ABC’s ‘The Bachelor’ to feature black man in title role for first time

ABC’s “The Bachelor” will feature a black man in the leading role for the first time.

The surprising announcement by the network Friday comes after 24 seasons and a recent public outcry for more people of color to be included on the popular dating show.

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Matt James, a real estate broker and community organizer from New York, who was cast as a contestant during season 16 of “The Bachelorette,” now takes on the eponymous role for the 25th season of “The Bachelor,” that will air in 2021.

"It’s an honor. I’m just going to lean into myself and how my mom raised me and hopefully when people invite me into their homes on Monday night they’re going to see that I’m not much different from them and they see that diverse love stories are beautiful,” he told Good Morning America.

Before now, only one black person had been featured as a lead for the franchise, which includes the sister show “The Bachelorette.” Her name was Rachel Lindsay, and she appeared during the show’s 13th season in 2017.

“Good Morning America” interviewed her about the developments on Friday.

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“I was hoping, when I came on, to be a trailblazer (and to) increase diversity in the audience that watches it and also who comes on the show and who could potentially be the lead,” she said. “I felt like the franchise had my back in that. But in the last three years, there really haven’t been changes made.”

Activism concerning “The Bachelor” franchise began to grow on social media after protests against racism erupted in the wake of George Floyd’s death.

Previous contestants added pressure, calling on ABC to address the issue, and started an online petition that demanded the network "reflect and honor the racial diversity of our country." More than 50,000 people signed it, according to CNN.

A small group of fans also started the Bachelor Diversity Campaign on Facebook, urging the network to “consistently cast” people of color.

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“Representation matters, and it is one of the most important ways our country can embrace its diversity and evolve,” read a statement from the group. “We will use our power as viewers and fans to hold ABC and Warner Bros. accountable and demand they use their platform in a more thoughtful, race-conscious, and socially responsible way.”

Credit: ABC

Credit: ABC

Meanwhile, the network was apparently considering the matter behind the scenes, revealing that it had already contacted James as a suitor for the upcoming season of “The Bachelorette” but scratched that plan because of the coronavirus pandemic.

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“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 President Karey Burke said in a news release. “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.”

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Despite being seen on TV before, James is somewhat obscure.

Originally from North Carolina, he helps run a children's charity in New York with Tyler Cameron, a former "Bachelorette" contestant with whom he is good friends. The alums are members of the Quarantine Crew on TikTok, who post short funny videos for their more than half-million followers.

James said he hopes to meet someone like his mother.

“I’m looking for qualities that my mom embodies,” James told GMA, “and those are qualities found in women all shapes, sizes and races and it’s not a black or white thing.”