In an unexpected announcement Friday morning, ABC announced that it had its Bachelor lead for 2021: Matt James, who will star in the show's 25th season as the first Black Bachelor. If you're wondering who Matt James is, you're not alone. Unlike previous Bachelors, James is not a fan favorite (yet!), nor has the season he was intended to star in even aired. James was cast as a suitor for Clare Crawley's Bachelorette season, production of which has been delayed in light of the coronavirus pandemic, and ABC claims that they instantly knew James to be the perfect fit for their leading man.
It's worth noting that the show has come under fire this week for its lack of diversity. In 40 seasons, the show has had exactly one Black lead: Rachel Lindsay, who starred as The Bachelorette but is now claiming she'll leave the franchise if calls to increase the diversity and treatment of cast members and production alike aren't met. This week, a petition called "A Campaign for Anti-Racism on The Bachelor" circulated, which has been signed by 84,000 people and counting. One of the demands of the petition is that the next Bachelor be a Black man, a call that ABC clearly took to heart.
Here's what we know about James.
James was cast as a contestant on Clare Crawley's season.
Crawley's season has been delayed, but James, 28, was initially intended to be a cast member on The Bachelorette. In a statement, Karey Burke, president of ABC Entertainment, said: "When filming [Crawley’s season] 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."
There was a weird incident, however: Crawley seemingly subtweeted James in a tweet, suggesting he wasn't there for the "right reasons" because he had a Cameo account.
Fans quickly rushed to James' defense, because all James' profits from Cameo were going to charity, and James is heavily involved in the nonprofit world. Chris Harrison jumped in the fray to calm things down: "She's not specifically talking about Matt, she's just saying she's living under a certain set of guidelines and rules because she's the Bachelorette. She's kind of already in our family, and she's been respecting that...These guys aren't living under those guidelines, because they're not really part of our thing yet."
Crawley's season is scheduled to start filming in July, so I guess James...won't be there?
He's friends with alums Hannah Brown and Tyler Cameron.
Remember when Brown and Cameron were quarantining together with a bunch of friends in Florida, making viral TikTok videos and fueling rumors that the two might be getting back together? Yeah, James was there. He remains close with both Brown and Cameron; Cameron in particular is all over James' Instagram.
James also founded ABC Food Tours, which you can learn more about here (and which you've probably also seen Cameron promoting on Instagram). James says he had the idea after running into a group of elementary school kids in Manhattan's Lower East Side and wanted to find a way to engage with other kids in underserved communities. "Our goal is to implement an experiential learning platform for students in NYC living in underserved communities that will educate, motivate, and inspire them to overcome life’s obstacles," says its About Us page.
He's a former football player.
James played football at Wake Forest University before a brief stint as a wide receiver in the NFL; he missed his shot with the Carolina Panthers and then was cut (twice) by the New Orleans Saints. He then moved to New York City. "I didn’t think I was going to make a career out of football, but I thought my stint in the NFL would be longer than a few months," he said in an interview.
He's a vocal supporter of Black Lives Matter.
While leads of The Bachelor and Bachelorette are often painfully apolitical (or worse), James, thankfully, isn't afraid to speak up. He's posted a number of Instagrams about the nationwide protests triggered by the police killing of George Floyd, and has been vocal about how Black men are perceived. This week, he wrote on Instagram: "'It’s cool, his mom is white” or how bout “Nah he’s good, he’s an athlete.. ”Do we have to lead with those things to be treated fairly? This is for everyone who isn’t given the “benefit of the doubt” 🗣Its Everybody vs Racism #BlackLivesMatter."
It hasn't been announced exactly when James' season will air, but usually Bachelor seasons premiere in the first weeks of January.