It was only a few months ago that Canadian Jillian Harris was sent home to Vancouver in a puddle of tears after being rejected by The Bachelor's Jason Mesnick. But the perky brunette didn't lick her wounds for long. The 29-year-old restaurant designer, who was born in Peace River, Alta., was tapped as the star of Season 5 of The Bachelorette , where she has most recently whittled her list of prospective husbands down to an all-star lineup of 10 hunks.
In this week's episode, Harris invited the troupe to hang out with her in Vancouver, where she took the fellas kayaking, shopping on Granville Island, curling, on a boat cruise of the city harbour and on a helicopter ride to the peak of Grouse Mountain. In a phone interview from her hometown, Harris explains what it's like to be on the other side of the rose - and on her home turf. One thing is clear: She's had a grand old time sampling the tasting menu before settling on a main course.
Did you harbour secret aspirations to make it on reality TV?
I never aspired to be an actress. But I always had people tell me I'd be great on TV because of my personality and my energy. I loved my job as a designer. I applied for The Bachelor merely as a joke. I didn't think it was possible to fall in love in this fashion. And I honestly did not think they were going to call me back. I applied out of boredom. I was sitting with my girlfriend one night, drinking wine, and I thought this could be a fun little adventure for me. And I thought, you never know. Maybe I'll be the last girl standing.
How do you feel about Jason now?
I still have a huge amount of respect for him. I know he's made some decisions recently that people have questioned. [He proposed to Melissa Rycroft in the tear-stained finale, only to have a change of heart and declare his love for second choice Molly Malaney.]He wants to fall in love, and have family, and do the right thing. He's human and he's made some mistakes. I think he recognizes that.
Are you still in touch with him?
I have not spoken to him, but he sent me a text message welcoming me back. I've spoken to Melissa a few times. Everyone is over his season and now they can stress about my season.
Did you nudge the producers into writing date scenes in Vancouver?
I knew if I was going to sign up to do this - and I was potentially going to convince one guy to move back to Canada - then I wanted the guys to see where I come from. Much of where we shoot The Bachelorette is a fantasy world. I'm a grounded person and I knew if I was going to fall in love, I had to bring the show back to Canada.
What was your favourite Vancouver-based vignette with the guys?
I really love the curling date. Curling is - and I hate to say it because curlers are going to hate me - that quintessential, Canadian, nerdy sport. I find it really nostalgic. I did it a lot as a kid, hanging out in lounges. The guys really got into it. And after the match, we went on this beautiful crabbing yacht. The view was breathtaking.
Did you ever dream you'd become The Bachelorette?
Oh my God, no. I don't fit the mould. I'm the most unique and different one they've ever had. I always say I'm this short, quirky, hyper-Canadian. I'm not 5-foot-6, blond and a cheerleader. I'm very different. I'm a different kind of beautiful, and it's not supermodel beautiful.
I'm sorry, but at certain points in this week's show, you and the men looked awkward necking. Does it get a bit annoying to have to peck at people on the show all the time?
Let me set the record straight for you on the kissing stuff. If you watch closely, I only legitimately make out with four guys. And have long pecks on the lips with three or four guys. On this last episode, all those kisses were legitimate. I own them 100 per cent. I am looking for a husband and someone I'm going to spend my life with. So that physical connection is as important as the emotional one. That's what I signed up for.
What are you looking for in a mate?
I love it when a guy can express himself and tell me how he feels, not deliver some carbon-copy answer. I'm looking for someone with energy, who is compassionate, who is ready for a family and loves the outdoors.
Oh, so you want kids, how many?
I want to have two of my own and adopt one.
Will you come back to Canada if you find that perfect guy?
I would love to come back to Canada. If I do fall in love, I'd like to move to his city for a bit, and talk him into coming back to this precious, beautiful country.
Do you really expect that to happen at the end of this show?
I am going to find that guy. And it is going to be fabulous, and we are going to have a healthy, fun relationship. Am I going to run off into the sunset after The Bachelorette ? I can't really say. What I can say is that I'm in an extremely happy place right now and I feel very confident about my decision.
The Bachelorette airs Mondays on CITY-TV at 8 p.m. ET/PT.