This is looking like an especially happy holiday season for Bachelor in Paradise standouts Michael Allio and Danielle Maltby.
The ABC dating show’s finale aired Tuesday, revealing the couple as one of the two main success stories from season eight, along with newly engaged Brandon Jones and Serene Russell. After Allio’s initial attempt at romance with Sierra Jackson fizzled earlier in the season, Maltby arrived on the beach in Mexico and had an immediate connection with the single father. During the finale, viewers learned that the pair is stronger than ever, with Maltby moving from Nashville to Allio’s home city of Akron, Ohio, to be closer to him and his young son, James.
The pair left Bachelor in Paradise before the marriage proposals, so instead of an engagement, their biggest moment during the finale was Allio, who was first introduced to viewers on Katie Thurston’s season of The Bachelorette, stunning Maltby by telling her for the first time that he loves her. But the pair explains to The Hollywood Reporter that they are simply hoping to take things at their own pace.
“We don’t necessarily feel the pressure of timelines that maybe the audience imposes or the show has in place,” Allio says. “We will 100 percent march to our own drum, and I think that’s what works best for us. So it’s all of those little moments that we now get to share together and begin building memories as a couple, which I can’t wait for.”
During the below conversation, the couple discuss their holiday plans (Christmas tree shopping!), the debate over Maltby’s podcast conversation from last week about Jackson, why Allio was reluctant to star as the Bachelor and their reaction to the finale’s controversial segment when Victoria Fuller announced that she had ended her engagement with Johnny DePhillipo and is now dating Allio’s fellow Bachelorette alum Greg Grippo.
Your time during the finale was definitely a highlight of the episode. How does it feel to have everything out in the open?
Danielle Maltby: It’s surreal. Our tiny little bubble is now broken, and we finally get to share our joy with more than just immediate friends and family.
Michael Allio: My phone’s been blowing up ever since last night. It’s just really cool to look back, not just on the reunion, but our entire journey. We can see our walls breaking down. We are two highly guarded people, and there’s just been so much progress, and for us, we’ve been able to grow so much after the show. Sometimes, that’s when relationships get tested the most, and they falter — that’s where ours really began, was off-camera.
What’s been the most different about the real world?
Maltby: Well, James is in the real world. He was not on Paradise. (Laughs.)
Allio: We really haven’t experienced too much real life yet because everything’s been secret. We’ve been dating for almost six months now. We really spent a lot of that time getting to know each other and diving deeper and not being distracted by the outside world. With the holidays coming around, it just feels like a really special time in our life right now.
Maltby: It really is. I feel like every holiday would come around, and I’d be like, “Am I ever gonna have somebody?”
Allio: You don’t have to worry about that anymore. (Laughs.)
What do your holiday plans look like?
Allio: Danielle actually left Nashville at 3 in the morning and drove up here. My sister’s having Thanksgiving tomorrow, so we’re gonna spend the afternoon cooking pumpkin pies and making food. And the day after Thanksgiving …
Maltby: Christmas tree shopping!
Allio: We’re gonna buy our Christmas tree; we’re gonna decorate it.
Maltby: I’m just so happy!
You two left the beach before the marriage proposals, but have you been talking about those kinds of moments for down the road?
Maltby: There’s a few things that have to happen yet before I get moved up. I want to make sure I leave my office in the best space possible, find the right job here, right apartment. But honestly, what we’re just looking forward to now is being able to go out on dates in the same city. And I really just want more time to focus on a relationship with James. I want to be able to pick him up from school and meet y’all at home. It’s day-to-day life stuff that I’m excited to be up here and be a part of.
Allio: We’re both very intentional with our actions and what we want out of life. We don’t necessarily feel the pressure of timelines that maybe the audience imposes or the show has in place. We will 100 percent march to our own drum, and I think that’s what works best for us. So it’s all of those little moments that we now get to share together and begin building memories as a couple, which I can’t wait for.
Maltby: I’m so excited. Long-distance is fun and all, but if we want this relationship to work, we’ve got to be closer.
Allio: I’m excited to see her and James’ relationship blossom. They have this awesome connection. I picked him up from school yesterday, and he is like, “Where’s Danielle?” And I was like, “She’s coming on Wednesday.” And he’s like, “You said two days!” I was like, “Yeah, it was Monday at the time.” He’s just so excited to see her. Last time Danielle was in town, we were dropping her off at the airport, and James is in the backseat, and he’s like, “Danielle, when you get in there, do you want us to give you a call, make sure that you’re OK, that you have someone to talk to?”
Maltby: “You can hear our voices.”
Allio: He’s just the sweetest kid in the world, and they have such a healthy, beautiful relationship, and it’s only just beginning.
Maltby: He’s my little buddy.
Michael, you obviously know Greg from Katie’s season. One of the key moments from the finale was seeing Victoria and Greg talk about their relationship. What was your take on that?
Allio: Greg and I are good friends. I know that he comes from a really good place. Where people are hung up with this thing is timelines, and only they know the timeline. What I will say is, both of us have tried to find love — it’s difficult to find. If you can find your happiness in any way possible, you gotta go for it. And I’m a big fan of Johnny as well. He’s an amazing, amazing person.
Maltby: He’s a really good guy.
Allio: The whole situation was just difficult. I’m hoping that everybody involved with it can find some common ground and get back to pursuing their own happiness.
Sierra reacted on social media to a conversation that Danielle and Kaitlyn Bristowe recently had on her podcast, leading Kaitlyn to apologize to her. Has that been resolved?
Maltby: I got caught up gabbing with my girlfriend, and it was not fair to speak into something that I wasn’t there for. Michael’s relationship with Sierra had resolved by the time I got down there, and I just feel really awful that I hurt her feelings. So, just wish her nothing but the best moving forward. I’m just really excited to spend the holidays with my guy.
Michael, there was speculation that you could have been good as the Bachelor. Why was Paradise a better fit for you?
Allio: For me, the time for filming with Bachelor in Paradise is much less of a commitment, and also it seems as though the success rate for Bachelor in Paradise was more fitting for what I was looking for. You get to spend a lot more time with people when you’re down on the beach. As someone that was on Katie’s season, you don’t get to spend that much time, and for me, at my age, time is important if you’re trying to really dial in and find that person. I thought after I left Katie’s season that it was all in the rearview, and I’m so happy that it wasn’t because I found you. You never know where this crazy road leads. You just keep walking.
Have you gotten to speak recently with Brandon and Serene, who also started their love story on this season?
Maltby: I literally haven’t had a second to message them yet because I went to bed at 9 o’clock. I didn’t even watch last night because I knew I had to get up so early to drive. That’s literally on my list of things to do. I got here and threw on some makeup and sat down to speak with you fine people.
Allio: I sent Brandon a message. They’re made for each other. Since day one, they had this magnetism towards each other, and you could just feel it. It’s really cool to see everything play out on camera. It’s really, really cool to be able to share a piece of our lives with everybody. It’s just beautiful.
Maltby: Maybe we do a family trip to Disney! (Laughs.) Mom and Dad and the kids.
Allio: Right! We have no doubt that they’re going to be a great couple moving forward.
Interview edited for length and clarity.