“Can I steal you for a second?”
Every member of Bachelor Nation knows the power of those seven bold words, so when I walked up to Gerry Turner in a dimly lit New York watering hole two nights before The Golden Bachelor‘s groundbreaking premiere on ABC, I knew I had to shoot my shot.
“OH! I’ve never heard that one before,” the 72-year-old father and grandfather said with a finger wag and a hearty chuckle.
After nailing the first impression, we sat down at a table sprinkled with gold rose petals, and — bathed in the golden glow of candlelight — we chatted about life as America’s Grandzaddy, the wonderful world of modern-day dating, the importance of showing senior love stories on screen, and more.
Ahead of The Golden Bachelor‘s September 28 premiere, let Gerry Turner’s passion for life, love, and his once-in-a-lifetime journey amplify the hype surrounding this refreshing reality TV spinoff.
DECIDER: It was so refreshing to see reality TV shine a spotlight on a new age group. I’ve noticed a trend lately that more senior love stories are being portrayed on television. Why do you think it’s so crucial for late-in-life love stories like yours to get representation?
GERRY TURNER: Well, that’s a good question. All too often, I think as we get older, society in general begins to make us invisible. And all of a sudden with this show, I think people realize that we’re not invisible. And I really mean this, not because of me, but because of that group of 22 women who were so elegant and supportive of each other and poised. I was so proud of them. Literally, I was at my most comfortable moments when I was with that group.
I’d love to hear your take on modern-day dating compared to when dating before your marriage. How have things changed? And what was it like putting yourself back out there?
Well you’re aware that almost 60 years have gone by since the last time. [Laughs] Maybe not quite that much, but pretty close. So things have changed a lot, but it’s more related to age rather than culture, for me. When you’re younger, you’re thinking about finding the right person to start a family with, carving out a career, there’s a lot of stress and pressure. Whereas when we get older, we don’t have that. We’re only worried about if we have mutual values and the character of the person we’re dating is right. And really, what’s the fun factor? How much travel do they want to do? How much of their time can they commit to just fun activities? It’s way different.
I read that when producers called and asked you to be the Golden Bachelor, you initially turned them down.
[Laughs] I did.
And I caught a glimpse of the season to come and saw quite a few tears — especially from you. Did you ever expect to cry so much in this process? Or make such strong connections worth crying over? And having completed the journey, are you happy that you said yes?
Oh, that’s a lot of good questions. I am completely surprised at myself for being as emotional as I was at times. But I was so committed to the journey and so committed to doing everything I could at every moment that things really got to me quickly. But I have absolutely no regrets about that show. I’m extremely happy about how things turned out. I’m extremely happy that I met all those women. They are so spectacular.
You’re called America’s Grandzaddy. I know your granddaughter told you you have rizz. Is there a favorite slang word you’ve learned throughout this process?
[Laughs] Not really. But I did realize that people say “100%” a lot more than I ever do.
100%. Yeah, I can get comfortable with that.
I’m not sure if you know this, but Bachelor Nation loves to live-tweet (live-X?!) as they watch episodes. Are you at all worried about becoming a meme, and have your granddaughters or daughters prepared you at all for going viral?
No, actually. So I have something new to worry about! [Laughs] The only meme of myself I’ve seen was when they asked me to dance for TikTok — a TikTok meme. That’s it.
What does your perfect date night looks like?
I think the more adventure the better. But a first date, I like it when I could go to dinner with someone, have a nice dinner, but then after dinner, I would ask my date if she would do some tailgate sitting, and I’d lift the tailgate down. And depending on their reaction to that, I would know whether or not I really wanted a second date.
Oh I love that. If you were to have a movie night, is there a favorite movie you’d want to watch?
Well, I love The Blind Side. I love Titanic. Those are probably two that I would start with, but I’m not sure how date-appropriate they are. [Laughs]
What are you streaming? Any TV show you’re loving right now?
There isn’t. I don’t watch a lot of TV.
I love that.
If the sun is shining, I am outside. I don’t care if I’m pulling weeds or riding a jet ski, if the sun is shining, I’m outside.
So were you familiar with The Bachelor shows before this?
I was, but here would be the deal. I would tape a lot of those shows and then watch them wintertime or when it’s cold. Because by then, of course, it’s way old news. But I was still getting to see the culture of it.
Do you watch Shrinking on Apple TV+?
No, I don’t.
You’ve got to check it out. Harrison Ford plays a hot grandpa who is starting to date again, and he loves pickleball. So I thought of you.
Oh my god, yes!
Will you be watching your season with your family on Thursday nights? What’s the watch party plan?
Actually, the upside is very nice. My daughters and granddaughters, of that group, whoever is available, will be flying to LA to watch the first episode with me. I know my granddaughters are busy. One is a coach at a small college for gymnastics. One plays volleyball. I’m hoping they’re available. If they’re not, we’ll make sure we see an episode with everyone down the road.
Before we go, what’s life been like since becoming The Golden Bachelor? Do people recognize you? And how does it feel to have America rooting for your love story?
It’s a hoot. I don’t mind it a bit. I took my daughter and son-in-law to dinner in Fort Wayne, Indiana two weeks ago. I was 45 seconds in the restaurant and somebody recognized me. So we had pictures with the waitstaff. Probably about 12 times during dinner, people came up and wanted pictures. Every single airport I’ve been in in the last six weeks, I’ve been recognized. If you don’t enjoy it it’s going to grind you down. But I kind of like it. People get involved. They’re finding the fun of it. I like it for that reason.
The Golden Bachelor premieres Thursday, September 28 at 8:00 p.m. ET on ABC. New episodes air weekly on Thursdays and are available for next-day streaming on Hulu.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.