The Bachelor has named 28-year-old real-estate broker Matt James as its first ever black lead in 18 years of filming. ABC News reports James was originally set to be a suitor on Clare Crawley’s season of The Bachelorette, but production was delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Leads are usually chosen from the pool of former contestants, by James established himself as a name in Bachelor Nation through his social-media presence and friendship with fan favorite Tyler Cameron, from Hannah Brown’s season of The Bachelorette. The decision came after a viral campaign from a group of Bachelor Nation fans, backed by former Bachelorette Rachel Lindsay, following historic civil unrest over racism in the United States.
Asked for his reaction to being cast as the new Bachelor on Friday’s Good Morning America, James said: “My first reaction was, ‘Does this mean I don’t get to meet Clare?’ because I was looking forward to meeting her.” But he went on: “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.” The show has long been criticized for only featuring one black person as a lead in 40 seasons of The Bachelor and The Bachelorette, but James said: “In my opinion, I don’t think it’s ever the wrong time to do the right thing.”