We Are Answering Every Burning Question You Have About The Ultimatum, Your New Netflix Obsession

Already the No. 1 show on Netflix, E! News talked to The Ultimatum creator Chris Coelen to get all the behind-the-scenes secrets about our new reality dating obsession.

By Tierney Bricker Apr 09, 2022 10:00 AMTags
Watch: The Ultimatum: Netflix's New Reality Show Brings More DRAMA

So long, Love Is Blind. Hello, The Ultimatum.

In its continued pursuit to completely take over our social media feeds and spare time, Netflix is here with your next reality dating obsession, Netflix's latest reality dating series The Ultimatum. And if you thought the stakes were high on Love Is Blind, just wait until you binge the series that asks couples to  as the streaming giant put it, "commit to marriage, or move on" over the course of eight weeks. But how are these pairs able to make that decision? Oh, you know, they each will choose a new potential partner from one of the other couples to get a glimpse at a different potential future.

A drastic measure, to be sure, but also a fantastically dramatic one, with The Ultimatum landing in the No. 1 spot in Netflix's Top 10 shows in the U.S. just two days after its April 6 release. While it may be blind, it was definitely love at first sight for viewers, which makes sense, seeing as how The Ultimatum comes from Married at First Sight and Love Is Blind producer Kinetic Content and creator Chris Coelen. If they create it, we will become obsessed with it. 

18 Shocking Secrets About Love Is Blind Revealed

So, how did they find six couples willing to do this experiment? Where were they living throughout all of this? And were any of those early proposals forced? E! News was able to get Chris Coelen to spill all the tea from his silver goblet. Here, the answer to every burning question you have The Ultimatum.

Where Did The Idea For The Ultimatum Come From?

The short answer: Chris Coelen, the Kinetic Content CEO responsible for Love Is Blind, Married at First Sight and now The Ultimatum, is just super into reality dating series.

"We love the relationship space," Coelen told E! News. "The idea that these shows are really relatable and really compelling and very real beyond whatever happens on the show, all of that is very attractive about producing in this genre."

Now for the long answer. Sure, the concept may sound extreme—for three weeks, you and your signifcant other will each live with someone else from another pairing to get a glimpse at married life, before moving back in together for the final portion of filming—but it is actually an all-too-relatable situation for many viewers facing the Big C: commitment.

"Look, an ultimatum is a very relatable thing and the situation that the couples find themselves in is very relatable," Coelen explained. "I think every person, I certainly have been, every person has been in a situation where you are in a relationship for a while and one of you or your partner is ready to get married and the other one isn't quite as sure. I was the one who wasn't quite as sure. Or you know people that have been in that situation and sometimes people feel like they want an answer."

The experiment forces the hesitant partner to evaluate their excuses for putting off marriage, Coelen continued, saying that, at the end of the day, "It's about am I willing to commit to you for the rest of my life? So starting off of that impulse and relatable idea, we felt like if you put a group of couples together who are all seriously thinking about getting married and all potentially questioning their relationship in the long-term, and allow them to choose one another based on things that they thought that they might want in their future, that's going to be a really interesting window in a different possible future."

Are Nick and Vanessa Lachey Taking Over Netflix?

The couple, who also host Love Is Blind, continue their domination of Netflix's reality dating sphere by also serving as The Ultimatum's guides. "I love working with them," Coelen said. "They are fantastic hosts."

And the couple of 14 years were willing to share about their own relationship history, with Vanessa in particular being very open about giving Nick an ultimatum and their brief separation before their 2011 wedding, making them the perfect pair to front the series.

"They are very intuitive, and they are also very empathetic and willing to share and want the best for the couples," Coelen shared. "I think that in the environment existed with the ultimatum, sharing their own personal story was a way that they could provide learning and comfort and experience and maybe sort of a 30,000-foot view on this whole thing from some of the people who very close to this. That's incredibly valuable to be able to get that impartial experience and insight and the fact that Nick and Vanessa were willing to be as open about it as they were was amazing and it is a testament to them."

How the Hell Did They Cast This Show?

Casting any reality TV show is challenging enough, but finding couples in a very specific chapter of their relationships added another layer of difficulty. 

But, before finding their cast members, first things first, production has to narrow in on a location, ultimately picking Austin, Texas, because it "sounded cool and was a great city," Coelen said. 

Next, the casting team goes to the selected city to do their thing, because "just like on Love Is Blind, we cast in a specific geographic area. We also wanted to do the same thing in The Ultimatum because if someone is going to make a choice, we wanted it to work for them in the real world."

He continued, "We obviously do everything that normal casting teams do in terms of being out on social media, but also, we really do try to dig deep into the community and talk to people and go out to community groups and bars and anywhere you can go in this time."

So, Were They Playing Matchmaker Too?

Not only were they casting couples, but producers were also 100 percent looking for potential love connections among the six pairs. 

"We had lots of different couples and configurations that we could have put in the mix," Coelen said, though he clarified they never purposefully put two people together.

"We weren't matching these people up into their new relationships, they were doing that on their own," he explained. "But we wanted to make sure every person who was participating in the experience had people that we felt like, at least on paper, that they would be interested in."

But How Did They Verify These Were Legit Couples?

While The Bachelor franchise may have trademarked the "here for the right reasons" thing, any reality show runs the risk of casting people who really just want to use their time on TV as a stepping stone to fame and a discount code in their name to share on social media.  

"You know, you can never completely get inside the mind of someone, on any of these shows," Coelen acknowledged. "You can never ever be sure of what someone's truest, purest intentions are. But we certainly have enough experience to try to suss out if people are inauthentic and we spend a lot of time talking to them."

In addition to in-depth meetings with their potential cast members, Coelen revealed production also talks to their friends and family to, in a way, verify the relationships. 

Why Were Most of the Cast Members So Young?

While some viewers found it jarring that a handful of 23-year-olds were complaining about not being married already and that the oldest cast member was 30 years old—the median age was actually 25.5, and yes, we are mathematicians!—Coelen explained that the younger age demographic didn't give him pause. 

"If they are legitimately going to be interested in someone else from one of the other couples, I think you want them to be in a similar headspace," he said, adding that the pressure to get married earlier is also more present in some places in the country than others.

"Listen, Austin is a very cool, progressive place that I love, but there are also certain areas where the pressure to get married happens at different stages," Coelen said. "Sometimes people feel more pressured to get married earlier than other people do."

And the most important element when it came to finding the couples was "whether they felt pressure or not, they were all really feeling and thinking about the desire to get married," Coelen said of the six pairs they ultimately cast. "We don't have anyone on the show who is like, 'I'm not sure I want to be married.' No one is like, 'Yeah, not for me.' They are all interested in it, it's just whether or not they want it with this person."

What Was That Early Dating Process Really Like?

Unlike Love Is Blind, which has stricter guidelines for how it's cast members communicate and date in the pods, The Ultimatum was "loose and not format-heavy," Coelen said, "Its really just set up for them to create some guard rails in which they then can figure out the answers to the questions that they had."

Coelen added that because the stakes were already so high for the couples coming into the experiment, producers just followed their own journey, it's their real story and I think the format was really just set up to allow them to be able to come together, to be able to choose someone that they wanted to enter into a trial marriage with and then they have these two experiences and at the end they make a decision. 

What Happened With Those Early Proposals?

Were you surprised when not one, but two couples got engaged during the choice dinner, choosing not to continue the process? Yeah, so was production, with Coelen admitting, "That was a crazy night. I don't think anybody expected that any of that was going to happen. That was not the intention going into this, the intention going into this is, this is the experience, the ultimatum comes to terms at the end of the experience, that's when you are going to make the decision.

But that does not mean Coelen wasn't okay with the double-proposal going down, saying the couples were never told what they could or couldn't do. 

"We didn't want to legislate for anyone that you can or can't do this at any particular time," he stressed. "The truth is that you come in as a couple and I personally say this to them at the beginning of the process, I do not care how they leave. I am not biased to whether or not they decide to marry their first partner or they choose someone else or end up by themselves, the thing that I care about a lot is that they each make the right decision for themselves. That's all I really care about."

Where Did the Couples Live?

During their trial marriages, the four pairs lived in apartments that were similar to corporate housing rather than moving into any of the cast members' homes.

"We just wanted to provide them with a neutral space because it would be weird," Coelen explained. "Some of the couples lived together coming in and some didn't, so it was just cleaner if we did what we did, which was provide them with a neutral place where you can get a fresh start at this trial marriage without the baggage of, like, 'Oh that is your ex's whatever?'"

How Often Were Cameras Rolling?

While they may move into apartments that make production easier for the camera crews, the cast members are still living their normal lives in terms of working, going out and having access to their phones. 

"These shows that take place in the real world and with real stakes and real consequences, I think often it is really a positive benefit to allow them to continue their real life and that means we are not filming with them 24/7 and we are not keeping them in a bubble and we are allowing them to do their thing," Coelen said. "Because when they are doing that it really helps them to make a real decision that is right for them."

What Really Happened on Zaye and Colby's Night Out?

The double-edged sword of not filming all the time, however, is not getting footage of something that becomes an integral storyline, like the he said-he said back-and-forth between the two men about whether or not Zaye convinced a woman in a bar to kiss Colby or Colby chose to do that on his own. 

"Would I have loved to have a camera there? Is it true that Zaye was trying to get her go up and make out with Colby or was it true that Colby was just doing it? Coelen said. "As much as you would want it to be that, I think it is just as interesting that we don't. Sometimes I've been on shows where you are like, 'If it didn't happen on camera it doesn't exist on the show,' but that's not the kind of show we want to produce. We want to own the reality of their situations."

Why Did the Cast Get to Hang Out So Much?

"It was something they chose to do on their own," Coelen confirmed of the many casual hangouts—including meet-ups between couples and a cast trip to a winery—viewers saw go down.

"If you are familiar with Austin we were right near downtown where a lot of the bars and restaurants are and so we had a cast, some of whom had jobs where they work in bars or restaurants and some of them were like, 'Oh my god, we just want to go hang out,'" Coelen continued. "We don't police people. If you're going to do that, you're going to do that. It became a conversation. And you see with Rae and Zaye at the end [when he stayed out until 8 a.m.], if you are really talking about getting married, is that really how you want your relationship to go? Maybe not."

How Did Production Handle Zaye and Rae's Fight?

In episodes seven and eight, Zaye and Rae got into a fight after he went out with his friends and didn't come home until 8 a.m., ignoring Rae's attempts to contact him all night. The altercation ended with Rae getting physical with Zaye, though the scene was not shown and Rae immediately expressing remorse for her actions.

"We obviously have cameras in the units and we have people monitoring them all the time. We have given each of the cast members immediate access and support and encouragement and ability to get in touch with us at any time," Coelen said of how producers handled the situation. "In that particular situation, where she goes out into the hall, there was a producer out there in the hall, because we are all in the same building, and she oversaw."

Coelen continued, "Rae felt bad about it. Obviously if it was in a really bad or dangerous place, we would have stepped in. To [Zaye]'s credit, he did not respond in that manner. Is it right what she did? Absolutely not. Does she admit that it wasn't right? Absolutely. Does she apologize? Absolutely. It was wrong for her to do that, but it was a real moment and that the consequences were there."

What Was in That Care Package?

When the couples first moved into their apartments, a large gift basket was waiting for them, filled with fun accessories, including snacks and a Polaroid camera.

"It was just a little housewarming gift," Coelen confirmed. "We just wanted to have something in there if they wanted to have fun, grab a drink or play a game, they could go for it."

What Was With All Those Silver Goblets?

Did the omnipresent drinkware look slightly familiar on The Ultimatum? That was the point, baby. 

"I love gold goblets on Love is Blind," Coelen shared, "and I felt like that was our nod to Love Is Blind: silver goblets."

Will There Be More Seasons?

Relax and take a big sip from your silver goblet because The Ultimatum has already been renewed for a second season, which will feature all queer, mostly female, couples. 

"I love shows about love, love shows about relationships and what makes people tick in relationships and strive to be as representative of every kind of story that we can tell when it comes to love," Coelen said. "And so to be able to be representative of multiple perspectives and identities and experiences is something I am really excited about doing."

The Ultimatum finale and reunion drops Wednesday, April 13 on Netflix.