“I was actually supposed to be a contestant on Clare [Crawley]’s season and I ended up quarantining down in Florida because they kind of put things on halt,” James told the talk show host.
The North Carolina native was quarantining with friends, including Bachelor Nation fan-favorite Tyler Cameron and former Bachelorette Hannah Brown, as a part of the Quarantine Crew documenting their quarantine on Instagram and TikTok. He continued, “And I got a call in between a water balloon fight that I was gonna be considered for The Bachelor and I thought that they were pulling my leg. And then, here we are eight months later.
James made history when he was announced as the Bachelor in June, marking the first Black man to take on the mantle. Originally announced to be a contestant on Crawley’s season of The Bachelorette, his casting occurred before the dating show resumed filming amid pandemic-related production delays. He is the first lead since 2008 to not have appeared on a previous iteration of the dating franchise.
“I honestly thought it was a joke because I was like, this is too far out of left field, you know, that was the last thing I was expecting to get on my phone,” the New York-based real estate broker revealed. “It was a phone number I didn’t have saved and so I really downplayed it.
However, production for The Bachelor called him back, and “were like, ‘No, seriously.’ And I kinda sat down for a second and I was like, ‘I’m in. I’m honored,’ you know.”
The rest, as they say, is history. At least history-making.
James’ Connection to the Franchise Was Through Tyler Cameron
While James is new to the dating franchise, he is not completely removed. He currently lives with Cameron and the two co-founded a non-profit, ABC Food Tours, which introduces underprivileged kids to fitness and cultural food experiences.
Their friendship happened long before their New York City days, meeting as teammates on the Wake Forest University football team.
After seeing the impact of the competition on Cameron’s life, Cameron’s mom nominated James.
“She would be happy to know that I followed through with it,” James told Entertainment Tonight. “I think she saw everything that it did for Tyler and the way that he had changed as a man, and me being his roommate and being one of her sons, I think that she wanted something like that for myself.”
Cameron’s mother passed away before James could take on the role.
James Was Cast Amid a Growing Outcry for Increased Diversity in the Franchise
James’ casting came shortly after a Change.org petition gained steam amid Bachelor Nation fans and stars. The petition called for a Black lead for season 25 of The Bachelor and increased diversity throughout the cast and crew of the dating franchise.
“ABC and Warner Bros. have been producing Bachelor content for 18 years,” the petition stated. “During that time they’ve cast 40 season leads, yet only one Black lead. This is unacceptable.”
It continued, calling Bachelor Nation “one of the most popular and influential franchises on television” and called on it to “reflect and honor the racial diversity of our country–both in front of and behind the camera.”
After ABC announced James’ casting, the President of ABC released a statement saying, “This is just the beginning, and we will continue to take action with regard to diversity issues in the franchise. We feel so privileged to have Matt as our first Black Bachelor and we cannot wait to embark on this journey with him.”
James’ season of The Bachelor continues on Monday at 8:00 p.m. Eastern.