"This is the show I should have been on my first time."
Not many people were more surprised than Katie Thurston herself when she was picked to be the Bachelorette in 2021. But Katie became a standout during Matt James' season of The Bachelor due to her sex-positive attitude and the strong stance she took against bullying.
Katie's time as the lead was anything but rosy, though, thanks to a dramatic breakup with her frontrunner, Greg Grippo, and then a brief engagement to Blake Moynes. Oh, and then she dated John Hershey, a man she sent home during week two, revealing that relationship via a "12 Days of Messy" challenge, which poked fun at her string of exes from her season. They broke up in June 2022.
So, given her reality TV resume, no one was expecting to see the 32-year-old back on their screens anytime soon, let alone on a dating show.
And yet, was announced as one of the leads on season three of FBoy Island, it felt so f--king right.
"I had never watched it," Katie admitted to E! News in an exclusive interview. "But when they'd asked me, I was like, "Well, let me watch the show, see what it's about. And I don't really watch TV, let alone binge watch TV, and I binged that show. And I was like, 'Heck, yes, sign me up. I wanna be part of this.'"
For those who have yet to eff with FBoy Island—which was saved by The CW when it was dumped by HBO Max after two seasons—here's a quick summary: A trio of female leads move to a tropical island with 24 single men. Twelve of those men are self-proclaimed "nice guys," and 12 are self-proclaimed "FBoys." The nice guys are looking for love, and the FBoys are competing for money. The women have to try to fall in love, and then they find out which guys are which.
Created by former Bachelor Nation uber-producer Elan Gale, who is credited for crafting the spin-off Bachelor in Paradise, and hosted by comedian Nikki Glaser, FBoy Island pokes fun at reality TV dating series tropes and is fully in on the joke. Which is why it was so appealing to Katie, who is now a stand-up comedian living in San Diego, Calif.
"With everything that was available in terms of potentially finding love, potentially winning money, doing it with Nikki, who's a comic behind the scenes, along with Elan Gale, who's just this mastermind," Katie explained, "there are so many pros, so many things that were telling me yes versus any negative options. So for me, it was a win-win all the way around. I had more to gain than lose. I had to say yes."
Even more of an incentive was sharing the duties of the lead with two other women: model Hali Okeowo and influencer Daniella Grace.
"I loved it because being a lead on reality TV can be very lonely, and so to do it with two other women who are in the exact same role as you, it was just so much fun every night," Katie said. "We're dissecting our experiences, which is just like real-life dating. You want to talk to your girlfriends after a date and it was super fun. It just felt like summer camp. And I'm so thankful that the concept of the show is just getting to do it with your two girlfriends."
Given her time in Bachelor Nation, some might expect Katie to have some hesitation when it comes to dating on TV again. But she had no interest in getting re-engaged. Rather, the only expectation Katie had was just to date without someone asking to "steal" her for a second.
"And that was really what happened," she said. "It was just like, 'Go and have fun with these guys.' And it was really cool, because I remember one time having a conversation, and it felt like a long time with this one guy, and I'm so used to being interrupted every five minutes by another cast member, another producer."
After two seasons of looong rose ceremonies, gimmicky group dates and emotionally draining one-on-ones, Katie was ready to just have some fun.
"There wasn't a lot of conflict behind the scenes or manipulation or disruptions," Katie reflected. "Anything that happened that was drama was real drama, and you appreciate that. When you start to get a sense of something being manufactured, you're frustrated because time is so short. But when something just happens organically on its own, even if it's annoying, you're like, 'Well, this is part of dating.'"
Sure, Katie admitted, "there are downsides," but there's also "exciting moments, so it really just felt the most real in a very unnatural world."
While the stakes are considerably lower on FBoy Island, which has a 0.0 percent success rate thus far, Katie was able to establish several genuine connections, including an immediate attraction with Vince Xu, who also happened to get engaged on a reality TV series: 2022's The One That Got Away. (Spoiler alert: She got away again.)
But Vince's reality TV past wasn't an issue for Katie, because, Hi, same!
"When I was thinking long term every day, I'm like, 'Can I leave with this guy?'" Katie explained. "With him I was like, 'Okay, if it's him and I at the end, at least he would know what's required to try to make a relationship work.' Because when you leave reality TV in a relationship, a lot of people don't understand how kind of foreign and hard it is. He understands what it's going to take outside of this. Not everybody does."
That's not to say Katie didn't have some reservations about Vince, who was immediately all in on Katie.
"You're always thinking, 'Is he an F-Boy? Is this an act, like it's almost too good to be true?'" Katie admitted. "There were times where it was really sweet and endearing, and there were times where I'm like, 'Maybe this is a red flag.'"
Another contestant who had Katie questioning her FBoy radar was Benedict Polizzi, a fan-favorite Nice Guy from season two who made a surprise return in episode three. Did we mention he's also a stand-up comic?
After watching season two, Katie had told producers that Benedict was her type. And the night before he joined the show, Katie had a dream about the well-muscled comedian.
"I'm like, 'What in the world?!'" Katie recalled. "I was not prepared because it felt early. It felt early for a disruption, and I was like, 'Oh, my God! That's Benedict!"
Fortunately, the real Benedict was able to live up to the version of him she had envisioned in her head.
"He's pretty accurate to where I expected," she admitted. "He was very comfortable. He's funny. He's charming. But again, I'm just in my head very early on, like, 'Is this too good to be true?' Like he's so comfortable now! But overall he was exactly what I was hoping and anticipating."
Regardless of how her stay on FBoy Island ends, Katie's already felt like she won, getting to return to reality TV on her own terms.
"I was so confident and comfortable going in and any moments of who I am were being shown, like they didn't edit it out, or get mad at me for being a certain kind of way," she said. "They were just like, 'This is Katie, so therefore we're going to show it.' And I appreciate that."
Or, you could say she could eff with that.
FBoy Island airs Mondays at 8 p.m. on The CW and is free to stream on The CW app.