Jessica Shaw
May 04, 2012 AT 04:00 AM EDT

In a nondescript room not far from LAX, the interrogation begins. The subject — code name Evan — is grilled with probing questions as roughly 15 officials watch his responses and gestures on a closed-circuit screen down the hallway. It’s just like an episode of 24…except for the flowing alcohol, the gothic candelabras, and the target himself, a self-described ”hipster” who brags that he’d be naked all the time if he could, and that he’s ”a child at heart — 70 percent man, 30 percent boy.”

Oh, yes, this guy seems primed to unleash some serious romantic terror — which makes him a perfect candidate for the new season of The Bachelorette, starring tragic single mom Emily Maynard, 26, also known as the ”winner” of season 15 of The Bachelor, who ultimately dumped her fiancé Brad Womack and is now back on the rose-ridden franchise trying to find lifelong love. ”Initially we thought the fact that she was a single mother might discourage some younger men, but that didn’t happen at all,” says exec producer Mike Fleiss. ”We’ve never had so many guys apply to be on the show.” (And yes, there is one African-American suitor in the mix this season, though Fleiss had no comment about the recent racial-discrimination lawsuit filed against him and ABC. Warner Horizon Television, which produces The Bachelor and is also named in the suit, says the complaint is ”baseless.”)

Of course, attracting guys to live in a mansion and date a gorgeous, sweet-natured blonde is not that tough. Finding men who are more interested in Emily than in showcasing their washboard abs on TV, however, is a harder job. For every vapid question producers fire at the approximately 80 finalists (”What is your workout regimen?”), there’s a serious one to answer as well (”How do you feel about dating a woman with a child?”). Between interviews, casting director Lacey Pemberton explains that while there’s more pressure casting for a single-mom Bachelorette — ”You want to bring stability into their lives” — ultimately she and the producers are looking for the same thing they always are: a hunk with a heart of gold. ”We need good guys interested in taking that leap of faith,” she says. ”There are nuances in people’s interviews that give things away, whether they may say them or not.” Like that one guy who said he chooses his footwear to hide his ”Big Night” tattoo, or that other one who admitted that he auditioned because he was told that ”it’s a cool opportunity to be on a show.”

As for rumors that producers were bringing back last season’s bad boy, Bentley, who was disappointed his Bachelorette was Ashley? Emily fans can rest easy: The shaggy-haired doucheboat will not be stepping out of a limo that first night. ”It’s not like we’re above twists and turns,” says host Chris Harrison, ”but in the end, we want this to work.” Which might be why Mr. ”30 percent boy” from the morning’s casting session did not make the cut. Guess he’ll have to be hip and naked somewhere else. (With additional reporting by Shaunna Murphy)

Host Chris Harrison Picks Six Suitors to Watch

Kalon McMahon, 27

This ”luxury-brand consultant” is, Harrison says, ”cocky, brash, and arrogant” and arrives on the first night in a rented helicopter. ”He makes a huge first impression, but the big story is, will it fade quickly?” Sounds that way, considering his equipment wasn’t that remarkable. ”I don’t know where that helicopter came from, but it was pretty unimpressive,” Harrison says. ”It would be like showing up in a Prius instead of a limo.”

Jef Holm, 27

And the winner of the Bob Guiney award goes to… ”He’s not your typical 6’4” ripped bachelor. He’s an average-looking guy who will stun Emily with his personality and charm,” says Harrison. ”Women are more apt to give a guy with humor and charisma a chance than a guy will.” Ouch. Harrison was also impressed that Holm ditched the limo for a skateboard on the first night. ”It was like Michael J. Fox in Back to the Future!”

Doug Clerget, 33

Single mom Emily, meet single dad Doug! ”They get along fantastically and share this bond from the moment they started talking about kids,” says Harrison. ”And he’s a great-looking guy. Muscles on top of muscles. He’s someone America will fall in love with.” So what’s the catch? ”It’s a sweet relationship, but can they get beyond that? Is there more to him than his 11-year-old son?” Not to mention those muscles on top of muscles?

Arie Luyendyk Jr., 30

You thought there was no way the producers would be so heartless as to cast a race-car driver, given that Emily’s late fiancé Ricky Hendrick, was a well-known NASCAR driver who died in a plane crash in 2004? Guess again. ”It’s not like after Ricky died she never went to the track. The racing world is still a big part of her life,” says Harrison, adding, ”and Arie is an IndyCar driver, not NASCAR.” Uh, yeah — that means nothing to us.

Alesandro Goulart, 30

The first words out of this Brazilian hunk’s mouth are ”Nice to meet you, gorgeous” — in Portuguese! Cue the swooning. ”He’s this Latin heartthrob who very easily works his charms on Emily,” says Harrison. Of course, Portuguese can make certain things sound sexy for only so long. ”He’s a grain merchant,” says Harrison, who pauses before explaining, ”I guess that means he merchants the grain.”

Ryan Bowers, 31

It’s this season’s sensitive former pro athlete! Bowers is an ex–football player who owns a gym but also mentors young children in Augusta, Ga. His romantic (and potentially cheesy) side scores points with Emily yet makes him a target among the guys. ”The first night he gave Emily a note that said ‘You are beautiful’ on the back, so while he was reading it to her she could see that,” says Harrison. ”He’s that guy.”

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