It was the longest shooting day of Tyler Harcott's career. And to complicate matters, he had to keep it all a secret.
The Edmonton-born actor and host of The Bachelor Canada was recalling the first day in May the cameras rolled atop Bear Mountain on the Canadian version of the successful American franchise that premières this fall on Citytv.
"I compare that first day to the Super Bowl or the Stanley Cup finals because there's so much riding on it, and everybody wants to get it right," recalled Harcott, sinking into a creamcoloured couch in The Bachelor Canada mansion's living room, where 25 women, who could become former Canadian Football League player Brad Smith's fiancÃ©e, face elimination during rose ceremonies.
Harcott, 43, showed up at 7 a.m. and didn't get into bed until 9 the morning after that first rose ceremony, he recalled.
"You've got 25 women coming into a home, and the amount of people it takes to keep those ladies together, and organized, and under wraps so they don't see each other - it's exhausting."
The eclectic group of bachelorettes aged 23 to 33 include a neuroscientist, a Playboy model and a yoga instructor, and will be unveiled five at a time each Wednesday on Citytv's Breakfast Television at 7: 38 a.m. beginning today.
The location of the mansion - the luxurious 13,500square-foot, five-bedroom home that includes a grotto spa, infinity pool, basketball court, home theatre and panoramic views - had been one of Victoria's bestkept secrets.
Crews filmed at the home formerly owned by exNHLer Len Barrie for six of the shoot's nine weeks.
"I'm amazed these shows are able to keep the secret," marvelled Harcott, who found himself having to be on guard when, say, a limo driver would ask what he was working on. "There are so many variables and, living in the Facebook and Twitter universe, there's so much access to information. It's a yeoman effort to get to the point it's a secret up to that final reveal."
Executive producer John Ritchie of Vancouver's Force Four Entertainment said maintaining the element of surprise was a huge challenge during production of the biggest show, logistically, he's ever done.
"You're shooting in a contained world, and everybody who signs up for the show understands that," Ritchie said, noting members of the 80-person crew had to sign non-disclosure agreements. "We're grateful so many people were so co-operative. If we had been flooded by onlookers, that would have been a big issue."
Ritchie doesn't buy the theory posited by media analysts that reality show "spoilers" boost ratings. In the U.S., producers of The Bachelor and The Bachelorette sued a Texas-based blogger nicknamed Reality Steve for revealing spoilers.
"There's that old saying, 'any publicity is good publicity,' and there will always be rumours, especially for a franchise like this," he said. "But it's like telling your best friend the ending of the movie you're going to watch. The fun of watching a story unfold is to see how it ends. That's what makes for great drama."
The impulse to want to reveal reality TV show secrets harkens back to Andy Warhol's classic "fame" theory, Harcott adds.
"Everybody wants their 15 minutes, except in our day and age it's five minutes, or 15 seconds," he said. "I don't know how your head hits the pillow and you go, 'Yeah, that was a good day.' I wouldn't want to be that person who ruined the show."
Choosing Victoria as the location for the bachelorette mansion was a nobrainer, Ritchie said.
"It's a spectacular setting," he said, noting crews returned this summer to get "stunning" aerial shots of Vancouver Island.
"We wanted a place that would represent Canada and also be exotic in its own way, and certainly that mansion on that hill is pretty spectacular in its isolation and its opulence."
While the bachelorettes were in an "agreed-upon lockdown" for six weeks in the dream home, where they slept in close quarters on single beds in tastefully appointed bedrooms, there were perks that made it worthwhile, Ritchie said.
"They could get 'date cards' and - boom! - they're flying off to some exotic place on a moment's notice, don't forget," he said. "And, hey, they've got a swimming pool and a hot tub. Life could be worse. It's not hell on Earth."
Although the bachelorettes were shadowed by omnipresent cameras, it was "like a two-month slumber party," adds Harcott.
"It wasn't all 'Ooh, I love your outfit!' " mimics Harcott. "It's a lot of drama."
He said that with so many different personalities, it's a given that some will mesh and some won't.
"We've had a few instances where things happen and everybody in the room goes, 'Wow, I did not see that coming.' "
While Ritchie's biggest challenges included "making a show that looks as good as the American one on a fraction of the budget," Harcott faced a different set of challenges than he faced as host of TLC's Junkyard Wars.
"The most challenging part is coming into a room knowing what I have to say and being faced with 16 absolutely devastatingly beautiful women staring at you, hanging onto your every word," he said, admitting he could get flustered.
"The gals are very forgiving, though. When I say "Hello, ladies" and they all say 'Hi, Tyler,' you blush and almost go 'teeheehee,' " he said, laughing. "I feel like John Forsythe in Charlie's Angels."
He describes his job as being part traffic cop, big brother, sounding board and bachelor's wingman.
"And to the ladies, you're sometimes the angel of death," he said. "They know when you walk in you're going to bring good news about an upcoming surprise or a date. But you could also be the bearer of bad news, like 'You're going home.' "
It helped that Smith, 28, is such a "genuine and honest young man, wise beyond his years," Harcott said.
"He's also built like a brick outhouse, with this Adonis-looking body. The ladies love that. But he's also gentle, funny and gracious. He's all of these things but never in a calculated way. That's just who he is. He's this incredible package."
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