Where would we be without Zoom?
Despite social distancing and safety measures amid the coronavirus pandemic, longtime host of The Bachelor Chris Harrison says he's been able to lean on technology to get to know Matt James, the season 25 lead of the hit ABC Series. Matt's casting news was confirmed in June, when he officially became the first Black male lead of the show.
Fans might recall that Matt was originally cast as a contestant for Clare Crawley's upcoming season of The Bachelorette just before production reached a halt in response to the pandemic. In an exclusive interview with E! News, Harrison opened up about checking in with Matt virtually to get a better sense of his personality ahead of his season, set to air in 2021.
"I've had a lot of time to Zoom with Matt, talk with him. Same thing with producers, we've been on a lot of group chats. Even a little fantasy football," Harrison said. "Because of the pandemic I haven't been able to hang out with him and intimately get to know him, but I know the type of man he is."
Harrison added, "I've talked a lot about him with Tyler C and he's a genuine, good man. He's the kind of guy you want as The Bachelor. He's the kind of guy that I think women will be fortunate to fall in love with."
Speaking of the pandemic, Harrison confirmed that Clare's season offered the "blueprint" for filming a show during these unusual times, meaning there's no "trepidation" for shooting Matt's season.
In addition to logistical changes—Clare's season was filmed at a luxury resort in Southern California, not Villa de la Vina—viewers can also expect both upcoming seasons to be more inclusive.
Over the summer, Harrison and the franchise's producers pledged to make "significant changes" to address the show's diversity issue following a campaign to cast a Black lead for season 25 of The Bachelor. Prior to Matt's casting, Rachel Lindsay was the only Black lead in the franchise's 18-year history.
"I think it's important to state that it didn't just start with Clare's season. This is a movement and something we've been working on for quite some time. Step one was realizing there was an issue. And then step two is, OK, let's do something about that," Harrison said, noting that Clare's lineup of men looks more diverse than previous ones.
"You're not gonna see some changes because it's behind the camera, with our hiring practices, with people we brought in, people we promoted within our show," Harrison continued. "And clearly you saw it with the announcement of Matt James. And you're gonna see it with the casting in the women. But the idea is people want to be represented. They want to see themselves represented. And The Bachelor and The Bachelorette is a love story and you want to see your love story told."
Harrison said there's a new goal for producers: "To include everybody so when you're watching the show you feel like, ‘Yeah, this is me, I'm being represented here.'"
Whether producers have done enough to embrace inclusivity and champion diversity is to be determined, but casting Matt is definitely a step in the right direction.
The Bachelorette premieres Tuesday, Oct 13 at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.