Matt James is the first black Bachelor.
The big announcement was made on Friday’s Good Morning America and on social media. It will be the first time in the ABC show’s history — now going into Season 25 — to have a male black lead.
Rachel Lindsay, who was the first black Bachelorette in 2017, appeared on GMA and said she had hoped to be a “trailblazer” and that more diversity would follow, but it didn’t happen. She has been the sole black lead in 40 seasons of both shows.
Lindsay wasn’t alone in calling for diversity on the show. More than 85,000 fans signed a petition — created four days ago amid the national protests demanding racial equality — calling for “anti-racism in the Bachelor franchise.” The petition calls the lack of diversity “unacceptable,” saying it should “reflect and honor the racial diversity of our country — both in front of and behind the camera.”
James, 28, was originally cast as a suitor in Clare Crawley’s upcoming Season 16 of The Bachelorette, which was scheduled to premiere in May but was postponed indefinitely due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. It is not immediately clear if he will be participating in Crawley’s season.
Karey Burke, president of ABC Entertainment, said in a statement to GMA, “Matt has been on our radar since February, when producers first approached him to join Bachelor Nation, as part of Clare’s season. When filming couldn’t move forward as planned, we were given the benefit of time to get to know Matt and all agreed he would make a perfect Bachelor.”
Lindsay said on GMA that she hopes this is just the start of change on the show.
“I want producers of color,” Rachel said. “I’d like for them to cast leads that are interested in dating outside of their race that aren’t just getting their first-time experience for the first time on national TV. I need the acknowledgment of that. Not putting a Band-Aid over the situation and just saying, ‘Here, we’re going to put this here. Are you happy now?'”
Burke promised it was just the start, saying in the statement, “We know we have a responsibility to make sure the love stories we’re seeing onscreen are representative of the world we live in, and we are proudly in service to our audience. This is just the beginning, and we will continue to take action with regard to diversity issues on this franchise. We feel so privileged to have Matt as our first Black Bachelor and we cannot wait to embark on this journey with him.”
Of course, no one is ever fully happy with a casting decision and many have been saying on social media on Friday that Mike Johnson, who appeared on Hannah Brown’s season of The Bachelorette, should have been the lead.
I’m so glad there is FINALLY a Black male lead on The Bachelor.
I just want to know if Mike Johnson was busy or…
— Elizabeth Di Filippo (@mselizabethr) June 12, 2020
However, Lindsay recently said she was told Johnson was passed over due to something behind-the-scenes. She didn’t know specifics though and said it was unrelated to race. (“They do all kinds of background checks and vet things out,” she told Entertainment Tonight.)
Johnson wasn’t against the idea either, sharing this for April Fools’ Day:
James’s Bachelor season is expected to premiere in 2021.
The Bachelor debuted in 2002 and was so popular it resulted in The Bachelorette spin-off as well as Bachelor Pad, Bachelor in Paradise and so on. Several couples who found love on the show also had their weddings broadcast.
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