Surprise -- Matt James is our new Bachelor!
The news was revealed Friday morning, and makes James the franchise's very first black Bachelor in its 18-year history. James' season will also be a milestone as the show's landmark 25th.
The announcement, made on Good Morning America, comes amid worldwide headlines about the Black Lives Matter movement.
James, a 28-year-old from Raleigh, North Carolina, was originally set to be a contestant on Clare Crawley's upcoming season of The Bachelorette. But, filming of Crawley's season was put on hold in March for coronavirus precautions, just ahead of the night she was supposed to meet her group of men.
A post shared by Matt James (@mattjames919) on Jan 16, 2020 at 11:42am PST
The ABC Food Tours co-founder is familiar to many fans in Bachelor Nation, though; he's best friends with former Bachelorette fan favorite Tyler Cameron, who was runner-up on Hannah Brown's season in 2019. James, Cameron and Brown all spent significant time quarantining together early on in in the pandemic.
The casting is a huge milestone for the Bachelor franchise, which has been criticized for its historic lack of diversity. Of The Bachelor's 24 seasons, just two have featured non-white men in the lead role. Season 18, which aired in 2014, starred Juan Pablo Galavis, who is Venezuelan. Season 24, which aired earlier this year, starred Peter Weber, who is half-Cuban.
A post shared by Matt James (@mattjames919) on Feb 9, 2020 at 3:42pm PST
Over the past five years, executives at the show's network, ABC, have promised that the franchise is working on making its cast more diverse when asked about the issue. Notably, Weber's season had the most diverse cast of women yet; about a third of contestants were women of color.
A post shared by Good Morning America (@goodmorningamerica) on Jun 12, 2020 at 5:31am PDT
The franchise has yet to announce when they'll resume filming The Bachelorette, but has started recasting some of the men due to scheduling. James, of course, will no longer appear as a Bachelorette contestant.
Many fans were hopeful they would see the first black Bachelor on season 24 because Mike Johnson, who appeared with Weber on Brown's Bachelorette season, was a fan favorite. At the time, ABC told ET that he was in the running for the gig.
The Bachelorette, meanwhile, cast its first black lead, Rachel Lindsay, for season 13 in 2017. Her historic season saw both a rise in diverse contestants as well as producers behind the scenes on the series. However, she told ET this week that those changes did not stick after her season.
Earlier this week, Lindsay made headlines as she threatened to cut ties with the Bachelor franchise unless strides were made towards inclusion and released a statement acknowledging "systemic racism." She currently co-hosts the franchise's official podcast: The Bachelor Happy Hour.
Longtime franchise host Chris Harrison previously told ET that while coronavirus had put Crawley's season of The Bachelorette on hold, the plan was to still film that season, and The Bachelor after that.
To nominate someone or apply for James' season, head to https://bachelornation.com/apply/. ;