Love may or may not be blind, but fans of Netflix’s latest reality hit have definitely been left in the dark about a few things.
Love Is Blind is a “social experiment” that asks 30 men and women to make love connections and get engaged before seeing even a photo of their potential spouse. Fans who binged all five of the episodes released Thursday saw six couples meet in person and leave “the facility” engaged—and five pairs survive their Mexican resort engagementmoons. Viewers will see the remaining couples move in together and meet the parents over three episodes releasing this Friday, followed by a 90-minute (wedding-filled?) finale streaming February 27.
Finding someone willing to get engaged to someone after just 10 days sight unseen sounds impossible. But there were apparently even more success stories than shown on the series. Here creator Chris Coelen—the CEO of Kinetic Content, the company behind Lifetime’s Married at First Sight and Little Women franchise—discusses with The A.V. Club the additional engagements fans won’t see, the late-night dates producers didn’t even stick around to watch, and what viewers can expect from the rest of this “experiment.”
The A.V. Club: Where did you get the idea for this show?
Chris Coelen: One of the things that sort of came to mind was the idea that, from a universal perspective, every person in the world wants to be loved for exactly the same reason: for who they are. And if you’re together with someone for 10, or 20, or 30, or 40 years, everything that might be on the outside, it’s going to change a lot. It really comes down to what’s on the inside. So, we started with that idea and we thought about the fact that in today’s society that the technology that’s supposed to enable us to find a mate actually ends up disengaging us from people. Everything comes down to a picture, or a quick description, and for a lot of people that’s disillusioning. So we took those ideas and we thought, “Well, let’s make a start with love.”
AVC: How important was the casting process and finding people really ready to commit?
CC: People label these shows with a broad rush of “reality,” but I think of what we do as just shows that feature real people, with real stakes, and real emotions, and real circumstance. I think that these people had to really be ready first and foremost. They had to be ready as much as you can be to take the step to have a long-term relationship. That’s something they had to feel like they desired. But going from there, of course, it’s terrifying as a producer, and exhilarating when you don’t control the outcome.
AVC: There had to be a lot of fear of, “If we don’t get any engagements, is the show over?”
CC: There was nothing that said these people had to get engaged. There was nothing that said these people had to get married, or even make it to their ceremony, nothing. Nothing was required of them. Every decision was theirs. But I believed enough in the universality of the idea, and I felt strongly that people connecting in this way was a good enough idea, an interesting enough idea, a radical enough idea, that I felt like people would develop real emotional connection. But I truly had no idea that it was going to be as successful as it was. And actually, in real life, we ended up having more success than you even see on the show, in terms of people falling in love and getting engaged in the pod part of the show. There were more couples that got engaged than we were able to follow, which we did not expect at all. We felt like we would be lucky to have just one couple, and we had overwhelming abundance of story.
AVC: So will we be seeing any of those unaired engagements and their stories as bonus episodes?
CC: We weren’t going to throw too many storylines of people. But, I mean, if we’d had the crew to cover it, of course we would. We would have wanted to follow all of them in a heartbeat. The people we picked [as the six couples to feature,] we sort of just closed our eyes and said, “Oh, maybe it’s this one, maybe it’s that one.” Everyone on the show was tremendously real, and authentic, and gracious with allowing us to be in their life. And, honestly, every single person that was in that facility truly said it changed their lives. It was a completely transformative experience. Every single person said that, no matter what happened.
AVC: Take us inside the “facility.” How much time were people actually able to spend together?
CC: In the beginning, we wanted people to have the opportunity to really meet everyone in the facility. That part was sort of structured by production, and we rotated people sort of musical-chairs style, speed-dating style. But then they controlled their own destiny. They asked what they wanted to ask. We would take them out after about seven to 10 minutes in that first encounter and rotate them to the next person. And then, really, from there on, they were encouraged to focus on the people that they wanted to focus on, spend time with the people they want to spend time with.
If someone was interested in another person, and that other person wanted nothing to do with them, we would not put those two together. It was really only people who genuinely had an interest in continuing to explore a conversation, getting to know someone else. And they would spend multiple hours a day together. As the thing progressed, and they started to focus on the people that they were really clicking with, they spent more, and more, and more time together—multiple hours at a time, multiple times a day. Obviously people had to go to the bathroom, people had to eat, people would come out and do interviews...
AVC: And they had to sleep at some point.
CC: Even in terms of sleeping, we would say to them, “Hey, you guys have been in these pods for 18 hours already today, and it’s time to go to sleep. Let’s shut it down.” And they didn’t want to. And look, from a production-logistics standpoint, we had crew that had to go to sleep. But the truth is, even without our crew there, we just let people keep talking if they wanted to, because they took it really seriously—and we took it really seriously. And they were having a ton of fun doing this, getting to know the people on the other side of wall, and getting to know themselves. They want to spend as much time with each other, even coming down to falling asleep in the pods.
AVC: Where there any rules about their dates?
CC: Obviously the couldn’t see each other and they couldn’t touch each other. But other than that, they could do anything they wanted to do—we encouraged them to be creative. We said, “Look, think about it as if you’re going on a date. Whatever you want to do, within reason, we’ll try to accommodate that.” So if they said, “Hey, you know what? I love Italian food, and I’d love to have a lasagna dinner with my date,” we would try to arrange to bring in a lasagna dinner for the people on opposite sides. And they would talk to each other about it as they ate. They would say, “Wow, this lasagna is really cheesy. I love the sauce.” Or they would would want to paint a picture, or play a game together, or whatever, and they could do any of that.
And, like I said, it was a transformative experience. Even the people that didn’t ultimately get engaged would say, “I know these people on the other side of the wall. I know them better than people I’ve been in three-, four-, five-year relationships with. I know these people better than I know my own family,” because they had no distractions, they had no devices. They were focused just on another person, and they got deep.
AVC: What can you tease about the second half of the season?
CC: We’re going to see what happens as these couples enter the real world. They’ve been away from work, and friends, and social media, and their families. They’ve talked about their lives outside this experience, but now it will all be real. And will age differences, or economic differences, or being different races prove to be too difficult? We’ll see if these couples have established bonds that can last through all that and ultimately get to their weddings and walk away married.
Three more episodes of Love Is Blind will be released Friday, February 21 on Netflix.