'The Bachelor' Casts Matt James As Its First Black Lead
By Paris Close
June 12, 2020
ABC has named Matt James as its first Black “Bachelor!
James, a fan-favorite contestant on Season 16 of The Bachelorette and best friend to former Bachelorette contestant Tyler Cameron, will officially be the star of the Bachelor’s 25th season, the network announced Friday (June 12).
"Matt has been on our radar since February, when producers first approached him to join Bachelor Nation, as part of Clare's season," ABC Entertainment President Karey Burke said in a statement. "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."
Burke added: "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."
James’ casting comes after a petition initiated by viewers urged ABC to address its lack of diversity within the popular reality dating franchise, including on The Bachelorette and The Bachelor. "ABC and Warner Bros. have been producing Bachelor content for 18 years. During that time they've cast 40 season leads, yet only one Black lead. This is unacceptable,” the Change.org petition stated.
"As creators of one of the most popular and influential franchises on television, ABC and Warner Bros. have an opportunity and responsibility to feature Black, Indigenous, People of Color ("BIPOC") relationships, families, and storylines," it continues. "The franchise, and all those who represent it, should reflect and honor the racial diversity of our country--both in front of and behind the camera."
The 28-year-old, who co-runs the non-profit ABC Food Tours with Cameron, is a North Carolina native and Wake Forest University graduate. At 6-foot-5, James played as a wide receiver on the school’s football team.
This isn’t the first time the Bachelor franchise has made inroads in diversifying the show by representing Black leads. In 2017, attorney Rachel Lindsay became the first Black woman ever to lead the thirteenth season of The Bachelorette. (She went on to marry her season’s winner, Bryan Abasolo, in August 2019.)
Photo: Brown Bear Visuals, Instagram (Matt James)