The first black Bachelor is set to give out roses on The Bachelor 2021. ABC announced that Matt James, 28, will be the franchise's first Black male lead in its 25th season. James was initially cast as a suitor on The Bachelorette 2020 Clare Crawley's season but will now be the star of his own show.
The surprise announcement, made on Good Morning America, comes in the wake of worldwide protests against systemic racism and days after Rachel Lindsay, the first black Bachelorette, criticized the show's lack of diversity. Fans also recently launched a petition calling on ABC and producers to cast a Black man as The Bachelor and more people of color as contestants.
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James is an African-American real estate broker, entrepreneur and community organization founder from New York City. He's also best friends with Tyler Cameron, the runner-up from The Bachelorette season 15 and was set to appear in Crawley's edition.
However, The Bachelorette 2020 filming was put on indefinite hold due to the coronavirus pandemic. In a statement, ABC Entertainment president Karey Burke said that the delay gave them "the benefit of time to get to know Matt and all agreed he would make a perfect Bachelor."
"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."
Fans have been clamoring for a black Bachelor for years. Mike Johnson, a contestant on Hannah Brown's season, was in the running to lead season 24, but Peter Weber was chosen instead.
Here's everything you need to know about The Bachelor 2021.
The Bachelor 2021 release date: When is it coming out?
If the Bachelor season 25 follows the timing of previous Bachelor seasons, it will premiere in January 2021. Host Chris Harrison told Entertainment Weekly that producers hope to keep to that schedule.
However, the coronavirus pandemic has upended film and TV production. The Bachelorette 2020 still hasn't started filming, though it is scheduled to air this fall. However, The Bachelor 2021 could film at the same time. Usually, The Bachelor lead is taken from the top-placing contestants on The Bachelorette (and vice versa). However, Matt James has already been cast as season 25's lead.
The Bachelor 2021: Who is Matt James?
The first black Bachelor, Matt James, is a 28-year-old a real estate broker, entrepreneur and community organization founder. He is a native of North Carolina and attended Wake Forest University, where he majored in economics and played wide receiver for the school's football team. He then went on to play football professionally.
Now living in New York City, James founded ABC Food Tours, an organization that supports kids from underserved communities.
James is close friends with Tyler Cameron, the runner-up on Hannah Brown's Bachelorette season 15, and the two work together to run ABC Food Tours. When he was cast as a contestant on Clare Crawley's season, Bachelor Nation fans immediately made the link. However, filming was delayed due to the pandemic.
James was part of some drama before ever appearing on the show. Crawley seemed to include him when calling out suitors who were only seeking fame.
"If you are doing interviews and creating Cameo accounts before you are even on my season... you are in it for the wrong reasons... #dontwasteyourtime," she tweeted.
James clarified that he was on the Cameo app to help raise money for coronavirus relief and had pledged all earnings to the Robin Hood Foundation, according to E! Online.
Meanwhile, James gaining a big Bachelor Nation fanbase thanks to TikTok videos and other social media appearances with Cameron and Brown while they were all quarantining together in Florida.
While the selection of James as The Bachelor may seem like a response to the recent upswell in anti-racism calls to action, and Rachel Lindsay's pointed critique, ABC and told Variety that they had their eye on James for months.
“He would have been on Clare’s season if it started in March. When we realized the shutdown was going to extend through the summer, we started thinking about how we were going to choose our Bachelor,” said ABC unscripted executive Robert Mills.
“Matt was somebody who was on our radar and we were thinking about him. We were thinking do we announce him early, or do we put him on Clare’s season and then announce him later, if it doesn’t work out with Clare? We didn’t make a final decision until recently, but this has been talked about for quite some time.”
James is the first lead in 29 seasons of both The Bachelor and Bachelorette who wasn't part of a previous season.
The Bachelor 2021 contestants: Who's in the Bachelor cast?
The casting of Matt James as The Bachelor 2021 is still too fresh for any rumors or leaks about the contestants that will vie for his heart. Stay tuned for more info.
The Bachelor 2021 filming: Which locations will they go to?
The Bachelor and Bachelorette shows typically go to several international locations during the season. Peter Weber's Bachelor season took the cast to Costa Rica, Chile, Peru and Australia. Hannah Brown's Bachelorette season took the cast to Scotland, Latvia, the Netherlands and Greece.
But due to the pandemic, international travel may not be advisable for quite some time, even as countries and regions reopen. Harrison has previously said that Clare Crawley's Bachelorette season may film entirely in one location, so that cast and crew can be safely quarantined together.
The Bachelor 2021 spoilers
Even Bachelor spoilers guru Reality Steve doesn't have inside info this early! Check back as casting and filming get underway.