Tanner Tolbert of KC talks Kaitlyn, ‘Bachelorette’ and ‘Bachelor in Paradise’

After competing on “The Bachelorette” Tanner Tolbert of Kansas City can be seen on “Bachelor in Paradise,” premiering Sunday.
After competing on “The Bachelorette” Tanner Tolbert of Kansas City can be seen on “Bachelor in Paradise,” premiering Sunday. ABC

Kansas City’s Tanner Tolbert finally spilled the beans about his time on “The Bachelorette” and revealed that what happened on the reality show was actually … real.

Tolbert, 28, made it to the Top 9 on the most recent season of “The Bachelorette,” which concluded Monday, and will star in “Bachelor in Paradise,” which premieres at 7 p.m. Sunday on ABC.

In an interview Friday, Tolbert had only positive things to say about the show and bachelorette Kaitlyn Bristowe, though he admitted that he never expected them to end up together. Tolbert said he was accurately portrayed and didn’t witness producers creating plot lines or clever editing.

“Before I went on, I assumed some of the drama was staged. But the crazies do come out,” he said. “The drama manifests out of itself.”

When 25 guys compete for one woman and they’re surrounded by booze, conflict is bound to happen, he said.

Tolbert said he wasn’t surprised that Bristowe chose Shawn Booth in the season finale, and now they’re engaged. During filming, he always felt the the two had one of the strongest connections.

Bristowe was criticized — and even received death threats — during the season for sleeping with another contestant when she still had eight other suitors.

But Tolbert defends her: “People date multiple people in real life; this was just under a microscope. It just came off poorly.”

One thing viewers didn’t see, he said: He and Bristowe actually did get a lot of one-on-one time. And yes, they did kiss. It just wasn’t shown on TV, which was “just fine” to Tolbert. He said he was happy to play the commentator throughout the season — he was known for his quippy one-liners — since that didn’t “muddy” his reputation.

During filming, three days a week were dedicated to all of the bachelors’ dates with Bristowe and one day was for the rose ceremony. The rest of the time, the guys would hang out by the pool, do interviews with producers or sight see — Ireland was the best. By then, none of the “freaks” were left, he said, and he considers JJ, Jared, Ben Z and rumored next “Bachelor” Ben H. to be close buddies.

And believe it or not, the suspense of the rose ceremony is real. Tolbert said that the bachelors had no idea who was going to be eliminated and that it was all shot in one take.

Tolbert was eliminated in Ireland with Ben Z. He said the process after that was straightforward: In an exit interview, producers asked him his feelings about Kaitlyn and his time on the show. The next morning he was on a flight home.

He couldn’t reveal much about his time on “Bachelor in Paradise” due to his contract with ABC but said his decision to go on the show wasn’t necessarily about looking for a relationship. It was a chance to have fun. The show, filmed in Mexico, features former “Bachelor” and “Bachelorette” contestants who are looking for “love,” and every week a contestant is eliminated.

“It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and by that point I warmed up to cameras being in my face,” Tolbert said. “I never thought I was going to have that much fun.” (The show airs at 7 p.m. Sundays and Mondays.)

Because of “Paradise” filming, Tolbert has only been home in Kansas City for a couple of weeks and is back to work as a finance manager at Legends Honda in Kansas City, Kan. He admitted it’s bizarre to get recognized and has accepted that going out to bars in Power & Light will lead to taking hundreds of photos with “Bachelorette” fans. But Tolbert said he would recommend the reality show experience.

“The odds are going to be against you. But I learned a lot about myself, and it helped me open up and get rid of surface level B.S.,” Tolbert said. “You just have to keep a level head.”

And the fact that he gets to meet women because of the show isn’t so bad either.