Yes, ABC has its next Bachelor star lined up with Matt James, but that doesn't mean Clare Crawley's season of The Bachelorette isn't happening.
Clare was announced as the next star of the franchise in early March. ABC even revealed the contestants who would be vying for her heart in season 16 of the reality dating show, including Matt, but then the coronavirus happened. Production on season 16 of The Bachelorette never really took off.
Fast forward a few months to June when fans and veteran cast members of Bachelor Nation called on ABC to cast a Black star in The Bachelor and increase diversity in front of and behind the camera. ABC and Warner Bros. remained silent on the petition until June 12 when Matt was announced as the new star of The Bachelor on Good Morning America.
"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."
Bachelorette producers have been keen on getting Clare's season up and running and said they were exploring options, like cutting travel and sequestering the cast to one location in the United States.
"We definitely want to get Bachelorette in the can because we announced Clare, everyone's excited for it, there's all these plans for it, but that might take longer to logistically figure out," ABC exec Robert Mills said.
Clare will also likely get new contestants, a plan even before Matt was cast as The Bachelor star. "The chances are, for everybody to be able to put their life on hold and come back again is very slim. So yeah, we are still casting, so if you have somebody you think is great for this beautiful woman right here," longtime host Chris Harrison told viewers of an Instagram live about the production hiatus.
A source close to production told E! News the change of Matt from contestant to star will likely work in Clare's favor. "The good news for Clare is that her cast will know from the start they don't have a chance to be the next Bachelor. So hopefully, more will actually be there for "the right reasons," our source said.
"It will be tough, but we will definitely figure it out because we all need this—badly," Mills said about the return of The Bachelorette.
Matt James' season handing out roses on The Bachelor is slated to premiere in 2021.