TV & Movies

Bachelor Nation Producers Address Racism In The Franchise

“We have to do better.”

THE BACHELOR - The Bachelor: After the Final Rose  On-air personality and bestselling author Emmanue...
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Bachelor Nation producers are addressing racism — and past racial controversies — in the franchise.

Executive producers of The Bachelor and The Bachelorette, Claire Freeland and Bennett Graebner, recently spoke to the Los Angeles Times about areas where the franchise has failed in the past and shared their commitment to featuring more diversity in future seasons.

“I’m going to be really frank — we let Matt down,” Graebner said, referring to The Bachelor’s first ever Black lead, Matt James. “That season went wrong on so many levels. We did not protect him as we should have.”

James found his love story rocked by a racism scandal during Season 25, after he gave his final rose to Rachael Kirkconnell. Her past “ignorant” comments and actions, as Kirkconnell described them, came to light before the finale aired, sparking intense backlash in Bachelor Nation and beyond.

The show’s then-host, Chris Harrison, later defended Kirkconnell during an interview with The Bachelorette’s first-ever Black lead, Rachel Lindsay. Following his own wave of viewer backlash, Harrison then stepped down from his Bachelor hosting duties after 19 years.

“The finale of that season was the darkest day I’ve had on this franchise,” Graebner continued. “Here was this great Black man, and we should have been celebrating his love story. Instead, what we saw was a man burdened and overwhelmed by issues of racism. It was really sad for me personally.”

The Bachelor star Matt JamesCraig Sjodin/Disney General Entertainment Content/Getty Images

Speaking to the Los Angeles Times, Graebner also acknowledged that it took a decade-and-a-half for producers to cast a Black lead (Lindsay was announced as the Season 13 Bachelorette in 2017).

“We didn’t have a Black lead in this franchise for 15 years and that’s inexcusable,” he said. “It created a vicious cycle, and it’s taken a lot of work to get back to a place where we feel at least we’re working for the positive.”

Looking to the future, the Bachelor Nation EPs say it is a “priority” for them to cast another Black Bachelor. “We have to do better,” Freeland added. “We’re not always going to get it right. We’re going to make mistakes as we move forward. But we’re not going to shy away from difficult conversations.”

More Franchise Firsts

Those conversations may be coming soon. It was announced in March that Jenn Tran, who finished in fifth place on The Bachelor Season 28, would front The Bachelorette as the first Asian American lead in the show’s 22-year history.

Speaking on After the Final Rose about her casting announcement, Tran said she felt “so grateful and so honored.” She continued, “To be here today, being like, ‘I am going to lead my own love story, I am going to be the main character in my story,’ I just can’t help but think of how many people I’m inspiring.”