TVLife on the Set of the First-Ever Gay Dating Show
Lance Bass, host of 'Finding Prince Charming,' talks about controversy, stigma, and the logistics of a dating show where the contestants might fall for each other.
While the legalization of same-sex marriage and the increasing visibility of gay people in the media are, you know, nice, the true test of equality lies in reality TV. ABC's The Bachelor and The Bachelorette have become ratings juggernauts by turning people's love lives into a competition show, and now it seems like high time gay men join the fray. Enter Logo's Finding Prince Charming, a familiar framework—a bachelor meets a house full of singles ready to fall in love—but with a boy-on-boy twist.
Serving as the show's host is former 'NSync member Lance Bass. We spoke to the 37-year-old while he was on the campaign trail in Ohio ("I've never felt so old in my life") to talk about why this "social experiment" is so important right now.
How did you first get involved with the show?
I got involved when Brian Graden got involved. He produced my wedding special for E!. He called me, I believe after they had cast the whole thing. He said he had a job for me and it took me like half-a-second to decide of course I wanted to host. It's right up my alley, I love television, and I especially love reality competition shows. To be on the sidelines and see how it all goes down is actually a dream come true.
Your role as host is unique in that you're on the outside looking in. What's that like?
It's frustrating, because I don't know what's going on inside the house. They keep me very removed from all the situations in the house, because they don't want me to influence Robert [Sepulveda, the Bachelor] in any way with any information he didn't know. It's smart because I want to be a sounding board for him and help him find someone to fall in love with.
There's a lot of drama in the house. Do you feel that when you go in to talk to the bachelors?
Yeah, you can definitely feel the energy and sometimes I couldn't figure out why people were so depressed or they were so happy. Even a lot of the crew, I would come set and they'd be crying. And I'd be like, What happened? They couldn't even tell me. It was so frustrating to be kept in the dark, but also very intriguing. I was like, I can't wait to see this episode.
So you're watching the show pretty much as a first-time viewer.
I am, and I'm enjoying it. This is the first time I've done a show where I'm live-tweeting and hitting up social media. I love Big Brothers, so I know what it's like to watch these in a big viewing group and grab your wine, grab your popcorn, and have fun. That's what we're doing with this, I have friends over or we go to a bar. It's fun to see people really getting into the show. I mean, we're the most tweeted about show on Thursday nights. It's crazy to me that people have such strong feelings about it. I mean, some of the suitors they give the best sound bytes ever. Robby is television gold.
Why do you think we need a gay dating reality show?
Visibility is important. When you can turn on your television and see straight dating, gay dating, it's a step forward towards equality. Even a silly dating show. I mean, there are layers on this show and I think it may educate some of the audience. Some of these deep issues about dating in the gay community comes up. Some of us came out way too late in life—I didn't come out until I was in my 20s, so I missed out those teenage years of first crushes, asking someone to prom, asking for a first date, all that type of stuff. Most gay people didn't get that experience. I think a show like this will show some of those dark layers of confusion. A lot of us have hang-ups.
Unlike The Bachelor or The Bachelorette, the suitors could fall for each other, too.
I'm sure it's happened on those shows once or twice [laughs]. But, yeah, there's nothing in the rules saying the suitors can't fall for each other. No one is getting on their knee at the end, we're a little bit more realistic. This is just about finding great people for a relationship. If two people fall in love and met in the house, good for them.
It was revealed that Robert, the bachelor, was once a male escort. What are your thoughts on that?
It didn't bother me at all. We all have a past, we've all done something we may not be proud of. Honestly, I'm kind of glad it came out. If I were casting the show, I would have maybe waited until the fourth season, but it's reality. Secrets are going to come out. I know that Robert gets very real with these guys about his past. I'm just excited to see what he says and how the house reacts.
"There's nothing in the rules saying the suitors can't fall for each other. No one is getting on their knee at the end, we're a little bit more realistic."
And one of the suitors is HIV-positive.
You know, it's something I never thought we would be dealing with on the series, someone talking about their status. It's one of those dialogues that we've kind of stopped talking about. We're used to saying that it's not a death sentence anymore, but we've maybe gotten complacent on our education on HIV. That should never happen. Until we find a cure, we have to protect ourselves. I'm glad that someone was open and honest about it. It started some great conversation. There's still a lot of stigma there. I've dated people with HIV and it's no big deal, but there's still that stigma. We have to educate people.
I know you like the show Unreal. Is it like that on set at all?
Everything you see is real. We're first season, and you can't fake anything first season. What's so hard is that these producers have to write the story as you go. As a real person gives you a real moment, you have to figure out how to tell that story. We set up the dates and then let it go and see what happens. It's all about telling the story afterward with the interviews, you have to remember every little thing they've said, you have to remind them of that.
What are you excited for people to see on the remaining episodes?
Once Robert eliminates the people he doesn't really have a connection with, you'll start seeing some real love in the house. What I'm excited for people to see, actually, is the camaraderie in the house. It kind of becomes this gay camp where they all become friends. It's nice to see gay guys come together and talk about their lives. It's reality but it's not that real; it's a social experiment, it's not supposed to be real life. You're put into a house in a certain situation, that's very fun. But all the things that you get from it are great.