Matt James makes history as the first black Bachelor.
Friday on Twitter, the ABC show announced that the real estate broker, entrepreneur, and community organization founder will lead the program’s 25th season.
The 28-year-old was originally cast as a suitor for Clare Crawley, the Season 16 star of “The Bachelorette,” until production was delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic. James is also friends with Bachelor Nation stars Hannah Brown and Hannah’s former suitor Tyler Cameron.
“My first reaction was, ‘Does this mean I don’t get to meet Clare?’ because I was looking forward to meeting her,” James told “Good Morning America” on Friday. “I had set aside all this time and we’d gone out to California and been called back for quarantine. I’m super excited for her and her season, but I’m looking forward to meeting her eventually.”
“It’s an honor,” the North Carolina native said about being the next Bachelor. “I’m just going to lean into myself and how my mom raised me, and hopefully when people invite me into their homes on Monday night, they’re going to see that I’m not much different from them and they see that diverse love stories are beautiful.”
As to what he is seeking in a partner, the Wake Forest University alum said, “I’m looking for qualities that my mom embodies, and that’s selfless, honest, caring, compassionate, and those are qualities found in women of all shapes, sizes, and races, and it’s not a black or white thing.”
However, James is “hoping when that limo pulls up, there’s a lot of diversity and I see every type of woman coming out of that limo.”
After the announcement, Rachel Lindsay — the only black Bachelorette, who has been vocal in her demand for more diversity in the franchise — told TMZ that James’ casting is a step in the right direction, but it feels forced given recent news events about racial injustice and police brutality.
“It would be remiss of me to not point out that based on the current climate, it feels like a knee-jerk reaction and a result of societal pressure,” Lindsay told the outlet.
“This announcement, without any further commitments regarding diversity, sweepingly brushes deeper issues under the rug,” she continued. “Until we see other action to address the systemic racism within the franchise, the casting news today is equivalent to the trend of posting a black box on your social media account without taking other steps to dismantle the systems of injustice.”
Lindsay also calls for more diversity in front of the screen and behind it.
“I want producers of color,” she told “GMA.” “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?’”
James’ search for love will air next year, while Crawley’s season is expected to premiere this fall.