‘The Bachelor’ Star Matt James on Being the First Black Lead: ‘I’m Well Aware of the Place That Race Plays in our Society’

Matt James is making history during this season of The Bachelor as the first Black lead in the ABC series’ history. He’s just the third Black lead in the entire The Bachelor franchise following Rachel Lindsay and Tayshia Adams. In a new interview, James is opening up about making history and how he perceives all of this.

Matt James
Matt James | Craig Sjodin via Getty Images

Matt James is the very first Black lead of ‘The Bachelor’

Before being tapped to be the lead, James was initially going to be one of the suitors on Clare Crawley’s season of The Bachelorette. Of course, production was halted due to the coronavirus pandemic, and Crawley ended up finding love incredibly soon and Adams took over.

Prior to James’ (and Adams) casting, Lindsay, the first-ever Black lead on the franchise, slammed the franchise for not still not having any other Black leads. Lindsay even said she would distance herself from the franchise if things did not change.

As the first Black Bachelor, James was already famliar to viewers because of his close relationship with Tyler Cameron, who the runner-up on the Hannah Brown’s season of The Bachelorette.

What ABC’s Rob Mills said about James’ casting

Rob Mills, who is over unscripted at ABC, said that James’ casting was not a response to Lindsay’s comments.

Mills also rebuffed claims that this casting could be in response to Lindsay’s comments.  “It wasn’t a response to that. We could have made this announcement earlier or later,” he explained in a Variety interview.. “Certainly no one is blind to what is happening in the world, so hopefully this announcement serves as a bit of optimism during a time that we can really use this, but I don’t want this to look like we’re patting ourselves on the back or taking a victory lap.

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Mills also expressed that he didn’t want people to think that they thought James’ casting would solve all the issues and criticisms that people have about the franchise. ‘We don’t want this, in any way, to seem like a cure-all and seem like, ‘Hey! Look what we did here!’” he continued. “We know this is a few grains of sand in a very big hourglass. It’s taken a while to get where we are and we will continue to go further, and I acknowledge it may not be enough. In the last few years, I believe it’s gotten better and with the announcement of Matt, I hope it keeps getting better. We are very excited about Matt.”

Matt James on his historic role in the franchise

In a recent episode of Tamron Hall, James spoke about the pressure that he faced being the first Black Bachelor.

“I’m not gonna lie and say there’s no pressure because, listen, I’m a Black man and I’m well aware of the place that race plays in our society,” he said of his historic role.

James added that he hopes people are open to the idea of him wanting to get to know everybody and not just a specific race.

“And I’m on The Bachelor to get to know a whole host of people,” he continued. “And I’m making time to get to know everybody. And what I’m looking for isn’t specific to a certain race. There’s qualities that I’ve found endearing, and a whole host of people that I’ve been with in the past, whether that’s Black women, Middle Eastern women, Asian women, white women, and I just hope people are as open to that idea as I am.”

The Bachelor airs weekly on ABC.