Matt James is getting ready to hand out the roses.
Good Morning America announced on Friday that James will star on season 25 of The Bachelor.
James is the first Black male lead in the nearly two-decade series. Rachel Lindsay, who starred on the 13th season of The Bachelorette, had been the only Black lead in the franchise's history up until this point.
Lindsay has spoken out about the show's lack of diversity before, and several members of Bachelor Nation recently signed a petition calling for ABC to cast a Black man as the lead in the upcoming season.
When asked if the casting decision was "too little, too late," James told GMA he doesn't think "it's ever the wrong time to do the right thing."
"Too little too late for me is this happening and we can't have change until you put that first foot forward, and that first foot forward for The Bachelor franchise is having a Black lead," he said. "So, I'm excited to take on that role."
James was originally set to appear on Clare Crawley's season of The Bachelorette. However, there was a change of plans after production was postponed due to the global coronavirus pandemic.
"Matt has been on our radar since February, when producers first approached him to join Bachelor Nation, as part of Clare's season," Karey Burke, president of ABC Entertainment, said in a press release. "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. 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."
Burke also said "this is just the beginning" and that "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," Burke continued, "and we cannot wait to embark on this journey with him."
To learn more about James, read on below:
1. He's a real estate broker.
According to ABC, he's also an entrepreneur and a community organization founder.
2. He lives in New York City.
While James was born in Raleigh, North Carolina, he now calls the Big Apple his home. The 28-year-old star told DeacLink there are a lot of things he loves about living in NYC, too.
"Top things being: Diversity–you have no choice but to be inclusive. The thing about NYC, regardless of your culture, religion, gender, etc. if you're competent and work hard then you will succeed! You aren't discriminated against (like some parts of the country) as NYC is a melting pot like no other city," he told the outlet last year. "Opportunity–You are uniquely positioned in a city where there is every industry and influential people all around you. If you're a mover and shaker, the world is your oyster. The resources are here for anyone to be successful if they choose to apply themselves."
3. He played football.
James attended Wake Forest University, where he studied economics and played wide receiver. According to the college's magazine, he gave himself a year to make it in the NFL and tried out for both the Carolina Panthers and the New Orleans Saints. However, he was ultimately cut.
"I didn't think I was going to make a career out of football, but I thought my stint in the NFL would be longer than a few months," he told DeacLink. "Fortunately, I had a support system back home in Raleigh (Mom) who allowed me to stay at her house and train while I figured out my next steps."
Per DeacLink, he then moved to Pittsburgh for a Corporate and Institutional Banking role with PNC. He told the outlet he later moved to New York, where he spent the first six months "couch surfing, navigating the new NYC landscape and deciding if this new role in advertising as a media planner was for me." After he left that role, he accepted a position as a research analyst at real estate firm CBRE. He later founded ABC Food Tours.
4. He loves to give back and help kids.
Speaking of which, ABC Food Tours' Facebook page describes the organization as a "food touring company that leads both locals and tourists through Alphabet City, stopping at restaurants native to the neighborhood." Per the website, the organization aims to expose kids to new experiences and teach them that anything is possible.
"I met a group of 'kids,' who were students from a local neighborhood elementary school P.S. 188—where 50 percent of the students are homeless—hanging outside my favorite restaurant in the Alphabet City…. way later than they should have been out," James told DeacLink. "We joked on each other for a few minutes then parted ways; they didn't realize that wouldn't be the last they saw of me. I reached out to their principal the following morning to set up a time where I could take their students to my favorite restaurant called Bob White's. Although it was located right in their backyard, the kids had never been inside! This occasion marked the first food tour… the rest is history!"
5. He's friends with Tyler Cameron.
Cameron and James both attended Wake Forest University and worked at ABC Food Tours. Fans also spotted the pals hanging out as part of the "quarantine crew" and creating several TikTok videos. According to Entertainment Tonight, Cameron's late mother, Andrea, was the one who nominated James to apply for The Bachelorette.
6. He hasn't appeared on any other Bachelor shows.
While James already knows members of Bachelor Nation, he hasn't appeared on any of the franchise's shows before. According to Entertainment Tonight, he's the first Bachelor in 12 years to be cast in the leading role without having previously appeared on The Bachelorette. The celebrity news outlet reported Matt Grant was the last person to do so.
7. He knows what he wants in a partner.
"Fortunate for me, I'm looking for qualities that my mom embodies and that's selfless, honest, caring, compassionate," he told GMA. "And those are qualities found in women all shapes, sizes and races. And it's not a Black or white thing. So, I'm hoping that when that limo pulls up, there's a lot of diversity and I see every type of woman coming out of that limo."