James was set to be a prospective suitor for The Bachelorette before that show was hit by the production shutdown. He becomes the first black Bachelor in the show’s 18 year history, and the second only black lead in the franchise, following Rachel Lindsay, who was The Bachelorette in that show’s 13th season.
ABC revealed the news on Good Morning America. It comes after Lindsay urged the franchise to “acknowledge their systemic racism” in a blog post and more than 80,000 people signed a Change.org petition to cast a black lead on The Bachelor.
The 25th season of the Chris Harrison-hosted show is scheduled to air in 2021. The network has not revealed plans for the upcoming season of The Bachelorette, but ABC alternative boss Rob Mills told Deadline in April that Clare Crawley will get her shot at love at some point.
James is a 28-year-old real estate broker, entrepreneur and community organization founder. The North Carolina native went to Wake Forest University, where he majored in Economics and played wide receiver for the football team. He went on to play professional football, before moving to New York City, where he now resides.
The Bachelor is produced by Next Entertainment in association with Warner Horizon Unscripted Television. Mike Fleiss, Martin Hilton, Nicole Woods, Bennett Graebner, Peter Gust, Tim Warner, Louis Caric and Peter Geist are the executive producers.
Karey Burke, President, ABC Entertainment, said, “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. 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.”