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ABC Exec Rob Mills Defends Clare Crawley’s Young ‘Bachelorette’ Cast

Young and in love! That seems to be the motto on the Bachelor franchise. Peter Weber‘s final two women on season 24 of The Bachelor were both 23, five years younger than him.

Related: Meet the Men Vying for Clare Crawley

However, when ABC announced that Clare Crawley will be the season 16 Bachelorette, many fans cheered at the change. Crawley, who made her debut on Bachelor Nation in 2014, is 38, making her the oldest lead to date. So, it was assumed that the contestants would also be a bit older … which wasn’t exactly the case.

“I think the world has changed and people are waiting more [to find love]. We’re all living longer now, so people are waiting more, so I think that’s important to take into consideration. But certainly, you look at Hannah Brown last season who was 24, and she was poised, confident and ready,” ABC executive Rob Mills told Variety in a new interview.

Bachelor Exec Defends Young Bachelorette Cast Clare Crawlewy Grant L and James C
Grant L, Clare and James C. ABC (3)

He continued: “And these girls [on Peter’s season] were too. Look at Hannah Ann in the end, through the breakup — that was a woman who knows herself and knows what she wanted. Look, someone like Clare is certainly deserving of love, but so is someone who’s younger.”

The season 16 cast was announced on Tuesday, March 10, revealing that out of the 32 men vying for Crawley’s heart, 22 are in their 20s. The youngest, James C. from Chicago, is 23. The oldest man is Bret E. from Utah at 42 — he’s the only contestant over 40.

Related: All the Times 'Bachelor' Shocked Fans With Its Lead

When Crawley was announced as the next Bachelorette, she opened up about the positive side of looking for love at an older age.

“I feel like a lot of people put it out there as this negative thing,” she said on Good Morning America on March 2. “But for me, it’s just more years under my belt, more years of knowing what I want and what I don’t want, and what I won’t settle for.”

Related: Clare Crawley's Dating History

She also said that it’s “not a problem” if the men are younger than her.

“The thing is, I’m wondering if they’re ready for me with my age, so I feel like that would be more of an issue than me with them,” the California native said. “I feel so much younger at heart than my actual age — I’m proud of my age, but I just feel younger, and that, to me, is what’s important.”

The Bachelorette season 16 premieres on ABC Monday, May 18, at 8 p.m. ET.

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