Nick Viall on Hosting an 'Intense' Date for Katie Thurston and Seeing Her 'Strength' in Action on 'The Bachelorette'
Monday night’s episode of “The Bachelorette” was, in a word, impactful.
Katie Thurston bravely shared her story of a nonconsensual sexual experience during a group date that saw the Season 17 lead and her men detailing difficult moments from their lives that have since inspired personal growth.
Nick Viall, who hosted the date, witnessed the powerful moment firsthand. “Katie exuded strength during the date. She felt empowered to share her story,” the former Bachelor tells BachelorNation.com in an exclusive interview. “The feeling in the room was also really intense.”
He adds, “It was one of those situations where you just want to give Katie the space to feel as comfortable as possible and just listen.”
Below, Nick shares more with BachelorNation.com about assisting Katie in her search for love, his thoughts on the polarizing admissions made by contestant Thomas, and how his experience within the franchise helped set the stage for his thriving relationship with girlfriend Natalie Joy.
We’ve never seen a date like this on any show within the franchise, where the lead sits down with their contestants to share tough memories. How did this idea come to be?
Once we kind of decided that I would be part of hosting a date, the producers are pretty cool about trying to be creative and asked me about some ideas that we had in terms of what would be the most productive date. We brainstormed together and came up with this idea, which, for me, having been in that world and watching the shows as a fan as well, you know that everyone shows up and have their things that they want to say about themselves. It’s always charming, and they might even have a sad story and that obviously will endear America and Katie to them. But the premise really was that we all have some red flags. We all have things we’re not proud of. And with such a limited time, sometimes we don’t even get a chance to talk about it. These guys were like, “Hey, by the way, I’ve ghosted someone,” or, “There was this time and I’m not too proud of this situation.”
When the date began, did you have any idea that Katie would share her own story?
No. Initially, we just figured with them being stuck filming in New Mexico [at the Hyatt Regency Tamaya Resort & Spa], we wanted to get creative with the limited space. So, we thought of this date where we were just like, “Hey, this is the time to kind of get out some of the things you’re not proud about yourself.” As most of the dates go, you don’t really know how it’s going to turn out. But as the fans saw, a lot of the guys were pretty vulnerable and obviously Katie felt comfortable to share a difficult but super touching story — touching in terms of her strength in the realization of what she’s been through. That’s not easy to do. And that’s kind of how it all went down.
How would you describe the feeling in the room when Katie took her turn to speak?
Like I said, it was really intense, especially sitting right next to her. We all just wanted to support her in that moment. And I think that’s what happened. We didn’t really know what she was going to say. Obviously, she mentioned that she hadn’t even talked to her mother about it. But, quite honestly, I think all the guys handled it well. You want to be comforting her, but you also want to give her the space to tell her story. And overall, I think everyone just wanted to listen, make her feel comfortable, and just show their appreciation for Katie being so vulnerable.
At the beginning of the date, you told the guys that you were holding them “accountable.” You mentioned that, as a lead, there’s a real fear in falling in love with someone and not knowing the extent of their past. Was this date a way for you and Katie to vet her men even further?
I’ve been in that situation. I have other friends who have been in that situation and it’s a real fear that we have. It’s not so much about figuring out if they’re there for the right reasons. An engagement is on the line, and you would rather find out some of the things they’re not proud of before that happens. What you kind of want to see is someone’s ability to own who they are. Seeing someone do that is comforting for anyone in the lead position because you’ve got to be able to have some of these difficult conversations. It was more about asking, “Do these guys know themselves? What are things that they wish they could have done better or have done better?” If you’re someone in Katie’s shoes, a date like this can be super helpful.
Of the men, whose story stood out the most for you?
Connor B.’s was the most emotional to take in. He was the last one who went, and while he was there, you could really tell whatever he was going to say was really weighing on him. I think that was the most heartfelt story. Connor B. stuck out the most. Quite honestly, there was a limited amount of time. Some of the guys delivered, some of the guys didn’t. A lot of the guys tried to, in a really long-winded way, suggest they might have been f--kboys in the past, which was kind of my take on it.
Thomas spoke openly about dating just before coming on the show and thinking of the “platform” he could potentially create from the exposure. What did you think of his comments?
When you talk about what he said specifically, I really had no problem with it. It will be interesting how people respond because at this point, with social media being what it is, I don’t think people have an expectation that these guys are supposed to be totally celibate leading up to the show in the sense of not dating before filming. There are so many things that are not guaranteed in this process. The show is pretty candid about the fact that some of these guys find out they’re going to be on the show last minute. So, as far as specifically what Thomas said, I had no problem with it.
Did your opinion of Thomas change at all when you watched the episode back?
I just got to observe these guys and I had a limited time doing so. I’m there making snap judgments. But even watching the first couple episodes and the time I had with these guys, things didn’t seem to add up with Thomas. It’s one of those things where the show has been on for a while and you know some of the right things to say or things that seemingly sound good. Thomas was saying things that sound more or less like platitudes. He was having this intense conversation about his feelings with Katie — and he had really spent no time with Katie. And it just didn’t seem to add up.
For me, I didn’t get the impression that Thomas was really being honest with himself or Katie about the intensity of his feelings. It seemed like he thought it sounded good. But what is he basing it off? I didn’t really have a problem with what he said that made the guys turn on him. But at the same time, I don’t think he was being genuine either.
As a former lead, how do you think Katie is handling her role as the Bachelorette?
She’s doing incredible. She’s speaking up. And I think that’s all you can really hope for as a viewer. You don’t have to guess what’s on Katie’s mind. She’ll tell ya! And as a viewer, that’s great. And for her personally, that’s good as well. You don’t want to hold back. There’s not enough time to assume things and so Katie’s doing a good job at speaking her mind, and I think that’s only going to serve her well in the long run.
Your ride throughout Bachelor Nation has been particularly unique. You’ve been a contestant on “The Bachelorette” twice, you’ve hit the beaches of “Paradise,” and, of course, you led Season 21 of “The Bachelor.” How do you think your time within the franchise has helped you grow?
Listen, it’s an intense experience. Any time you go through an intense experience, it’s an opportunity to self-reflect and learn about yourself. Obviously, with intense experiences, you deal with intense situations and those are always learning and teachable moments for yourself. I’ve just become more comfortable with myself, more self-aware, and I feel comfortable facing adversity — because it’s just all you’re really doing in that environment is having adversity. That’s kind of how I look at it.
Obviously, you learn a lot about love on these shows. How do you think your experience pursuing romance on reality TV may have set the stage for your current relationship with Natalie?
The more comfortable you are with yourself, the more you know yourself, the more likely you are to find a person who’s the right fit. You know what boundaries to set for yourself and you know what you’re not looking for in a partner, through experience, and I think obviously being on the show played a role, right? It was also an accumulation of not only being on the show but my life leading up to that.
How would you describe your relationship with Natalie?
It’s great! I think we’re really enjoying our relationship and we try not to add any unnecessary pressure to it. I think we do a good job of being present and living in the moment. We have a lot of optimism about the relationship, but we never take it for granted or play house, as they say. I’m just thankful for how we communicate and so far, so good.
What makes you two a great match?
Without giving too much away, I think we just communicate really well together. People always say that communication is key, and we do a good job of talking. And that’s not talking through something just because you’re mad about something. We’re always talking and always checking in and we’re always continuing to grow as a couple. We aren’t afraid to acknowledge that even though we’ve been together for a while now, we’re still learning about each other and we’re still asking questions. It’s just communication.
Natalie is a surgical technologist, which is very different from your career. What does she think of Bachelor Nation? Was she a fan of it before you met or is it something she’s learning to embrace?
She was not a fan before. She just never really got into it. She watches it now just because I watch it as someone who still podcasts about it. And she always has an interesting point of view about the franchise. She’s definitely a realist, so it’s kind of fun hearing her perspective. Like, you said, she has her own career and her own priorities, but she is supportive of the things that I’m doing. She’s really good at prioritizing the things that are important to her while supporting the things that are important to me.
If you or someone you know has experienced sexual violence, help is available. For anonymous, confidential, free support 24/7, call @RAINN’s National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800.656.HOPE (4673) or chat at online at rainn.org.
“The Bachelorette” airs Mondays on ABC at 8 p.m. ET.