Just days after Bachelor fans launched a campaign asking ABC to cast a more POC in the show, as both leads and contestants, the network announced that Matt James will be the next Bachelor, making him the first Black Bachelor in the franchise's history. James, 28, was originally cast as one of Clare Crawley's suitors for the upcoming season of The Bachelorette, which was delayed due to coronavirus. It's unclear whether he'll still be competing for Crawley's final rose when production on her season picks back up.
James celebrated his new gig with an interview on Good Morning America on Friday, June 12. "I think it's a step in the right direction," he said when asked about how his casting will impact diversity on The Bachelor. "This is hopefully the first of many black men to be in the position that I'm at now." While most of the interview focused on his historic new role, James did seem to hint at some kind of Bachelorette involvement, telling GMA anchors, "My first reaction was, 'Does this mean I don't get to meet Clare?'"
The new Bachelor also promised that he wouldn't be the only person of color on his season, saying, "I'm hoping that when that limo pulls up, there's a lot of diversity and I see every type of woman coming out of that limo."
Being the first Bachelor in the show's 18-year history is a major milestone, but it's only the first step. Speaking to GMA, Rachel Lindsay, who made history as the franchise's first ever Black lead on The Bachelorette in 2017, explained that The Bachelor still has a long way to go. "I want producers color, I would like for them to cast leads that are interested in dating outside of their race," she said, adding, "I need the acknowledgement of that, not putting a bandaid over the situation." Her statements echo the demands of the Bachelor Diversity Campaign, launched on Monday, June 8, by fans who wanted to see a change in the show. Casting a Black male lead in The Bachelor's upcoming season was only the beginning. In their change.org petition, the Bachelor Diversity Campaign also called for the franchise to ensure that 35% of all contestants in every season be BIPOC, and asked that it hires more BIPOC employees behind the scenes as well.
No one from the Bachelor franchise has responded to the petition, but ABC Entertainment President Karey Burke did acknowledge the need for more diversity in her statement announcing James' casting. "We know we have a responsibility to make sure the love stories we're seeing onscreen are representative of the world we live in," she said in part via press release. "This is just the beginning, and we will continue to take action with regard to diversity issues on this franchise."
Hopefully, production on The Bachelorette and The Bachelor can resume soon so that fans can see the first Black Bachelor in action ASAP.