Bryden Vukasin is so much more than a reality TV star. He is a decorated member of our military. He is a semi-pro football player. He is University of Montana student. He is a son, brother, and boyfriend. Most apparent though when you meet him, he is one of the nicest and most genuine guys you will ever meet.
I met Bryden through his girlfriend Becky Weidow last May. While attending Becky’s graduation party she introduced me to Bryden who at the time was fresh off from shooting “The Bachelorette”. I had a nice conversation with him and throughout the summer we saw each other a couple more times. Not wanting to be “that guy” I didn’t grill him about his new fame. However, with 2014 now upon us and some nine months removed from the show, I asked Bryden if he would mind chatting with me about his experience on America’s most popular reality show franchise. Without hesitation he decided to humor me and accept my request. Yesterday evening he graciously allowed me to ask him anything I wanted.
Why He Left The Show
Let’s just start with the most controversial part of Bryden’s time on “The Bachelorette” when he left the show. If you search blogs and message boards you will find speculation about why he left, with many theories pointing to his relationship with Becky, but the truth was that he just didn’t have a truly special connection with Des. Even though Bryden says “she liked me a lot” the feelings were not reciprocal. Adding to his decision to leave the mansion, he was tired.
“While the first night is exciting, as time goes on it all kind of sucks you down. The drama associated with living with a bunch of guys and competing for one girl wears on you,” Bryden told me.
It is true that Bryden and Becky knew each other and started to hang out before the show. The two met at the University Center on the University of Montana campus in the commons area. But when Bryden got word that he would be on the show and only had three weeks until shooting started, he didn’t hesitate to seize the opportunity. The two decided to let things play out and if things were salvageable when he returned they would go from there.
Behind The Scenes
I made sure to satisfy the curiosity I have always had about what happens behind the scenes of these types of shows during downtime. According to Bryden, there was a lot of it. He did his best to fight off boredom throughout his entire time on the show. Many people don’t realize that although they get to live in a luxurious mansion, they are confined to it as well. Eventually it starts to feel as if the walls are starting to close in. “Many mornings were spent at the pool,” Bryden explains. But other than that, when he wasn’t in front of the camera there just wasn’t much to do. They didn’t have access to their phones, the internet, or music. Even more maddening, the mansion has no gym facility so the guys were left to do their own type of jailhouse workout. “Lots of sit ups, push ups, and running,” Bryden described as his workout regimen. One of the very few times he got to leave the premises was when the show producers took him and a few of the other cast members not included in one of the dates out to sushi. Besides the unordinary $400 dinner tab they ran up, doing a seemingly ordinary thing such as going out to eat was a very refreshing and rare occurrence.
The cast members were always encouraged to loosen up though. Bryden noted that throughout the mansion you could find “drawers full of liquor” with every type of choice you could imagine. While he primarily didn’t go overboard while on the show, there was one exception. The night before he was to tell Des that he wanted to leave the show, he got the urge to tell her right then. One of the show’s producers, adamantly against Bryden’s desire for spontaneity, drove his attention to one of those liquor drawers. The two went shot for shot until Bryden’s desire to break the news to Des was suppressed.
Authenticity of the Show
Many people from the outside looking in, including myself, wonder how authentic shows like “The Bachelorette” are. When it comes to probably the most important part such as the thoughts, feelings, and emotions of the cast members, Bryden says most of what you see is the real deal. So rest assured, the heart and soul of “The Bachelor” franchise is very much genuine. But don’t hold your breath if you think scenes in the show aren’t rehearsed. When the cast traveled to Atlantic City, Bryden told me that they re-shot the scene of the guys walking into the hotel four different times. The rose ceremonies, which typically had around 40 crew members huddled around the set, were typically manipulated and reconfigured based on what could generate the most excitement and suspense. Like during one ceremony Bryden was presented with the second to last rose but when it aired it had him receiving the last rose. Reaction shots are also redone frequently. For example, when Chris Harrison notified the cast that they would be traveling to Germany, they re-shot the reaction of the guys smiling and getting excited until the crew had what they wanted.
“I heard they have like a 30 person editing crew” Bryden mentioned about the show. That would surely explain how conversations are routinely taken out of context and moved around to twist the dialogue and portray themes that the producers are gunning for, as Bryden alerted me to. But don’t think those producers are all about trickery and deceit. Bryden was very complimentary of many of them who worked on his show. He said that they would give out honest advice before different shooting scenes to various cast members that would make them look better once the show aired if they heeded it. But of course, the producers always encouraged the extreme. They wouldn’t think twice about telling cast members to say and do crazy things. One producer pleaded with Bryden to bring his dog on the show. He nixed that idea.
Bryden told me that besides a couple tweets sent her way, he is no longer in contact with Des. The exact opposite can be said about his fellow competitors. Bryden keeps in touch with many of the contestants from season 9. While I did say earlier that Bryden partly left the show because of the drama of competing against a bunch of guys for one girl, the friendships he developed with them overshadowed the natural showmanship that occurs on these shows. When “The Bachelor” premiered on Monday night he chatted on the phone with his good friend Juan Pablo, who will have his pick of bachelorettes this season. Bryden designates James and Kasey as his favorite cast members.
The aftermath he experienced once back at home probably won’t surprise you much. Of course, Becky had lots of questions. When the show started to air, the attention he received when going out was intense, so much so that when he entered a bar near pandemonium would break out. Drunk girls would stumble up to him and ask naïve questions about the show. Everyone would have their phones out and everyone would want a picture. Although the freak out sessions by the Missoula community has toned down a few notches in the past several months, it is still hard for him to totally shed from the minds of college girls and reality TV junkies the almost dream-like role he played in the living rooms of millions:
“I still get recognized pretty much everywhere I go,” Bryden shyly admits.
Was It Worth It?
When it comes down to it, Bryden doesn’t hesitate when I ask him if it was worth doing the show: “Absolutely. I got to go to awesome places and meet awesome people. It was the opportunity of a lifetime.”
Bryden would do another reality show and he would utilize the same philosophy he took with him on “The Bachelorette”:
“You can’t pretend to be someone else, you just got to be yourself. If you aren’t, the truth will eventually come out.”
It should come as no surprise then that Bryden has few complaints about how he was portrayed on the show. The “timid, small town” persona they tagged him with while not entirely 100% accurate could have been worse. All in all, the Bryden you saw on your screens during season 9 of “The Bachelorette” was the Bryden I sat down with for dinner last night.
Bryden Vukasin seemingly has it made. He has the experience of a lifetime in his back pocket. He has a promising military career. He has a beautiful girlfriend. He has over 10,000 Twitter followers. He has connections all over world. He has more different talents than most of us can ever dream of possessing.
But Bryden isn’t satisfied yet.
From our conversation last evening, I learned that he still has ambitious goals. I am talking stuff past the amazing things he has already done. Without hesitation, I will put all my money down on him achieving them. Thank you Bryden for your time, it was a pleasure. Don’t Blink.
* Bryden auditioned for the show at the Sunrise Saloon in Missoula, Montana.
* He estimates that he was onset of “The Bachelorette” for three and a half weeks.
* Wearing clothes with logos was strictly forbidden. Crew members had to remove labels from every product in the mansion.
* There would typically be 2-3 camera people in each room.
* While shooting the show, Bryden saw Chris Harrison about as much as we see him on TV. He was not around much (and if he was, he was out of eyesight of the cast).
* I asked what the main difference is from a season 9 contestant and a typical Missoula guy…he said it is just culture. Most of the guys on the show hold national corporate jobs. Some of them dress in a way that looks like they just walked out of a GQ magazine.
* When the first episode aired, Bryden viewed the show at a friend’s house where a big party was held in his honor. He watched subsequent shows at his mom’s place.
* Speaking of Bryden’s mom, his whole family was very supportive of his reality TV stardom.
* At the other end of the spectrum, Bryden’s military friends pretty much just make fun of him for it.
* Besides “The Bachelor”/”The Bachelorette”, Bryden’s favorite reality show is “The Amazing Race”.
* His least favorite reality show is either “Jersey Shore” or the “Real World”.
* Although strongly discouraged and rarely allowed, if a cast member went as far as a couple feet off the mansion premises or off the hotel property (such as to smoke or just get some fresh air), a member of the crew would have to go with him.
* Bryden and his fellow cast members frequently played Cards Against Humanity to pass the time. They reached a point where they just started to make their own cards.
* I mentioned that Bryden plays semi-pro football. He played the last two seasons for the Missoula Phoenix. Because the Phoenix recently folded, he is looking for a new team.
* Make sure to follow Bryden on Twitter: @BrydenVukasin