It's been a long time coming: The Bachelor has cast its first Black male lead with Matt James.
Matt will hand out the roses in 2021 as the franchise's first-ever Black male lead in season 25. Since beginning in 2002, The Bachelor franchise has only had one Black lead when Rachel Lindsay was the star of The Bachelorette in 2017. The casting of Matt James comes after sustained questions surrounding the long-running reality show's diversity. He was originally cast in The Bachelorette season 16 starring Clare Crawley, but production on the reality show never took off due to the 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. 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."
While it is a step, many, including Rachel Lindsay, have said the series has a long way to go in terms of representation. "I want producers of color," Rachel said on Good Morning America. "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?'"
Below, take a walk down memory lane with key moments in The Bachelor franchise's history.
Matt James' season of The Bachelor is set to premiere in 2021 on ABC.