After wrapping up The Bachelorette on Dec. 22, ABC is ushering in its latest new franchise lead, Matt James, for The Bachelor with a history-making season.
James was announced as the lead in an unprecedented manner — many months before he’d even film — and he kept the secret locked tight, not even telling his own mom until the live broadcast announcement. The announcement itself is definitely one of the lesser incredible ways that James is changing up the franchise for the first time.
He’s a Black man
For the first time ever in The Bachelor franchise (25 seasons), the person who’s “looking for love” is a Black man. The show has recently faced much criticism for lacking in diversity in front of and behind the camera. And amidst the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests, ABC decided to announce in June — via a Good Morning America interview — that James would take the role in lieu of going on Clare Crawley’s season of The Bachelorette.
In response to whether being cast as the first Black lead on The Bachelor points to lasting change in the franchise on GMA, James said: “I think it’s a step in the right direction.” He continued, “This is hopefully the first of many Black men to be in the position that I’m at now.”
He hasn’t been a contestant on the show
Typically, The Bachelor lead is picked due to being a frontrunner and fan-favorite from a prior season as a contestant on The Bachelorette. And while some recent leads’ announcements have been shocking — often due to being a few years removed from being a contestant — the audience has never even seen James on any iteration of the show before. Prior to James’ announcement as The Bachelor, he was supposed to be a contestant on Crawley’s season, but after the news broke, his plans clearly changed.
From the audience’s perspective, this is fascinating. Since James has never been on the show before, his narrative as the lead will be completely new to all. He won’t have a built-in narrative that’s connected to a prior lead, and audiences will have to get to know him alongside the women on the show.
However, even though James hasn’t appeared on any of The Bachelor franchise shows, he is known to some of the audience due to being former contestant Tyler Cameron’s BFF, as well as former Bachelorette Hannah Brown’s. People have gotten to know James a little bit due to his social media presence, but that’s nothing compared to the intimate look that reality television tends to curate of its talent.
The entire season will take place at a Pennsylvania resort
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, James’ season avoided all domestic and international travel and was filmed entirely at the Nemacolin Woodlands Resort in Pennsylvania. Just like Crawley’s season — which then turned into Tayshia Adams’ season — the show’s romantic dates will all take place within the confines of the resort’s area due to safety concerns. However, instead of experiencing the dry heat of La Quinta, California — where the most recent season of The Bachelorette took place — James’ contestants got to film in the beautiful Pennsylvania fall weather surrounded by snow.
Despite the lack of travel, if Crawley and Adams’ go at The Bachelorette taught us anything, it’s that the producers and crew of this franchise can make a dramatic and sizzling season even without the romantic backdrop of worldly cities. And regardless, the excitement of James being the first Black male lead as well as someone completely new to the franchise should be more than enough to springboard this season into the audience’s must-watch list for January.
The Bachelor premiere airs on Jan. 4 at 8 p.m. EST on ABC.
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