(This story contains spoilers from ABC’s series premiere The golden bachelor.)
After years of anticipation, the series premieres from The golden bachelor eventually arrived on ABC, and America met Gerry Turner on his journey to find another great love of his life.
Turner, the 72-year-old retired restaurateur from Indiana, met the 22 women vying for his final rose in the first installment of the dating franchise’s spinoff aimed at seniors. Turner, who has two daughters and two granddaughters, lost Toni, his high school sweetheart and wife of 43 years, when she died in 2017 after a bacterial infection.
During an interview with The Hollywood ReporterTurner discussed all the biggest moments from the premiere, including his brief time with Patty Cuculo James, mother of former Bachelor Matt James; his decision to give his first impression fell to Faith Martin; the challenge of finding time to chat with everyone; the one arrival in the limousine that embarrassed him; and what will happen later in the season.
What stands out most to you when you think back to the first evening?
The variety of entrances is striking. That was an evening I had been looking forward to for so long. I was thrilled when it finally arrived, and it was a lot of fun watching all the women get out of the limos.
What was it about Faith that made her stand out and make that first impression?
Of course, her entrance on a motorcycle stood out. When I met her later for a quick chat, her singing really stood out. But I think the reason she got that first impression was the look in those soft brown eyes. That was really beautiful.
As soon as I saw that cupcake move you made with Theresa, I realized I had underestimated what a smooth operator you are. (Laughs.)
(Laughs.) Well, I take that as a compliment. Thank you.
Theresa seemed to really hope for the first impression. What was your relationship like with her that first night?
There was certainly nothing negative about why she didn’t get the rose. It’s more of a positive statement about Faith that makes the first impression. But with Theresa it was a close second – I’ll put it this way. There were a number of women who made a great entrance that night and could have made the first impression just as easily as Faith or Theresa.
It was really fun to see you show off your dance moves. I was like, ‘Go work with this guy Dancing with the stars ASAP.” What was it like to dance a little and find those fun moments during the night?
It was a nice way to relieve some tension; move a little so your knees hurt less. (Laughs.) It was very fun.
Leslie tells the camera that she had a connection with Prince. Did she say anything to you about that?
She did share that with me during the course of the season, yes.
Patty may have been the only contestant most viewers knew prior to the premiere, as her son Matt James was the bachelor. She didn’t have much screen time and didn’t get a rose. Did you get to talk to her a lot and do you remember much about that connection?
Short conversation. We talked about her family, her connection to the franchise through her son, and so on. Probably as much with her as with the other women on that short first night.
It was funny seeing Aunt Chippy come by. I’m guessing she wasn’t trying to get a rose, but were you able to talk at all?
She was such a good sport, not only when she got out of the limo, but also later, a few hours later, she was sitting on a couch behind the mansion. I stopped to talk to her and complimented her on her courage to do what she had done and so on. Very pleasant moment with her.
How difficult was it for you to find time to talk to everyone?
I always wish I had more time to make such difficult decisions. The source of time is very finite. You can’t replace it. That night was indeed difficult for time management. If I could have done one thing differently it would have been to have more time with each of those women, because that was a difficult decision.
It didn’t seem like you expected Sandra’s singing to contain swear words. How did you feel about that, and are you someone who normally doesn’t swear a lot?
I was ashamed of that. I kept hoping she would say another word, and it repeated and repeated. So yeah, enough said.
Premieres in this franchise are known for tears, but they don’t always come from the lead. Was it a surprise to you that you became emotional after the rose ceremony?
Yes, a little bit. That was somewhat of a surprise, but on such an energetic and emotionally charged evening the feelings were bubbling just beneath the surface. As I got to know the women as a group and how confident, poised and well-educated they were, the connection with them was quick and deeper than anyone could imagine in such a short time. So it was extremely difficult at that time to have to send some of them home.
Viewers saw you kissing multiple women throughout the night, including a moment with Faith that attracted some attention. Were you surprised at how open you were to exploring those relationships through affection?
No, it wasn’t surprising at all. I was there to find my forever partner, and I was willing to become a little vulnerable, a little open. So when some of those feelings moved me and another woman for something like that, I didn’t hold back.
What time was it at your place?
The night ended around 7:30 in the morning. I remember at that moment I was still wide awake and energetic and enjoying the opportunity to have conversations. I liked it a lot.
There seems to be quite a bit of drama in the promo for the rest of the season. Were there more difficult moments in the process than you expected?
I knew that every rose ceremony would be a very difficult moment. I’m probably a softie anyway, so those were of course very difficult evenings and ceremonies.
Interview edited for length and clarity.
The golden bachelor airs Thursdays at 8pm on ABC.