So many ABC viewers went to bat to get Mike Johnson selected as the season 25 Bachelor. While former Bachelorette Hannah Brown‘s contestant didn’t get the title, Mike is thrilled that the show has finally cast a Black lead, even if the honor didn’t go to him. ABC on June 12 named Matt James as the latest hunk to go searching for love on the show. Rachel Lindsay — who as season 13’s Bachelorette had been the only Black lead in the franchise — had lobbied hard for Mike, publicly saying that he “checked every box” for what the show is looking for in a leading man. But Mike is just happy that the franchise’s network and producers are “listening” to fans about diversity.
In a June 12 Instagram video, the 32-year-old Air Force veteran was all smiles. He was seen standing outside in the bright sun and said, “What’s up beautiful people, it’s me Mike. I just want to give a huge shout out to Matt James as the new Bachelor. Congratulations bruh. I texted him earlier and show him love and shout him out publicly as well.”
Mike then told fans that they deserved credit for the The Bachelor finally having a Black lead. “I also want to give a huge shout out to ABC. They listened to us…I’m giving you a shout out as the fans. Love you guys so much. They listened to you guys. Your voices are definitely being heard. Give yourself a pat on the back, seriously, that’s amazing,” he continued.
While it seems somewhat bittersweet that Mike didn’t get the gig despite so many people pulling for him, he was so gracious in his video. “Don’t feel bad for me at all. I am just so elated. I have so many things coming down the pipeline. Just quite honestly, be happy, baby. Don’t say nothing bad about my homie. Matt’s gonna do a great job… we got a black lead which is an amazing thing,” he told fans.
The show’s executive producers made the announcement earlier in the day that Matt, 28, was their pick for The Bachelor season 25. He has mainly known to fans as being the BFF of Hannah’s runner up, Tyler Cameron, 27. Matt was originally cast to appear on The Bachelorette season 15, competing for Clare Crawley’s heart. But production halted in March as filming was barely underway due to the coronavirus outbreak. That gave ABC and producers a chance to consider Matt for bigger things.
“He would have been on Clare’s season if it started in March. When we realized the shutdown was going to extend through the summer, we started thinking about how we were going to choose our Bachelor,” ABC’s top unscripted executive, Rob Mills, who oversees The Bachelor franchise at ABC, told our sister site Variety.
“Matt was somebody who was on our radar and we were thinking about him. We were thinking do we announce him early, or do we put him on Clare’s season and then announce him later, if it doesn’t work out with Clare? We didn’t make a final decision until recently, but this has been talked about for quite some time,” Rob added.
The show’s executive producers released a statement about Matt’s casting and addressed how they are trying to do better when it comes to making the franchise more diverse. “We are excited to move forward with both Matt James as the new Bachelor and Clare Crawley as our next Bachelorette. We acknowledge our responsibility for the lack of representation of people of color on our franchise and pledge to make significant changes to address this issue moving forward,” it began.
“We are taking positive steps to expand diversity in our cast, in our staff, and most importantly, in the relationships that we show on television. We can and will do better to reflect the world around us and show all of its beautiful love stories,” the E.P.’s added.