The Bachelor casts Matt James as franchise's first black male lead
In a surprise announcement Friday morning, ABC revealed on Good Morning America that 28-year-old Matt James, an African-American real estate broker, entrepreneur and community organization founder from New York City, will star in season 25 of The Bachelor, premiering in 2021. The move comes just days after the franchise came under renewed scrutiny for its excessive whiteness: This week, former Bachelorette Rachel Lindsay, the franchise's first black lead, urged the show to undergo a "diversity makeover." Meanwhile, a group called Bachelor Diversity Campaign launched a petition demanding that ABC and Warner Bros., which produces the Bachelor franchise, cast a black lead for season 25.
It's unlikely that ABC's decision to cast James is a direct result of recent criticisms, as he's been talking with producers for several months. He was originally scheduled to be a contestant on Clare Crawley's season of The Bachelorette, but production was placed on indefinite hold in March due to the coronavirus pandemic. Said ABC Entertainment President Karey Burke in a statement, "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. 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."
Fun fact: Though James had yet to meet Crawley, he managed to annoy her by joining the Cameo app, and she was quick to tweet her displeasure. (The not-yet-future Bachelor later clarified that he joined Cameo to raise money for the Robin Hood Foundation and coronavirus relief.)
Even if Crawley had forgiven James for the Cameo situation, their age difference — she's 39, he's 28 — would have been another hurdle on their "journey" to find "love." Still, producers most likely had their eye on James as a potential Bachelor since the beginning of the year, provided fans responded well to him on Bachelorette (and possibly Bachelor in Paradise). But in the wake of George Floyd's death, which has inspired worldwide protests against systemic racism, many in the entertainment industry are pledging to do better — and for the Bachelor franchise, that means finally putting a black man at the center of the "mothership" series.
Bachelor and Bachelorette fans who continue to stalk contestants' social media accounts after the shows end may also recognize James from his frequent Instagram and TikTok appearances with former Bachelorette costars Tyler Cameron and Hannah Brown. (James was part of Cameron's so-called "quarantine crew" in Florida. I apologize that you had to read that sentence.)
James is a graduate of Wake Forest University and the founder of ABC Food Tours, an organization that supports kids in underserved New York City communities.
Though there is still no word as to when The Bachelorette will resume production, host Chris Harrison recently told EW that producers are hoping to keep The Bachelor on schedule for a January 2021 premiere.
So, rose lovers, did you ever think this day would come? Are you pleased with Team Bachelor's decision? And is it January yet?