Matt James has been named the next star of “The Bachelor,” the first Black lead to land the part in the show’s history.
James, 28, will star on the reality franchise’s 25th season, ABC announced Friday. The show is expected to premiere in 2021.
A real estate broker, entrepreneur and community organization founder, James’ name may sound familiar to fans. He was scheduled to compete as one of the men trying to capture Clare Crawley’s heart on her season of “The Bachelorette,” but production was postponed in March due to the coronavirus.
Rachel Lindsay, who was the first Black “Bachelorette” star in 2017, has been open about her desire to make the franchise more diverse.
"I really thought I could be the one to open the door to diversity, but I feel like I haven't been heard," she told TODAY earlier this week.
"We know we have a responsibility to make sure the love stories we’re seeing onscreen are representative of the world we live in, and we are proudly in service to our audience," ABC said in a statement. "This is just the beginning, and we will continue to take action with regard to diversity issues on this franchise. We feel so privileged to have Matt as our first Black Bachelor and we cannot wait to embark on this journey with him.”
In addition to being the show's first Black star, James is also the first man to land the gig without having actually appeared on "The Bachelorette" since Matt Grant in 2008.
It’s unclear if James will return to “The Bachelorette,” although in May host Chris Harrison said he would.
"As far as I know, (he'll still be a contestant). I mean, I have not heard anything different," Harrison said. "I mean, I don't know if he wants to do this after quarantine, who knows? But as far as I know, yes."
James’ roots in “The Bachelor” franchise run even deeper. He lives in New York City with his best friend, Tyler Cameron, who fans may remember from his run on “The Bachelorette” during Hannah Brown’s season. Brown and James run a charity called ABC Food Tours which helps underprivileged children in New York City.
"He is the total package," ABC said of James in its statement. "He has strong family values, a great career, and over the past few months, he has used his growing platform for good."
James hails from North Carolina and played football at Wake Forest University, where he majored in economics. After graduating in 2014, he had a few tryouts with the NFL’s New Orleans Saints and Carolina Panthers.