Matt James was originally cast as a contestant on the upcoming Clare Crawley season and is known by Bachelor Nation as Tyler Cameron’s best friend and business partner.
The 28-year-old real estate broker, entrepreneur, and community organization founder has been selected as the season 25 lead. Matt James was selected after days of renewed pressure about the franchise’s lack of diversity. James was previously set to be a contestant on Clare Crawley’s forthcoming season of The Bachelorette before production was shutdown in March and postponed indefinitely amid the novel coronavirus pandemic. Bachelor Nation also knows James as the best friend, roommate and business partner to fan-favorite Tyler Cameron; the two have spent the majority of the pandemic quarantined together in Florida.
“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,” ABC Entertainment president Karey Burke said in a statement announcing the casting Friday. “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 Bachelor’s executive producers also put out a joint statement, saying, “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.”
In its 40 seasons and 18 years on the air, The Bachelor has never had a person of color lead; Lindsay remains the only non-white Bachelorette. The franchise has had the opportunity to cast diverse leads before James, most recently with Mike Johnson from Hannah Brown’s season, but has opted against it. As Lindsay noted in her post, creator Mike Fleiss previously said that her season saw a dip in ratings that suggested the franchise’s audience did not want to watch a Black woman, or people of color in general, find love. As for the 30 or so contestants every cycle, there are a handful of people of color in the mix, but they rarely make the top four each season.
A return date for The Bachelorette has not been determined as the franchise faces a number of safety questions when it comes to how production can resume amid the novel coronavirus pandemic. The Bachelor is scheduled to return in 2021.