ABC Casts Its First Black Bachelor After 18 Years on the Air

Matt James is the first Black Bachelor, and Bachelor Nation's second Black lead

matt jamee
Matt James is the first Black Bachelor.

Matt James will star in the next season of ABC’s The Bachelor as the series’ first Black male lead.

The 28-year-old, who had previously been cast as a contestant on the would-be most recent season of The Bachelorette before it was stalled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, has been named season 25’s leading man. ABC announced the decision Friday after days of renewed focus on the series’ lack of diversity in the wake of the ongoing racial reckoning sweeping the country, including a petition demanding the network name a Black Bachelor.

“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. “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.”

James will be the first Black Bachelor in the show’s 18-year history. The announcement follows criticism from Rachel Lindsay, the Bachelor franchise’s first Black lead and the only Black Bachelorette, who led the series in 2017. In a blog post earlier this week, Lindsay condemned the Bachelor franchise’s history of “systemic racism” and threatened to “disassociate” from the brand unless changes were made.

“Yes, more diverse contestants do appear on the show now, but is the lead truly interested and open to dating outside of their race? I think that is evident by how far their ‘journey’ takes them during each season,” Lindsay wrote. “It is a naive expectation to believe that leads will authentically start an interracial relationship for the first time on national television. The sad reality is that people of color become placeholders as the token person of color to add some flavor to the second half of the season.”

The Bachelor is expected to return from coronavirus hiatus in 2021.

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