NEW YORK (AP) — ABC has named Matt James its first black “Bachelor” to lead the network’s long-running dating competition show.
The casting was announced Friday on “Good Morning America.”
James, a 28-year-old from North Carolina, was originally chosen to compete for Clare Crawley’s affection on “The Bachelorette,” but filming was scrapped in March due to the coronavirus pandemic. “Good Morning America” says James founded an organization in New York City that finds creative ways to engage children from underserved areas.
The show has been under pressure for years to be more diverse and cast a black “Bachelor.” A lawsuit filed in 2012 claimed the show was blocking contestants of color from starring roles. The case was dismissed on First Amendment grounds.
Until now, Rachel Lindsay was the only African American to be cast as a lead in the franchise’s 18-year history when she was named “The Bachelorette” in 2017. Lindsay has criticized the show publicly for not doing enough to increase diversity both in front of and behind the camera.
On Friday, James said he was optimistic.
“I think it’s a step in the right direction,” he said on “Good Morning America,” adding, “I don’t think there’s a wrong time to do the right thing.”
“The Bachelor” is expected to return in 2021.