‘We were dating 16-plus hours a day’: Inside the Netflix show everyone’s talking about
One pairing on “Love Is Blind,” Netflix’s shamefully addictive matchmaking reality show, had viewers saying “Oh, my God” — and we’re not talking about Jessica’s wine glass and her dog.
The internet couldn’t get enough of the connection between Cameron Hamilton, the mellow, touchy-feely artificial intelligence data scientist who will bust out a rap for your mom, and Lauren Speed, the bubbly content creator who will dutifully and reassuringly sway along to the aforementioned rapping.
Unlike other unscripted dating programs, “Love Is Blind,” which was shot at the end of 2018, begins with the idea of forming an “emotional connection” — a phrase used repeatedly throughout the season. The show began with 15 single men and 15 single women splitting off into pairs and getting to know each other without seeing the other’s face, known as the pod phase, before moving on to face-to-face contact.
The sparks were nearly instantaneous — at least with the help of TV editing — for Hamilton and Speed during the “pod” phase. They were the first couple to say “I love you” — and Cameron fought back tears in the process.
In the end, they were one of two couples who actually said “I do.”
Netflix has announced a reunion special March 5 on the streamer’s YouTube channel to update viewers. But people want what they want. So The Times spoke with the fan-favorite couple about signing on for the unscripted guilty pleasure, their approach to the pod phase and what it’s been like to watch what unfolded for other couples on the show.
Where are you guys at right now?
Lauren: We are at home chilling on the couch in Atlanta. Well, actually Decatur, Ga.
What did you know about this show heading into it?
Lauren: The funny thing is that the details kind of filled in after the fact. I mean, we knew that it was a dating show where you date someone in a pod or through a wall and, if it works out, eventually that you would get engaged sight-unseen and then married if all goes well.
Cameron: Right. I mean, we were given that basic premise. Some of the details we were given kind of evolved over time.
Lauren: We didn’t even know who the hosts were or anything like that.
Cameron: We didn’t know [what] “talking through a wall” [meant]. It was left at pretty much — that was the [level of] detail. And I think they were kind of working out the technical specifics of it on the fly.
Where were you in your love life that made you turn to TV to help you find love?
Lauren: My love life was pitiful, OK, and that’s sad to say. But being a 30-something woman in Atlanta and just having constant failed relationships, disappointments, I had really gotten to the point where I was like, OK, if I have to be by myself, I’ll accept it. I’ll just be a single, rich, elderly lady living my life. But I know how it gets lonely, and ultimately we all do want someone to really love us for who we are. So that’s what really attracted me to the show. That it wasn’t based on just aesthetics. You know what I’m saying? It was actually making it for a connection with someone.
Cameron: For me, I felt like I was doing the typical dating scene today of dating apps [and] wasn’t finding people who are well suited for me. The format of the apps is you see a picture and swipe yes or no on it. So I was basically just picking people who weren’t a good match for me and felt frustrated by it. Casting reached out to me and asked if I was interested, and it sounded like a crazy adventure, and I said, “I’ll just keep an open mind about it and see where it goes.”
But where did you sort of see the casting call for it? How did you get wind of the show?
Cameron: Yeah. That’s one of the big mysteries even today. They just said someone recommended me to them, but they never clarified anything more than that.
Lauren: It was Jesus on the main line.
Netflix’s new reality show “Love Is Blind” mixes up the matchmaking format. From “pods” to hosts, creator Chris Coelen explains how they made it.
Did you have a strategy once you knew what the show was? Did you have your own questions, or were you provided questions to ask? What were the ideals that you came to realize were important to you from approaching dating this way?
Lauren: They definitely offered us questions that we could possibly ask. As for me, I knew the things that were important to me, so I kind of went in already armed with the things that were priority that I wanted to ask about. Family, political views, phobias, who you are as a person. Things like that. Although, at times, if you’re in a date with someone it’s not going so well, then I’d be like, OK, let me look at this list, ‘cause we’re not talking about anything here.
Cameron: We were dating 16 plus hours a day. So you know, it’s a lot of conversation to have. But for me, similarly, I had ideas of the questions I wanted to ask. It was funny, the time leading up until we started, I was getting more mentally invested as the days went on. And so even before the show started, I had kind of written down potential questions I would want to ask. Lauren and I definitely discussed those. But I also felt, and I think Lauren would agree, that our conversation just came so naturally to us that sometimes the rigid set of having to ask this, this and this went away because the conversation just flowed.
Lauren: I actually enjoyed it this way, because I feel like in the real world you waste so much time. Some people don’t even talk about stuff like that years into the relationship, which is crazy to me. I was happy to put everything out in the first couple of dates. This is me, take it or leave it. And I feel like so many people don’t do that in the “real” dating world because everyone’s afraid to scare someone away or that people won’t accept them for who they are fully right upfront. So that was super refreshing to me.
Cameron: Even though we’ve been married for a year and a half, sometimes when we’re having a conversation, I’ll close my eyes and kind of just listen to what she’s saying. To go back to our beginning. I think we all know physically, she’s distractingly beautiful. It’s sometimes it’s hard to focus... I’m like, “OK, I got to close my eyes and listen to what she’s saying.”
Had either of you watched other dating shows before? What do you love or hate about them?
Lauren: I really didn’t, but I know that Cam did.
Cameron: I did. I hadn’t really before, but then once we were about to start this journey, I was like, all right, let me do a little research here. I would come home after work every night and kind of like watch these different dating shows like “Bachelor,” “Bachelor in Paradise,” “Married at First Sight” and just see how they went. Just to get an idea of what to expect.
Lauren: I started watching them since being with Cam and one thing that I do notice is that the authenticity compared to what I see on our show, there’s definitely a difference. I feel like our experience is kind of more raw and rugged and I feel like you don’t really see that a lot. You know, some of the other dating shows it seems kind of like ...
Lauren: Yeah, there you go, that’s a good word.
Cameron: Overly produced.
What’s it been like to watch and not only see how your stuff unfolded, but to see the experiences of the other participants?
Lauren: Oh, my goodness. I think I thought what the rest of the world thought: What the hell? Some of this stuff is crazy, child. Even a lot of stuff that I didn’t know was going on. I was kind of shocked because we would be with these people all the time throughout this process and it was so much that we didn’t know that we just kind of saw and discovered as we watched the show. So we were in shock with the rest of the world at some things.
Cameron: It was really hard to watch a lot of the scenes, especially to see the couples fighting — the times when it got really ugly — because going through this experience, you really had to be extremely vulnerable. So we all share that common ground and so I can empathize. I think we can empathize with these people, and you can kind of feel their pain when they’re having these fights and these big blow-ups.
Lauren: One of the things that shocked me the most is the one [whose] dog drank that wine. I was like, “Oh, my God, what the hell?” I said, “Did that dog just drink wine from the glass? And did [Jessica] drink that wine after it? Girl!”
Cameron: I know, c’mon.
Anything that surprised you about each other after watching it? Cameron, people can’t grasp why you’re always so chill. Even while rapping.
Cameron: People have a lot to say about it. I didn’t realize how calm I do sound on the show — my voice. I don’t think I sound that calm.
I was going to ask Lauren how mellow is Cameron when the cameras aren’t rolling? Have you seen him upset? What is that like?
Lauren: No, actually I haven’t. Cam really is that freaking mellow and it sounded crazy because I’m such the opposite. I’m so bubbly and up and quirky. So I feel like we really balance each other out. We’re definitely each other’s yin and yang.
Cameron: That being said, though, being married to Lauren for the last year and a half, I think we’ve kind of absorbed some of each other’s personality. So watching the show back, I was thinking, “Man, I’ve evolved since that time.” So I feel like I’m more like her.
Was it an adjustment getting acclimated with each other without the cameras rolling? What has been the most difficult part for you guys since filming has ended?
Lauren: I definitely went through a whole adjustment period. Just kind of getting back to our normal routine, starting our life, living together and sharing a space. That was definitely an adjustment period for me and learning each other’s personalities and just dropping into the real world again was kind of tough. I went through a moment where I kind of struggled, admittedly.
Cameron: It was odd. I mean, as you can imagine during the show there a lot of lights and exciting stuff going on all the time, so it gives you a reason to kind of always be in the zone, focused on that aspect, as well as building your relationship at the same time. So we had to be super laser-focused during that time. But after that, cameras are gone, we’d go back to our home and we’re building our relationship day after day. We had to get used to that pace.
Lauren: And keeping a secret for that long.
Of all the couples, viewers seem to be really invested in your love story. They’re rooting for you. They’ve been dissecting your Instagram posts for any clues as to whether you’re together.
Lauren: It’s been really heartwarming, and I mean it’s kind of crazy that people are, I guess, just inspired by me and Cameron’s story. So we’re so grateful for that. And the fact that they’re analyzing our social media because they’re so invested and they want to know if we ended up still together is amazing. And it’s not just the U.S. People in Brazil, Greece, Tokyo, each continent literally is like, “We love you. It’s an amazing feeling. I can’t — it’s hard to describe.
Cameron: Oh yeah, and how deep they’re willing to dig to get any type of information. They found my master’s thesis I wrote back in 2015 and put it on Reddit. They’re analyzing our Christmas tree similarity.
Lauren: The backgrounds of our photos. Like, does the paint color of the walls match the picture in Cameron’s picture. It’s crazy. But we’re grateful that people have been sending us so many good vibes, so it’s OK.
What was the song you had your first dance to? Did you have one?
Lauren to Cameron: What song was it?
Cameron: At the wedding?
Lauren: Oooh, that day is a blur.
Cameron: It was very out of body.
Lauren: I know I had a request, but I can’t remember if they played it. It’s so crazy because we haven’t actually seen the wedding scene yet.
Cameron: Right, we haven’t seen the wedding.
Lauren: And honestly I forgot, that’s so [messed] up. I can’t remember.
How about the ring. Did you buy it, Cameron? Or did Netflix help with it?
Cameron: I don’t know. You have to ask Netflix on that one, I guess. I don’t know.
Lauren: You chose it, but they provided it.
Cameron: I chose it. They provided the ring.
We didn’t see Lauren meeting your parents, but I imagine it happened. Is it just a function of editing or something?
Cameron: Yeah, it’s 100% editing. Lauren did my meet my parents. I can only assume that it wasn’t dramatic enough to show.
Did it surprise you that Amber and Barnett were the only other couple that went through with the wedding?
Cameron: Watching it back, it was clear why. You can see that they clearly love each other. But during that process, we were so focused on each other that it was kind of hard to focus on what everyone else was up to in their relationship. You would see people upset, and it was a stressful time for everyone. I can’t stress enough how conservative with our time we had to be because of how fast everything was, and we really wanted to make it work.
Tell me about what’s next for you and what you did to celebrate the first anniversary.
Lauren: Well, we actually got married on my birthday. So on our anniversary, we celebrated by going to Mexico, which is the pictures that everyone’s been freaking out over. We returned back to where we went right after we got engaged and had a good time. We’re just continuing to grow. We have a little fur baby. His name is Spark. Cameron is like, “This damn dog!” He’s an Airedale. So he’s our practice baby, until we get our real baby.
Cameron: Yes. Hopefully soon.
And is that spare room now your office, Lauren?
Lauren: Yes, it is my office. Yep, for now it is.
Cameron: Right, until something else happens.
1:19 p.m. Feb. 28, 2020: This story has been updated with additional comments from Cameron Hamilton and Lauren Speed about their lives after “Love Is Blind.”
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