After the Final Rose is going to look a little different this season.
The Bachelor's usual post-finale wrap-up show is taking on some bigger responsibilities tonight as Chris Harrison steps aside. Emmanuel Acho will be hosting the show in his stead and will most likely be addressing the ways that racism reared its ugly head this season, on screen and off.
It all began when contestant—one of Matt James' final two contestants, in fact—Rachael Kirkconnell was spotted in photos from a 2018 plantation-themed party. Harrison defended Kirkconnell in an interview with Rachel Lindsay, and it resulted in nearly all of the women of James's season releasing a joint statement denouncing racism and Harrison' defense of it and showing support for Lindsay.
Harrison issued an apology and announced that he was stepping down from After the Final Rose, and Acho was brought on as the new host shortly after Lindsay declared that he should take on the role. So why is Acho, a former NFL linebacker, the right man for the job? He actually might be the best man for the job.
The 30-year-old host and author played for the Cleveland Browns and then the Philadelphia Eagles from 2012 until retiring in 2015. He currently works as a Fox Sports analyst and hosts a YouTube series called Uncomfortable Conversations With a Black Man. He also wrote a book with the same title, and has dedicated his brand to talking openly about systemic racism with white people in particular.
His Uncomfortable Conversations series is described on its website as a conversation "about race that many white people have never been able to have." He has interviewed Chelsea Handler, Matthew McConaughey, Chip and Joanna Gaines, interracial couples, white parents raising Black children, police officers, and even NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. He also works closely with Oprah Winfrey, who published his book.
Lindsay cited his book as a reason she thought he would make "perfect sense" as the AFR host. It was released in November 2020 and is billed as an "urgent primer on race and racism" that provides a "space of compassion and understanding in a discussion that can lack both."
"We haven't yet realized it's us vs. oppression," he explained of what his conversations are trying to convey. "It's not Black vs. white. it's not white vs. Black. It's us vs. oppression and discrimination."
Kimmel asked why Acho has embraced the idea of the conversations being purposely uncomfortable, and he laid it out pretty plainly.
"Everything in life that is worth something is birthed through discomfort," he said. "You think about labor pains and what a woman goes through to birth a beautiful child—might be our next hero or our next Pulitzer prize winner. You think about football, where I come from. You go through training camps, and that's uncomfortable, but you try to win the Super Bowl. If we want to accomplish anything in life, we gotta get uncomfortable. But I'll say this: It's only uncomfortable until you do it."
Not only is Acho primed and ready for the kinds of inevitably "uncomfortable" conversations that will be happening tonight, he also isn't part of the franchise, which Lindsay believes is a plus.
"He's not biased in any way, he doesn't watch the show, he doesn't know the people involved," she said. "He should be there to be able to facilitate a conversation that we need to see happen."
During a Good Morning America appearance, Acho laid out his plans for the special.
"My mission for After the Final Rose is very, very, very simple," he said. "Allow my white brothers and sisters who have watched the show and fell in love with Matt's story to understand that Matt's love story and his journey of love is different than other journeys of love, particularly because of his complexion and his skin color."
He also made his thoughts on Kirkconnell's photos clear, saying that the photos were "racially insensitive and racially ignorant."
"Racial insensitivity and racial ignorance can play itself out as racism," he added. "But it doesn't necessarily classify someone as racist."
The conversations will certainly be uncomfortable tonight, but at least the host isn't lacking in uncomfortable experience.
The Bachelor finale airs Monday at 8 p.m. on ABC.