(BBC) – For the first time in its history, The Bachelor, ABC’s hugely popular reality series, will feature a black lead.
Matt James, a 28-year-old real estate broker, will star in the next season, ABC announced on Friday, after mounting criticism over a lack of diversity.
The show’s nearly two decade history has seen overwhelmingly white casts, with just one black star in its sister spinoff, The Bachelorette, in 2017.
Mr James called his casting “a step in the right direction”.
“I don’t think it’s ever the wrong time to do the right thing,” Mr James said in an interview with Good Morning America on Friday.
An online petition signed by more than 86,000 people called for the television network to “reflect and honour the racial diversity of our country” and cast a Black bachelor for its upcoming season, in addition to casting black, indigenous and people of colour in at least 35% of the contestant roles.
The first and only black star of the Bachelorette, Rachel Lindsay, who is now married to the winning contestant of her season, told Good Morning America that she had hoped to be a “trailblazer” for the franchise, and has been disappointed by the lack of progress since.