The Bachelor has its first Black lead in Matt James. But there's more to be done, according to The Bachelorette star Rachel Lindsay.
Matt James, pal to Bachelor Nation veterans Tyler Cameron and Hannah Brown, was originally cast for Clare Crawley's season of The Bachelorette. However, that season of TV has been postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
While Clare's season sat in limbo, a campaign was launched for The Bachelor franchise to be more diverse. A petition signed and circulated by fans and veteran cast members called for the reality series to cast a lead of color as well as increase diversity behind the screens. It's something Rachel Lindsay echoed on Good Morning America after Matt James' casting was announced.
Until Matt was announced, Rachel was the franchise's only Black lead in 40 seasons of television.
"I was hoping when I came on to be a trailblazer for that and to increase diversity in the audience that watches it. But in the last three years, there really haven't been changes made," she said. Rachel's season of The Bachelorette, season 13, aired in 2017.
"I want producers of color," Rachel said on GMA. "I'd like for them to cast leads that are interested in dating outside of their race that aren't just getting their first-time experience—for the first time—on national TV. I need the acknowledgment of that. Not putting a band-aid over the situation and just saying, 'Here, we're going to put this here. Are you happy now?'"
The franchise flirted with Black leads before, notably Mike Johnson from Hannah Brown's season of The Bachelorette. Instead, Peter Weber got the job of handing out roses. The reality franchise's problem with diversity has been brought up time and time again, but it seems the worldwide marches against racial injustice provided a tipping point.
"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," Karey Burke, president of ABC Entertainment, 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."
Matt's season of The Bachelor, season 25, will air in winter 2021.