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First-Ever Black Lead Will Join “The Bachelor” After 24 Seasons

The franchise has come under fire for years for its casting of nearly exclusively white leads.

"The Bachelor's" first-ever Black lead, Matt James/ Twitter/ ABC

“The Bachelor” has cast its first Black lead in the show's 24-season history. 

The popular ABC show announced Friday that Matt James, a 28-year-old real estate broker, would be the lead in the forthcoming 25th season. The announcement comes after calls for more diversity on the reality show, which up until James, had only cast white male leads. 

During an interview with “Good Morning America,” James said he thinks “It’s a step in the right direction” for the show. 

“Hopefully this is the first of many Black men to be in the position that I’m at now,” James continued. “I don’t think it’s ever the wrong time to do the right thing… We can’t have change until you put that first foot forward, and that first foot forward for ‘The Bachelor’ franchise is having a Black lead, so I’m excited to take on that role.”

James was initially cast as a contestant for “The Bachelorette” with Clare Crawley as the lead, but production was forced to shut down indefinitely in March due to the coronavirus pandemic.  The season starring James is scheduled to air in 2021.

“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,” ABC Entertainment president Karey Burke said in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter. “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.” 

The franchise has come under fire for years for its casting of nearly exclusively white leads. A campaign was created that focused on diversifying the show’s very white cast, which writes, “As creators of one of the most popular and influential franchises on television, ABC and Warner Bros. have an opportunity and responsibility to feature Black, Indigenous, People of Color (‘BIPOC’).”

Just last week, Rachel Lindsay, an attorney and the first and only Black woman to lead “The Bachelorette,” told AfterBuzz in an interview that she would leave “The Bachelor” franchise completely if it didn’t diversify the cast. 

“I think that they have to, at this point, give us a black Bachelor for season 25… I don’t know how you don’t,” Lindsay told AfterBuzz. “It bothers me that certain [racist] things have happened [on the show] that we just say, ‘Oh, hush hush,’ and ‘Let’s just move on past it.’ No, we need to acknowledge it, because what you’re doing is perpetuating this type of behavior.”

James is originally from North Carolina and was a football star at Wake Forest University before briefly playing in the NFL. He now lives in New York City where he works in real estate and with his charitable organization, ABC Food Tours, that helps children in underserved communities.