ABC has announced that 28-year-old Matt James will headline the next season of The Bachelor, marking the series’ first Black suitor in its 18-year history.
The reveal was made on Friday’s edition of Good Morning America.
James had been cast as a potential suitor in Clare Crawley’s forthcoming season of The Bachelorette, which was supposed to premiere in May but got pushed back due to the coronavirus pandemic. According to his official bio, he is a real estate broker, entrepreneur and community organization founder “on his journey to find love for the first time.”
“Matt has been on our radar since February, when producers first approached him to join Bachelor Nation, as part of Clare’s season,” ABC Entertainment president Karey Burke said in a statement. “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.
“We know we have a responsibility to make sure the love stories we’re seeing on-screen are representative of the world we live in, and we are proudly in service to our audience,” Burke said. “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.”
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James’ casting comes days after former Bachelorette Rachel Lindsay made headlines for declaring that she would quit the franchise if it doesn’t address its lack of diversity. In a blog post, Lindsay — who vied for Nick Viall’s heart on Season 21 of The Bachelor before becoming the first Black Bachelorette in the show’s history — said that she agreed to be the Bachelorette because “I wanted to be a trailblazer in this franchise to diversify the lead role.” But nearly four years later, she said, “we still don’t have the diversity that this show needs, and that our audience deserves.”
When asked on GMA if he thinks his casting marks a turning point for the franchise, James said, “I think it’s a step in the right direction. When Rachel speaks, we listen. She has a very important voice in all of this, being the [first Black Bachelorette], so I think we’re all following suit in that conversation, and hopefully this is the first of many Black men to be in the position that I’m at now.”
UPDATE: The Bachelor‘s executive producers have released the following statement regarding the franchise’s lack of diversity: “We are excited to move forward with both Matt James as the new Bachelor and Clare Crawley as our next Bachelorette. We acknowledge our responsibility for the lack of representation of people of color on our franchise and pledge to make significant changes to address this issue moving forward. We are taking positive steps to expand diversity in our cast, in our staff, and most importantly, in the relationships that we show on television. We can and will do better to reflect the world around us and show all of its beautiful love stories.”
Are you excited for the first Black Bachelor? Watch his GMA interview below: