The premise of this “experiment,” a label this reality series delights in using, is simple. A handful of singles enter soundproofed “pods” where they then date other singles without ever being able to see their potential companion. All they have to go on is their voice and conversation skills. The participants are stripped of all distractions including cell phones and live on-set with the rest of the show’s participants, separated by gender.
After a reasonable amount of time — about 10 days give or take — the remaining couples still interested in pursuing the experiment get engaged. If both members of the couple agree to the coupling they then get to meet for the very first time before being whisked away to a honeymoon-type vacation in Mexico.
If they survive the honeymoon, they then go back to the real world where they live together for four weeks introducing friends and family to their new, soon-to-be partner. And after the four weeks comes the wedding, where each person will choose if they want to continue on this path together. Proving whether an emotional connection, sight unseen, makes love truly blind.
Variety talked to creator and executive producer of “Love Is Blind,” Chris Coelen from Kinetic Content, about all the moving parts that come together to make the series.
When did you come up with this idea and did you make it for Netflix from the get-go?
It was probably two years ago. And yes, actually, it was something that I wanted to develop specifically for Netflix. I felt like it was the kind of idea that would resonate with them, with their execs and with their platform and audience.
Across the world, everybody feels the same way: Everyone wants to be loved for who they are on the inside. It doesn’t matter where you live, what you look like, how old you are, what your background is, which class you know, or social structure you feel like you’re a part of, everyone wants to be loved for who they are.
In today’s society we’ve got all these ways to find love through dating apps and technology. Those things sort of counterintuitively have made people feel disposable. They’ve made people feel like it’s all surface level. It does the opposite thing it was supposed to do. So we thought, what if we took everybody’s devices away, how could we get them to focus on connecting with other people?
We did that through these pods. They’d talk to each other through a wall in a really intimate, comfortable setting where they know [the person they’re talking to] is right there on the other side of this wall. They can’t touch each other, they can’t see each other, but it’s almost as if they can feel one another’s presence. That’s what we wanted to do.
It was incredibly scary because nobody had to do anything, versus a show like we do “Married at First Sight,” you sign up and you know, you’re getting married to a stranger. Here, nobody had to do anything. It was if you find someone, if you choose. Which is so scary. They don’t have to go through with the wedding ceremony.
But assuming they found someone, could that love overcome any judgment in the real world? That’s an incredibly fascinating question. And that’s what we set out to try to examine.
Why choose people all from the same city?
We wanted people to all be living, currently in the same place. It’s too difficult if you’re from Tampa and they’re from Portland, that just throws another wrench in. We wanted to give them a real shot at making their love and their marriage working.
How many men and how many women did you have day one?
We started with over 20 of each originally. And that got culled down at some point to about 15 and 15. There were some people it was very evident who they were interested in. They would go into the pods and say they were interested in talking further to some people and not to others. And some people weren’t really connecting in the same way.
We follow six couples on the show, but we actually had more couples get engaged in real life than we were able to follow, which was incredible.
They were living in the studio next to the pods?
They were there pretty much 24-7. It’s funny because we would encourage them to take [breaks], “You gotta eat! You gotta get some sleep!” But they didn’t want to, they wanted to stay in those pods. Even so far as to want to sleep in those pods, they wanted to stay in those pods as much as possible. The more they got in there, the more they have these conversations! Deep conversations that they never had with family members or friends or people they’ve dated. They wanted to be there and talk to these people as much as they possibly could.
So everyone meets on their first date, then what happens? How do they ask for more dates? If someone doesn’t want to continue talking to anther participant, what do you do?
In the beginning nobody knew who anybody was. So we structured it so that they would have an opportunity to talk to everyone. They were never given any instruction on what to say or what not to say or what they could ask about or what they couldn’t ask about. And you see on the show, some people decided to [ask] “How tall are you, what do you look like?” Other people were like, “Why would I ever do that? That’s not the point of this.”
We really wanted it to be their own story, their own journey. We would set it up so they had the opportunity to talk to everybody. Then from that point [it was monitored]. Let’s say somebody really wanted to talk to you and you’re like, “Yeah, I have no interest in that person.” You’re not going to talk to them. It doesn’t matter. We’re not going to arrange people to speak to one another where somebody’s like, “yeah, I don’t want to talk to that person.” We just wouldn’t do that.
Multiple points throughout the day we had to break and they had to eat, go to the bathroom, go do interviews, but generally we wanted to give them as much time in the pods as possible with the people that they genuinely wanted to talk to. These dates are obviously cut down but they were hours and hours and hours long.
How many producers did you have on set to facilitate these dates? How did they help?
We had a team of producers, there were separate sides [the men’s side versus the women’s side]. They’d help facilitate needs for people, so it would feel like dating. For example if someone said, “I love Italian food and I’d love to have an Italian dinner with my date.” We would get some lasagna and arrange that. Obviously they can’t eat it together but they could say, “Oh this lasagna’s really cheesy” or whatever. If they want it to draw pictures together, whatever they wanted to do, we really wanted them to feel like it’s their own thing.
What was the longest pod session?
It was probably four to five hours. That’s probably the longest because they would have to take breaks and use the bathroom. But then they’d come back and they’d get it, they get in the pod with each other multiple times a day.
What was like the inspiration for the light wall and how do they actually hear each other?
We soundproofed the booth. Originally the idea was that we’d just soundproof it on the side, but that didn’t really work and we didn’t want any sound to bleed through any other pods. We basically had a small speaker in the front wall and you would hear the other person who was in the other pod. There’s no producers in there, there’s nobody else. It’s just you and the other person. That’s it.
They were never interrupted in terms of like a producer saying, “Hey, talk about this, talk about that,” they just did what they wanted to do.
What were you looking for in the casting process?
People who are genuine, people who really wanted a longterm relationship. There’s a lot of good shows out there where people can find love, but it’s not really that serious. We wanted people who are genuine about it. That was kind of criteria number one. Beyond that, within a certain relative age range, that’s about it.
I think from [the participant’s] perspective when they walked in they didn’t really know what to expect. hey were sorta like, “Oh, that’ll be fun. It’ll be good time. It’s a lark.” And then, going through it, they’re like, “Oh my God. Like I never expected this to happen. I never expected to really fall for someone.”
What city are you looking at for “Love Is Blind 2”?
I mean that’ll be a conversation that we have with Netflix, but I think there’s lots of great cities that we could go to.
You have to make another one.
I think so. I think we’ll be doing season 20.
If you had to pick a city, just off the top of your head, where would you like to go next?
Look, the idea is that ultimately we’re going to do this in other countries — it’s very global. There’s lots of places that that we could take it. Chicago is a great place to look at, so is New York, Boston, Houston. There’s so many different places that we could go. And like I said, outside of the country as well.
This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.