(CBS News) - Fans of “The Bachelor” started a petition Monday urging the show to focus on more diversity. Less than a week later, ABC has announced it cast a black man as “The Bachelor” – 28-year-old Matt James.
James is the first black male lead in the franchise’s 18-year history. He was originally cast as a suitor on Clare Crawley’s upcoming season of “The Bachelorette,” which was delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to Good Morning America, which helped the franchise reveal the news on Friday.
Crawley’s season will now air in the fall and James’ season will follow. In his interview with GMA, James opened up about his new, historic role.
“It’s an honor,” James said. “I’m just going to lean into myself and how my mom raised me and hopefully when people invite me into their homes on Monday night they’re going to see that I’m not much different from them and they see that diverse love stories are beautiful.”
James is a real estate broker, entrepreneur and founder of ABC Food Tours, an organization that works to find creative ways to engage kids from underserved communities in New York City. He is a North Carolina native and graduate of Wake Forest University. He is also friends with "Bachelorette" alum Tyler Cameron.
The Bachelor Diversity campaign, launched by fans this week, created a petition asking producers to cast a black bachelor as the season 25 lead, and cast BIPOC for at least 35% of contestants in all future seasons, among many other requests.
"As creators of one of the most popular and influential franchises on television, ABC and Warner Bros. have an opportunity and responsibility to feature Black, Indigenous, People of Color ("BIPOC") relationships, families, and storylines," the petition reads. "The franchise, and all those who represent it, should reflect and honor the racial diversity of our country – both in front of and behind the camera."
The petition has amassed nearly 90,000 signatures since June 8. Tyler Cameron, Kaitlyn Bristowe, Nick Viall, Ben Higgins, Arie Luyendyk, Rachel Lindsay, and many others have supported the efforts of the Bachelor Diversity Campaign, a spokesperson said in an email to CBS News.
After 40 seasons of both "The Bachelor" and the "Bachelorette," Lindsay has been the only black lead. She has been vocal about the show's lack of diversity.
On Monday, Lindsay wrote a blog post about her continued involvement with the franchise, saying four years after her season aired, there’s still not enough diversity on the show. In the blog post, Lindsay said if changes are not made “on the inside and outside of the franchise,” she will disassociate from it.
She listed several suggested changes, including casting leads "that are truly interested in dating outside of their race," diversifying producers, and not "creating problematic story lines for people of color."
CBS News has reached out to ABC for comment and is awaiting response.