“The Bachelor” announced the show’s first-ever Black male lead will be Matt James, a 28-year-old real estate broker and entrepreneur who lives in New York City.
Matt was first slated to join Clare Crawley’s season of “The Bachelorette” as a contestant, before filming was halted due to the coronavirus pandemic. Fans will also recognize Matt as Tyler Cameron’s roommate, who competed for Hannah Brown’s heart on season 15.
“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,” ABC Entertainment President Karey Burke said in a 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.”
The 28-year-old joined “Good Morning America” on Friday, where he told host Amy Robach that the secret was so well-kept, not even his own mother knew he would be the next Bachelor!
— Good Morning America (@GMA) June 12, 2020
“She’s going to be excited…Sorry mom, but it’s hard for her to keep a secret so I had to keep it super tight and she’s just now finding out,” Matt said.
And ever the supportive best friend, Tyler shared a behind-the-scenes video of Matt’s interview to his snap stories, where he revealed the 28-year-old opted for the shorts-and-sport jacket look!
Matt’s casting comes amid growing calls for the show to include more diversity, as Rachel Lindsay made show history as the first Black Bachelorette in season 13.
Lindsay has been outspoken on the topic of racial injustice, and recently even said she won’t continue to be a part of Bachelor Nation if she doesn’t see the franchise make a concerted effort to cast diverse leads, especially as the Black Lives Matter movement continues to build.
In a conversation with AfterBuzz TV’s “Bachelor A.M.,” the “Bachelor Happy Hour” podcast co-host – who had previously been the sole Black lead in “The Bachelor” and “The Bachelorette’s” 40 collective seasons – urged for the current moment to be a turning point for the ABC franchise.
“I think that they have to, at this point, have to give us a black ‘Bachelor’ for season 25,” she said. “You have to. I don’t know how you don’t. And it’s been asked of me: will you continue in this franchise if it continues in this way? I can’t. I have to see some type of change. It’s ridiculous. It’s embarrassing. At this point, it’s embarrassing to be affiliated with.”
Matt addressed Rachel’s thoughts when he joined “Good Morning America,” where he praised the lawyer for her outspoken leadership on the topic of diversity.
“I think it’s a step in the right direction,” Matt said of his casting on the show. “When Rachel speaks, we listen. She has a very important voice in all of this, being the first Black woman, person of color to have a lead. So I think that 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 in now.”
When asked if the show’s move towards inclusivity was “too little, too late,” Matt had this response.
“I don’t think it’s ever the wrong time to do the right thing.”