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Chris Harrison Says Matt James as Bachelor Is ‘Just the Beginning’ of the Franchise Portraying ‘Diverse Love Stories’

First but not the last? Chris Harrison spoke out about casting Matt James as the first black Bachelor, claiming that the move is an initial step to diversify the franchise.

Related: Who Is Matt James? 5 Things to Know

“Congrats Matt James!” the longtime host, 48, wrote via Instagram on Friday, June 12. “#TheBachelor family is thrilled to start this journey with our new Bachelor! We can and we will do better to portray diverse love stories that reflect the world around us. This is just the beginning.”

The Bachelor surprised fans on Friday morning when the show announced that James, 28, will be the lead for season 25. The real estate broker was originally supposed to appear on Clare Crawley’s season of The Bachelorette, which has yet to begin filming and will still air before The Bachelor.

The Bachelor Matt James as franchise 1st black bachelor
Matt James ABC/Craig Sjodin

Related: Former ‘Bachelor’ and ‘Bachelorette’ Leads: Where Are They Now?

“It’s an honor,” James shared during the Friday episode of Good Morning America. “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 nights, they’re going to see that I’m not much different from them and they see that diverse love stories are beautiful.”

In April, the ABC Food Tours cofounder expressed his eagerness to meet Crawley, 39, after the quarantine caused by the coronavirus pandemic. “I’ve been very patient up to this point, and there is a young woman who’s in Sacramento right now that I’m looking forward to meeting once all this stuff settles down,” he told Us Weekly exclusively at the time. “So I’m hoping that I can be patient a little bit longer and ride this thing out and everyone’s safe and then we can get back to our daily lives and moving forward.”

Chris Harrison Says Matt James as Bachelor Just The Beginning 2
Chris Harrison Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP/Shutterstock; ABC

Related: ‘The Bachelorette’ Season 16: Everything We Know

Rachel Lindsay, who was the first black lead when she starred as the Bachelorette in season 13, reacted to James’ casting after calling out the franchise. “I was hoping when I came on to be a trailblazer for that and to increase diversity in the audience that watches it. But in the last three years, there really haven’t been changes made,” the reality star, 35, said on Good Morning America. “I want producers of color. I’d like for them to cast leads that are interested in dating outside of their race that aren’t just getting their first-time experience — for the first time — on national TV.”

She added: “Not putting a Band-Aid over the situation and just saying, ‘Here, we’re going to put this here. Are you happy now?’”

Meanwhile, ABC executive Rob Mills alleged to Variety on Friday that picking James as the season 25 Bachelor “wasn’t a response” to Lindsay’s assertion that she would leave the franchise if actions were not taken to diversify the shows.

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