Matt James is a true Bachelor newbie—on screen, at least.
The 29-year-old is the new star of The Bachelor without ever having been in the franchise before, but he's certainly adjacent to it. His best friend Tyler Cameron was Hannah Brown's runner-up in 2019, which led to a friendship with Hannah, which led to being cast as a contestant in season 16 of The Bachelorette. Matt then just got to skip being a contestant entirely when his casting as the next Bachelor was announced in June. Who needs a test run when you're practically already Bachelor family?
So while he had no experience actually filming the show, he had plenty of people to turn to to get some advice beforehand, including Tyler, Hannah and of course, Rachel Lindsay. It was Rachel who gave Matt the advice he found most useful.
"She's just like, 'Be yourself and don't try to please everybody,' and that was hard because I'm a people pleaser," he tells E! News. "So it's like how do you divert from trying to make everybody happy? You can't at the end of the day, and the more comfortable I got with that, the easier everything became."
Rachel, who was the first Black Bachelorette, was also there to both help and inspire Matt as as the first Black Bachelor. He calls her a "trailblazer."
"I just admire her so much and how she's navigated her time and her experience," he says. "Having someone like her to bounce ideas, questions, concerns off of was major."
Matt says he thought about his history-making gig "a lot" as the season went on.
"I put a lot of pressure on myself to represent that community," he explains. "What I netted out is I can only represent myself, and I can empower my community in a bunch of different ways and it's unfair to put that type of pressure on myself."
When we talked to Chris Harrison after the reveal of Matt's contestants last month, he teased that Matt would go on a "personal journey...the likes of which you've never seen on the show before." Matt couldn't say much more, but he did offer a little explanation of what that means.
"There's a lot of things that I felt like were holding me back from getting to where I needed to get to with these women," he says. "They were addressed and I got extremely emotional."
Chris also teased a "revelation" among the women that would shock us all, and Matt was even more vague about that one.
"Let's just say we got to the bottom of it," the new Bachelor reveals. "And it got ugly."
It all begins tonight at 8 p.m. on ABC, but until then, hit play above for more from Matt James!