The new season of The Bachelorette has started pre-production in New Mexico with the cast and crew already quarantining and getting ready to start filming in a few weeks — and OK! has exclusively learned that one person is missing from set: Chris Harrison.
"Basically the franchise is without a host at the moment although Chris Harrison is fighting to save his job. It is not unusual for Chris to turn up a week after the cast members arrive," a source tells OK!.
"With the magic of TV, they don’t always shoot the show in chronological order. Just because the first thing the audience gets to see is Chris and the Bachelor or Bachelorette talking before the limo’s start arriving, it doesn’t mean that they shoot that first," the source explains. "While the show still works out what to do with Chris, they can shoot an amazing amount of the show without him."
According to the source, Harrison knows that each passing day that he isn't on set in New Mexico will only hinder his chances to return as host — but he hasn't given up hope just yet.
As OK! reported first, Bachelor producers have GMA's Michael Strahan at the top of their list for who could replace Harrison. However, if Emmanuel Acho does a "great job" and "gets huge ratings" as host of the After The Final Rose special, then "Chris is gone forever," and Acho will be a contender to take over his spot full time, an OK! source dished.
As previously reported, Acho replaced Harrison as host of the special after the 49-year-old announced he would temporarily be stepping back from the franchise to get "educated." His abrupt departure came days after his controversial interview with Extra co-host and former Bachelorette Rachel Lindsay, the first Black lead in Bachelor history.
During his shocking conversation with Lindsay last month, Harrison failed to denounce Matt James' contestant Rachael Kirkconnell — who is one of the two remaining girls vying for the handsome hunk's heart — after alleged racially charged photos of her resurfaced online.
He told Lindsay that Bachelor Nation should offer Kirkconnell some "grace" and "compassion" after she was allegedly snapped at a plantation-themed party in 2018 and was accused of "liking" photos with the Confederate flag in them.
And after Lindsay — who received heavy criticism for calling out Harrison and his statements — declined the After The Final Rose special hosting position, producers turned to Acho to save the Franchise.
"There is so much concern about the future of the show within ABC," an OK! source previously explained. "If they don’t get this episode right they could kill the cash cow," referring to the upcoming special on Monday, March 15.
"The last thing they need is Matt talking about racism and the Black experience with another dude who looks and thinks like Chris Harrison!" the insider candidly stated.
As producers are said to be desperately searching for a permanent host to save the show, Harrison is still eyeing his hopeful return to the beloved dating series. The headline-making host spoke out for the first time regarding the racism scandal on March 4 during an interview with Strahan on GMA.
While he made sure to apologize to Lindsay and Bachelor Nation for a third time, admitting: "I am an imperfect man, I made a mistake and I own that," he ended his interview by stating, "I plan to be back and I want to be back."
"And I think this franchise can be an important beacon of change," he added at the time. "I know that change is felt, not just by me, but by many others. And we are excited and willing to do the work to show that progress."