to have in common. They have to be geographically compatible, they have to have a genuine, authentic desire for commitment, at least as much as our team can figure out. Sometimes people surprise us. You do background checks and psych evals, and you try to come up with a great, diverse group where ideally, nobody already knows anybody else.

Let’s talk about that criticism, that in spite of the show’s “love is blind” idea, the cast are all hot, thin people.
I have heard people say, “Oh, they put a heavier person at the top of the season, and then we never saw them again!” I want a show with a pretty broad selection of people, but some of them didn’t find love! This one woman, Hope, who is one of the first people depicted in the show, she and pizzeria-owner Vito had this almost-amazing love story. And then they melted down. It didn’t happen for them. That was it — it was very emotional for both of them, and I wish they had made it! Then we would’ve followed that story.

The truth is there are other people who propose whose stories we don’t follow. We had two more engagements this year that we didn’t show. We had 30,000 to 40,000 hours of footage that we had to boil down to a ten-hour series. You have to pick the stories you are telling.

Have you thought about releasing a companion season, with other stories you didn’t follow from that group? 
Yeah! We’ve talked about that, but it’s not something anybody has decided they want to do.

Anyway, to me, the interesting thing about that criticism — which I don’t think is very loud — is I think they’re guilty of the same thing they’re critiquing. Like, why are you so obsessed with people’s body types? The whole point is that it’s not supposed to matter! Or should it? I don’t know, maybe it does matter! The other thing is that the show’s point of view is not “love is blind.” It’s “is love blind?” In fact, at one point, I actually thought it might be cool to do the Love Is Blind logo and then flip it to “Is Love Blind?” We decided not to do that — stick with one title.

About the finale: There were many moments that really took me aback, but probably the biggest one was when Shake says it’s fine that Deepti broke off the engagement because he has Nobu reservations this weekend. 
I know! It’s like, c’mon dude!

So how do the weddings actually work, logistically? It seems like there was a lot more time and budget this season for the couples to really personalize them. 
Generally, these are their real weddings. These are not like “let’s get everything done in two hours.” It’s a real wedding with real people there. We’re filming one per day, but obviously we don’t have tons of lead time. We encourage them: Sal brought the mariachis; there’s that scene with Shayne and Natalie where he’s talking about the old-fashioned drink machine, which I had never heard of but sounds cool. Whatever they want, we encourage them to either arrange or, if we can help them, we do it. But really, it’s their day.

And then the producers have a conversation with them? Do you ask what they’re planning to do? 
I don’t generally say, “What are you going to do?” Again, we want it to be their day. It’s like, “How are you doing? How are you feeling? This is the end of your journey.” I’m there with them in the pods, I’m there with them on their wedding day. It’s like, “I hope this has been amazing for you. I hope you feel great about your decision.” I’m proud of them! It’s a huge deal. This is not something trivial for them.

I was so surprised when Sal decided not to say “I do.” 
Yeah, I think that was a huge surprise. Going into that day, I thought maybe the opposite was true. Sal was always heart on his sleeve, there for her, in it. Toward the end, Mallory started coming around a bit, maybe? It was hard to tell. But it felt like he was pretty solid at the end.

I was less shocked about Natalie and Shayne, in part because even before she came down the aisle, you could see it on her mom’s face. 
I think that’s right. But truly, every day they’d been like, “We are a hundred percent doing this. No question, this is happening.” Which is unusual for this experiment! Then to get to that day, after they had literally just had that fight.

Which was not on-camera! You must’ve wished you could’ve captured some of that. 
Of course, yeah, you’d want to see the fight. But he went out — obviously, he was emotional at the bachelor party for reasons that had nothing to do with his relationship. He felt embarrassed and emotional, and I think he got worked up.

After the bachelor and bachelorette parties, they’re supposed to not see each other until the wedding day. They’re supposed to separate and stay in different places, which we arrange for them. But he didn’t do that. He’s not a prisoner! It’s his life. We provided them this apartment and places for after the bachelor party, but he went to see her. And that was a bad decision. Or maybe it was a good decision! In terms of them getting married, though, it torpedoed the wedding.

But he still went through with it, and I know he still loves her. And I will tell you, I know at least that she still loves him. But I also … well, you’ll see on the reunion.

I appreciated that in the aftermath of each wedding, those conversations don’t feel like forced interactions where the producers have set up a carefully orchestrated place for everyone to talk. It’s nice to see Natalie and Shayne, and also Sal and Mallory, have these conversations that seem sincere. And obviously Deepti seems to have no interest in talking to Shake. 
She didn’t. And by the way, he — again, crazy to me — had no interest in going in and talking to her! He’s more interested in hanging out with his friends. It felt like he was embarrassed, saving face, saying things like, “She was more into it than me.” It’s like, Wow, that’s where you land right after? Okay.

Thinking over all of the couples, it does seem like sentiment toward Nick has really shifted over the course of the season. 

On the wedding day, his amount of sweat is really something else. Was it unbearably hot? Did they have to be standing out there?
It was really hot. But they wanted an outdoor wedding. Some people didn’t care, but Nick and Danielle specifically wanted an outdoor wedding. And that particular day was one of the hottest days. Also, he talks about it! He’s a very sweaty person.

One question I saw cropping up about this season is whether women are allowed to propose to the men. 
Yes! We always say that. It’s your story! The only person who’s ever taken that to heart was Gigi in season one. Damian started to propose, and she said, “No wait, I’m going to propose to you.” It’s so funny that the women are, I guess you would call it, traditional.

I’m also curious about the ubiquitous golden wine glasses. What is the deal with those? 
It was something I wanted to do. There are multiple parts of the show, which is the beauty of how it works. But there’s something fun about, when you’re watching the show, whatever part you’re in — the pods, the getaways, at home, the weddings — there’s an identifying visual cue.

Can you talk about the decision to follow Shaina for a while, even though you had decided not to follow two of the other couples who did get engaged? 
There were eight reveals filmed. Everybody who gets engaged gets a big reveal. And then you have to decide, well, who are you going to bring? Who do you have the bandwidth to follow? Normally we have five crews on this show. We have five field producer bodies. So it’s like, oh God, we had eight! How do we do this?

Why did we choose to follow her and Kyle? Because it’s fascinating. How could you not follow that?

Were there other couples you wish you’d been able to include? 
Yes, I wish we could’ve followed them and told their stories. But do I think we made the wrong choice? No.

After this second season, are there things you know you want to keep about what makes the show work for the future? Anything you’re looking to try to change? 
You really want to dig into the stories of the people that are living this experience. Maybe that sounds weird or silly, but it is the truth. As a producer, your instinct is to produce. Step in, do something, make something happen. On this show, you have to fight every impulse. “God, those people would be a great couple but” — you can’t step in. It is always so much more interesting if you don’t.

There are always moments in the pods. Every season we’ve done, there are moments where you’re like, “Oh my God, what is happening?!” But somehow it all works itself out. They figure it out. The biggest thing we’ve learned is just step back and let them be themselves. And then when we’re in postproduction, I hate to say this — because again, it sounds stupid — but it’s doing honor to their story. Really getting to the essence of their motivations and feelings.

The classic example in season one was Barnett and Amber and L.C. In the pods, on the last day, Barnett was deciding, and he was saying to one of the producers interviewing him, “I really could go either way.” I remember the producer came back and said, “This is what he’s saying. I could probably get him to go with either of them. He’s so on the fence.” I remember thinking, I really like L.C., and I think fucking Amber’s crazy. And I like Barnett! God, I just really want him to be happy! But I can’t. He has to make his own decision. We cannot sway him. And guess what — it worked out for him. He made the right decision.

Can you talk a little about how you edit the show? How do you figure out something as challenging as “honoring someone’s story”? 
We transcribe all the interviews every person does, and I read them — 40 hours of interviews, all the transcripts, and my team goes through them, too. Even if you think you know their story, when you actually read the entirety of it verbatim, there are so many things you learn from that.

In the reality business, generally the way shows are put together are, you have story producers or APs who are lower-level producers, who are just starting, early into their career. They are the people who are responsible on most shows for going through footage. They watch stuff, then they present to the more senior-level people and the editors: Here’s what I think the scene is. To me, that’s the most important work! Because then, the senior-level people say, “This is what I know about what was shot, or about what a participant wants,” because that’s what they’ve seen.

Sometimes people have a story to tell, and it’s about, how do I get these scenes to tell a story? My philosophy is, what’s the weird shit? When the cameras weren’t set, and something’s happening off to the side, to me, that’s the story.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Love Is Blind’s Creator Answers Our Burning Finale Questions