ABC Reality Chief Rob Mills Addresses Backlash After Not Choosing Mike Johnson For ‘Bachelor’

After it was announced that Peter Weber is going to be the next bachelor, the franchise received some criticism citing a lack of diversity in their leads.

Many Bachelor fans were hoping Mike Johnson would be awarded the leading role, and were disappointed to learn he was not during the Bachelor In Paradise reunion show.

Chris Harrison and Mike Johnson | John Fleenor/ABC via Getty Images
Chris Harrison and Mike Johnson | John Fleenor/ABC via Getty Images

According to Variety’s sources, Johnson did, indeed, meet with Bachelor executives early on in the casting process. The other men who were being consdered were Tyler Cameron, who’s now dating Gigi Hadid, and Derek Peth of Bachelor In Paradise.

ABC Executive Rob Mills on ‘The Bachelor’ diversity backlash

In a recent interview with Variety, ABC reality chief Rob Mills addressed the backlash the network received upon passing over Johnson.

“I think there will be backlash and you’re always going to get backlash. I frankly can’t recall a single ‘Bachelor’ or ‘Bachelorette’ choice who was universally agreed upon. The backlash is always hard. We really, really care about the audience and you don’t want to disappoint anyone. It’s hard to not take it personally when people say, ‘You don’t listen to us or why did you choose this person over that?’ But you just have to have faith in the choice you made. We think Peter was the strongest option. We felt he was the guy who would give us the best 22 hours of television,” he said.

According to Mills, the choice of who’s the bachelor or bachelorette has never been about diversity.

“One of the first things that I said to Mike is, ‘You’re not here because of what you look like or because of the color of your skin. You’re here because you’d be a great bachelor. And he actually really appreciated that,” Mills said. “He said if he was going to be the bachelor simply because he was going to be the first African American bachelor, then he wouldn’t want to do it. So, it’s not that. And that was the thing with Rachel Lindsay — Rachel was someone who was just a great bachelorette, no matter what.”

The ABC reality chief continued: “I think it is long overdue that we have candidates of diversity that are considered to be the lead, and I think we’ve done a much better job of making a more fully integrated cast. But I think the bachelor is going to be whoever is the right bachelor for this season.”

Mike Johnson talks diversity on ‘The Bachelor’

When Variety spoke to Johnson earlier this summer, he said that he appreciated Mills’ reasons for considering him for the role.

“First off, I have to give kudos to Rob [Mills] because I wouldn’t want to be considered ‘the first black Bachelor.’ I would want to be the bachelor because I’m a great individual and great human being,” he said.

“I think that ‘The Bachelor’ is taking strides to make sure that the casts, in all regards, are diversified and representative of America, and I think they will continue to do that,” Johnson continued.

Johnson’s also said recently, on “Bachelor Happy Hour With Rachel & Ali,” that he thinks the lead roles should absolutely go to more people of color.

“Talking about people of color, they need to have an Asian Bachelor, they need to have an Indian Bachelor,” he said on the podcast. “They need to have other people outside of just black and white.”

In summary: The Bachelor franchise has a diversity issue. It is working to make strides in diversifying franchise contestants to someday cast a non-white lead. While Mills and the other ABC executives wouldn’t have cast Johnson for the color of his skin, we don’t live in a time when race can be ignored. According to Mills, Peter Weber will provide the Bachelor audience with the best 22 hours of television. But “best” differs by who you ask.

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