When things get a little too dramatic on The Bachelor, The Bachelorette, or Bachelor in Paradise, producers send in the big guns: Paul “Big Paulie” Danner. The 6’3” Army veteran has escorted many a rowdy or disgruntled contestant off the premises over the years, but Danner does a lot more than just security. As The Bachelor franchise’s stage manager, he keeps all aspects of production running smoothly — and every once in a while, he has to kick down a door to do it. Danner and I chatted out on the mansion’s driveway during the 12-hour shoot for the season 23 premiere.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How did you get this job?
PAUL DANNER: I came to Los Angeles and I was working as an actor, believe it or not. And a show I was on was on hiatus, the UPN show Abby with Sidney Poitier’s daughter. I had a friend who was working on The Real Cannonball Run and asked if I wanted to work on the show, because I can work on old cars. I have a bunch of old cars and my own tools. I started doing that and met some production managers and people who liked me. The next show I did I met [producer] Monica Stock. She got moved over here to The Bachelor, and she brought me with her.
I started as a PA [production assistant]. They didn’t have a second AD at the time, and the AD needed help, so they sent me down there because I have a military background, so I’m organized and can get things going. It started from there, I would work as a PA and the second AD, and then eventually I moved up to a house coordinator, and worked as the second AD. The season we had gone to Rome, I think it was 2006 I believe, we shot in Rome and that’s when I took over as the first AD, or stage manager.
But you also have an on-camera role as The Bachelor/Bachelorette‘s “muscle.”
That’s a funny story how that started too, because they all knew that I was an actor as well. So producers would come up and say, “Hey, we’re gonna do this date. Do you mind being the butler?” I’d be like, “Yeah, it’d be fun!” So they’d rent me a suit and I’d come wait on people, open doors. Or “Do you want to be the bartender? We’ll mix some martinis.”
It’s funny because I used to pick up [Bachelor creator] Mike Fleiss at his house and bring him to work. He’d tell me, “You know, Paulie, you picked the one genre where we don’t use actors!” I get more airtime being myself than I ever did when I was acting, which is amazing. It’s kind of surreal when people notice me on the street, or they’ll stop me in stores — “I know you from somewhere! I’ve seen you on TV!”
When was the first time they brought you on as “security”?
Well, that kind of a started as a joke, the security part. The first time where we actually did something, I think that was Rozlyn’s season, when we had some issues here at the house, and things got a little heavy and they sent me in to make sure she would leave. She didn’t want to leave.
She locked herself in the bathroom — I heard that you actually had to kick the door in?
Yes. [Laughs] They told me, “Go for it!” So yeah, I [kicked] it in, because she was trying to keep everybody out, she didn’t want to go. I got the door open and we walked her out. With a few people we’ve done that.
What are some of the most memorable security-related moments that you’ve handled?
The biggest one that stands out would be when we were on Paradise, of course, and that would be Chad. That was the most serious at the time, where I feared for Chris [Harrison]. Most of the time when it starts, I’m just trying to look out for the crew… We had another incident with a gentleman, I forget who it was — he was freaking out in the rose room in his underwear. He started throwing roses at the camera crew, and I almost jumped in on that one, but it didn’t go any further. I was outside the door ready to go in. [The contestants] know me now. If [the producers] send me into a room, they instantly stop. Once they see me, they mellow out.
What’s your strategy for removing a rowdy contestant?
Well you just stay calm and cool and speak to them like a human being. I don’t put anybody down or anything. I just say, “These are the facts, and this is how it’s going to happen.” If they’re yelling and swearing at you, you just take it and stay calm.
But serving as informal security is just a small fraction of your job as stage manager.
Yeah. My job is pretty much being the middle man between everything, keeping us on schedule, putting out fires when we can. If you have a problem, come talk to me and I can talk to people who are higher up and then we’ll figure it out.
Do you see any potential troublemakers in this group of women tonight?
Well, not yet. It’s hard to tell on night one.