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The toll of reality TV: Luke P.’s friends talk about his time on ‘The Bachelorette’
Luke Parker
Luke Parker, far right, plays rugby with other contestants of 'The Bachelorette' in this week's episode. Photo courtesy of ABC, FCN regional staff

There’s been one person taking over “The Bachelorette” this season and it’s Gainesville’s Luke Parker. He’s dominated the screen and most of the conversations — and often not for good reasons.

Although he got the first-impression rose from this season’s bachelorette, Hannah Brown, who also crowned him “Mr. Right,” Parker has been rubbing most of the other men on the show the wrong way.

He body slammed one guy and then couldn’t find a way to share his feelings with Brown to the point where she almost sent him home.

It seems that he’s said the wrong thing over and over to the rest of the men and even to Brown at times. But what you see on reality TV isn’t always what is reality.

“He’s probably one of the nicest and friendliest guys I’ve ever met,” said Carmen Diaz, one of Parker’s friends. “He’ll go up to anyone and talk to them.”

Diaz has known Parker for almost a year and said once he met him at church, he could tell Parker was a genuine person. It didn’t take long for Parker to start introducing himself to new people coming to their Bible fellowship class, even though Parker was relatively new to the class himself.

“He would usually be the first one to go up and introduce himself,” Diaz said.

That kind of personality may come across in the wrong way sometimes, though, especially when it’s left in the hands of producers of a reality TV show.

Jackson Britton, another one of Parker’s friends, said he feels like the edits on the show “have not really done him so great.”

“He is a different kind of guy, outgoing in a way that I think the show has kind of made it look like he’s cocky,” Britton said. “I don’t think he is like that, but at the same time, he’s a confident guy. He knows who he is, he knows what he wants. He went on there, and I think some guys realized how big of a threat he was and realized how good of a connection he and Hannah had, and then obviously tried to manipulate some things.”

To Bailey Minor, conversations with Parker have always been something he’s enjoyed.

“He’s very encouraging everywhere he goes,” said Minor, another one of Parker’s friends. “He's always just trying to lift somebody up and encourage them and when you’re talking to him, he’s very engaged.”

That was one of the first things Britton noticed about Parker when they met last year. He said Parker is outgoing and not shy about talking to anybody.

“He’s really intentional and always texting me during the week, wanting to meet up and asking me how I’m doing,” Britton said. “He really has a heart for other people and that shows. That was one of the first things that stuck out to me. And I (wondered) if the show would change him at all, but he came back the same way.”

In an effort to encourage Parker parker from afar, his friends prayed for him back in Gainesville while the show was filming.

“We actually prayed for him every day,” Diaz said. “We had a set time to pray for him. One of us would do one hour, then (someone else) next. So for four hours, someone was praying.”

Diaz said a lot of his own friends reached out to him once they found out he was friends with Parker. And after watching the episodes to this point, Diaz has found himself defending Parker a good bit.

“The first couple weeks and stuff started happening and they’re all like, ‘Is he really like this?’” Diaz said. “And I’m like, ‘No, not at all, not even the slightest.’ So I’m just like, continuing to tell people, ‘This is how he’s portrayed, but that’s not how he is in real life.’”

Diaz said some of his friends have said if they didn’t know Diaz knew him, they would hate Parker based on what they’ve seen on TV.

Parker’s friends understand how it looks on the show They understand Parker isn’t being shown in a good way.

“It’s really frustrating,” Diaz said. “But after a while, I personally know, and we all know, that’s not who he is. Society may think that’s who he is, but we know for a fact that’s not who he is.”

That’s not to say Parker hasn’t admitted there are some moments that have aired that he’s wanted to take back or would do differently if given the chance.

“He has admitted he made some mistakes on the show,” Britton said. “If my life got filmed 24/7 I’d make some mistakes, too. I think overall, he handled himself well. He tried to apologize and they weren't having it, so he tried to do what he could do.”

His friends can see the toll it’s taking on Parker. Being attacked on social media hasn't been easy, and even though Britton said Parker “hasn’t said a word back” and he’s “only been positive about everything in the way he interacts with people,” the anticipation of what’s to come each episode gets to him every week.

“I can 100% tell that every time we meet Sunday mornings … he’s just like, ‘I know it’s coming this week,’” Diaz said. “He’s really worried about what his family and friends, especially his church friends and all that stuff (will think), because he's really involved in all that stuff. So I can just tell it’s just eating him from the inside and getting to him.”

It’s getting to his friends, too. On top of being frustrated, they’re having trouble seeing the things said about him on the show.

“It’s definitely kind of hard seeing him made out to be such a bad person or villain or psychopath or whatever they call him,” Britton said.

But, it’s all in the name of love. And for Parker, that’s the only reason he went on the show. He didn’t go to make friends.

“He’s not focusing on talking to them, he's focused on talking to her,” Diaz said.

That’s just one of the reasons Diaz thinks Parker is having such a hard time on the show.

“I think he just knows what he wants and he’s not scared to be open about it,” Diaz said.