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Q&A: “The Bachelorette’s” Zac Clark
Zac Clark isn’t a bachelor anymore
By Elyse Notarianni

Photos: Craig Sjodin

You’d never call Haddonfield native Zac Clark the typical contestant on ABC’s hit show “The Bachelorette.” He isn’t an inspiring Instagram influencer, and he has no interest in pursuing an acting career. At 36, he’s a tad older than the usual 20-something contestants. And to top it off, he wasn’t even sure he was ready for marriage when he came on the show. (His sister signed him up.) But in the end, out of 31 men on the show, Clark walked out with the final rose and a fiancée.

As anyone who binges the Bachelor franchise knows, host Chris Harrison teases each season with: “The most dramatic season ever.” But for the show’s recent 23rd season, he actually meant it. Production was initially halted last year because of the pandemic, and once filming resumed, Bachelorette Clare Crawley shocked everyone by selecting one of the men after only a few weeks. The unprecedented move left 16 bachelors (and the show) with no leading lady. That’s when Tayshia Adams came in.

Adams made headlines when she became the show’s new Bachelorette and suddenly, Clark was falling for her. Fans watched as he showed his goofy side during wild group dates and shared some of his struggles when the two were alone.

In his early 20s, Clark was diagnosed with a brain tumor that changed the entire trajectory of his life – resulting in a devastating drug addiction, a marriage followed by divorce and a drug possession and DUI arrest. Clark, the co-founder of a recovery program in New York, held nothing back while on the show. His vulnerability – and South Jersey good looks – convinced Adams she didn’t want anyone else. So when he got down on one knee during the season finale, she said yes.

Q: How did you feel about proposing on national television?

I had a good feeling that day. I came into this thinking there was no way I was ready for a family and kids, but I had done a lot of work to get to that place where I felt confident and ready to really commit to Tayshia. There was a moment when she took a long pause, and a lot of people asked me if, at that time, I thought she hadn’t picked me. My mind hadn’t gone there yet. I trusted her, and I really felt like we were on the same page. But if that silence lasted another 30 seconds, I probably would have been calling 911.

Q: Did you watch the show when it aired?

We watched a few episodes together when we were able to. Watching the last episode together, seeing our proposal, was really special. But as for the whole show, I lived it once, I didn’t feel like I had to go through it again.

Q: Was it hard seeing your now-fiancée with other guys?

I knew what I signed up for, right? Once it got down to 3 or 4 guys, it did get harder as I realized she was forming strong relationships with them too. But the one thing I will say for my season is that we had a really good group of guys, which almost made it worse because they were falling for her too. Watching it back, there were feelings that came up seeing her with the other guys, but we were able to talk about it and understand we were in a really unique situation.

Q: What was different between Clare and Tayshia?

There was something not right about my relationship with Clare. But I’m a big believer now that things happen as they’re supposed to, and also I believe in second chances. So when Tayshia came in as the second Bachelorette, we all got a second chance. I felt that connection right away.

Q: Was it hard sharing your past on national TV?

I believe my life experience is actually my greatest asset. My past has turned me into the man I am today, and if a woman can’t understand and accept that part of me, it’s not meant to be. There’s been a lot of focus and energy on my recovery, which is nice, but my blanket statement is that my sobriety allows me to do literally anything I want to do, including going on a show and falling in love. I don’t feel like it’s some courageous backstory. I’m grateful it was so public because now I have people reaching out just to say I’ve inspired them to get sober or to ask advice, and that’s been really cool.

Q: Was it hard being in a house with what seems like constant drinking?

There weren’t really any moments where I felt like, “Wow ok, that guy’s really hammered.” It’s no more than in my everyday life. Anyone who’s been to the Linc on a Sunday knows it’s a beer-crazed warzone. Mostly, the guys had a couple of drinks to loosen up a bit, and I think Clare being the original Bachelorette was a blessing because we were all older and more mature. I’ve been sober since 2011, so whenever they brought out champagne flutes mine was something like apple cider. And I’ll never forget that when they brought us a champagne toast after we got engaged, Tayshia sent hers back and said, “No, I’m having cider with him.” That was just confirmation for me that this is my person.

Q: Why on earth was your hometown date in New York?

Oh God, I caught a lot of flack for this. I love South Jersey. It will always be home. I still have my Eagles season tickets, and I have 100% already made Tayshia a fan. My best friends still live there. I have so many good memories playing sports in high school, and my family has a house in Sea Isle, so this area is a huge part of my life. But I’ve been living in New York for 9 years, what can I say?

Q: What was it like not being able to tell anyone you had gotten engaged?

I hated keeping this a secret. I felt like I was living a dishonest existence. It’s been really refreshing since the news got out, even though it was a bit overwhelming at first. Everyone tried to find out. I’ll never understand why people want to know what is going to happen on a show that they’re actively watching, but people will do anything to try to get information out of you. The last thing I was going to do is fall deep into a message board and accidentally give something away.

Q: How has your relationship changed since leaving the show?

Just like anyone dating or engaged, we are learning to love each other in the real world. We’re still in a pandemic, so it’s different, but we’re trying to just get to normal.

Q: What’s something about Tayshia they didn’t show on TV?

The storyline you don’t see enough is just how strong she is. I was telling her about my drug addiction. Ben revealed that he had 2 failed suicide attempts. Ivan talked to her about the Black Lives Matter movement. That’s a lot of emotional weight to put on somebody. She took on a lot and stood strong through it. I think she deserves a lot of credit for that.

Q: What does the future look like for the 2 of you?

I’m not sure what I’m having for dinner tonight. We’re just enjoying the time together and we’re not in a rush to get married anytime soon. Tayshia still has family, friends and work obligations out West and I have my business and family here, so we don’t know exactly how we’re going to handle that. Right now we’re just focused on being with each other as much as we can knowing that both of us lead very busy lives in normal times.

February 2021
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