ABC Casts the First Black Bachelor

ABC+Casts+the+First+Black+Bachelor

Devin Wilkes, Editorials Editor

ABC’s The Bachelor announced on Friday that Matt James will be the reality show’s first-ever black lead contestant to star in the show’s upcoming 25th season. 

The reality dating show, which first aired in 2002, has long received backlash for its lack of diversity. Throughout the 40 seasons of The Bachelor and its sister series The Bachelorette, the only black person to hold the title role was Rachel Lindsay in the 2017 season of The Bachelorette.

James was originally cast as a contestant on Clare Crawley’s forthcoming season of The Bachelorette, but production was suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

“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,” ABC President Karey Burke stated in a news release. “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.”

Viewers and former contestants have been calling on the franchise to more consistently and equally cast contestants of color, and these demands have only gotten louder as protests across the nation and the world have shown support to the Black Lives Matter Movement following the murder of George Floyd. 

The Bachelor Diversity Campaign, created by 10 Bachelor watchers who connected through a fan Facebook page, petitioned the ABC franchise to diversify its cast and “consistently cast BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and people of color). 

“Representation matters, and it is one of the most important ways our country can embrace its diversity and evolve,” the group outlined in a statement. “We will use our power as viewers and fans to hold ABC and Warner Bros. accountable and demand they use their platform in a more thoughtful, race-conscious, and socially responsible way. It’s time that ABC, (producer) Mike Fleiss, and Warner Bros. take demonstrable action to address the inequalities in casting, screen time, and employment of minority groups.”

The Campaign launched a Change.org petition asking for a Black Bachelor and other changes to the series, including casting more people of color as contestants and behind the scenes. Many former stars of the show demonstrated their support for the petition, including Rachel Lindsay, JoJo Fletcher, Ben Higgins, Arie Luyendyk Jr., Desiree Siegfried, Tyler Cameron, Bibiana Julian, Dustin Kendrick, Olivia Caridi, Onyeka Ehie, Devin Harris, Alayah Benavidez, Mykenna Dorn, Amanda Stanton, and Ashley Spivey. 

2017 Bachelorette Rachel Lindsay

Lindsay was interviewed about the franchise’s lack of people of color, specifically black contestants, on Good Morning America on Friday. 

“I was hoping, when I came on, to be a trailblazer (and to) increase diversity in the audience that watches it and also who comes on the show and who could potentially be the lead,” she said. “I felt like the franchise had my back in that. But in the last three years, there really haven’t been changes made.”

She also went on to say that the series must tackle diversity beyond who is looking for love in the title role. 

“I want producers of color,” Lindsay stated. “I would like for them to cast leads that are interested in dating outside of their race, aren’t just getting their experience for the first time on national TV. I need the acknowledgement of that, not putting a Band-Aid over the situation and just saying, ‘Here, we’re gonna put this here, are you happy now?’”

The Bachelor is scheduled to premiere 2021, though no specific date has been set yet.