The real estate agent, 28, was announced as the season 25 lead on Good Morning America on Monday, June 12, making him the first black Bachelor. James was originally set to be part of Clare Crawley‘s season of The Bachelorette, which was delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic and will most likely begin filming next month.
“Producers have had their eye on Matt for a while now and always felt he would make a fantastic Bachelor. Had he appeared on The Bachelorette first, it would have been a trial run of sorts and he likely would have been named the next Bachelor anyway,” the insider adds. “Matt is very charismatic, funny, charming and goal-oriented — all of the qualities that producers look for in a lead.”
In fact, “the early stages of casting the women for Matt’s season are already underway,” the source tells Us. “Several potential contestants had already been contacted prior to today’s announcement.”
The North Carolina native is also “serious about finding his person,” and is looking for real love. He’s also been chatting with best friend Tyler Cameron about starring on the show, as Cameron, 28, appeared on Hannah Brown‘s season of The Bachelorette.
“Tyler is excited for Matt and has already given him some pointers and even joked about what to expect from the show,” the insider adds. “He has told Matt to just have fun with it and let the process take its course.”
Before James, season 13 Bachelorette Rachel Lindsay was the franchise’s only black lead in its nearly two decades. Although Lindsay, 35, has been very vocal about the lack of diversity on the show, last week she revealed that she would be walking away from Bachelor Nation if the season 25 lead wasn’t a person of color. However, Friday’s decision “truly had nothing to do” with her comments, the source adds.
“It wasn’t a response to that. We could have made this announcement earlier or later,” ABC Exec Rob Mills confirmed told Variety on Friday. “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.”
He continued: “We don’t want this, in any way, to seem like a cure-all and seem like, ‘Hey! Look what we did here!’ 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.”
With reporting by Nicholas HautmanListen on Spotify to Here For the Right Reasons to get inside scoop about the Bachelor franchise and exclusive interviews from contestants.
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