Following years of criticism over a lack of diversity on the hit ABC show, the network announced Friday that The Bachelor will cast Matt James, its first black male lead, to star in their 25th season.
The announcement — on Good Morning America — comes after a blog post from Rachel Lindsay, the franchise’s first black lead, argued for a Bachelor “diversity makeover,” and provided five suggestions that “go beyond casting a lead of color.”
The decision also follows a Change.org petition titled “A Campaign For Anti-Racism in the Bachelor Franchise,” which more than 80,000 people signed. The petition asked for the franchise to reflect the racial diversity in the United States and specifically called for the show to cast a black lead on season 25 of The Bachelor.
James was initially set to be a contestant on Clare Crawley’s season of The Bachelorette, but production was put on hold amid the coronavirus pandemic. He now will become the first black Bachelor in the show’s 18-year history.
“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.”
Watch above, via ABC.
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