'Bachelorette' Clare Crawley Thinks Matt James Always Wanted to Be 'The Bachelor' (Exclusive)

Matt was originally set to be a contestant on Clare's season, before being announced as the first Black Bachelor.

Bachelorette Clare Crawley has "nothing but respect" for Matt James -- but she also thinks it was always his goal to be the Bachelor.

The first Black male lead in Bachelor franchise history, Matt was previously announced as a contestant on Clare's upcoming season of The Bachelorette, though due to the coronavirus, the cycle halted production in March before Clare even met her men at the Bachelor mansion. The franchise later announced it was recasting some men for the season due to scheduling. 

As it turns out, Matt was one of the men to be recast. In June, he was named as the next franchise lead, and became the first Bachelor in 12 years to be cast without appearing on a previous season of The Bachelorette.

"I'm excited for him to start this journey," Clare told ET's Lauren Zima on Tuesday. "I knew it was something that was in his forefront, always, so for him to have this opportunity, I couldn't be more excited for him."

Fans speculated over Matt's departure earlier this year, after Clare appeared to shade him on Twitter for having a Cameo account. "If you are doing interviews and creating Cameo accounts before you are even on my season... you are in it for the wrong reasons... #dontwasteyourtime," she tweeted on April 25. "Respect the opportunity you’ve been given. Respect the rules. Respect me. @BacheloretteABC."

Matt was fiercely defended by some fans, who pointed out that he was donating profits from Cameo to charity. His best friend, Tyler Cameron, told ET in May that he'd love to see Matt and Clare "hash it out." 

"I don't know Matt personally," Clare noted. "I think that he- As the Bachelor, he's got something that he's always wanted."

"I'm not saying it in a negative way," she added. "I'm just saying, I think it was no secret that he always wanted to be the Bachelor."

Clare admitted that she never spoke to Matt "personally" about his decision to take on the role, noting that her impression came from social media messages and "conversations that have been had." However, she stressed that there was no bad blood between them.

"It's not a bad thing, if that's what he wants and if that's his goal for things -- more power to him," she added. "I'm excited for him and his journey and I have nothing but respect for him."

Matt has also shown his public support for Clare's season. When Clare's refreshed pool of contestants -- which featured some original and some new faces -- was revealed in July, Matt commented, "I’m tuned in! She is gonna be great." 

Clare's season of The Bachelorette premieres Tuesday at 8 p.m. ET/PT on ABC. Check out ET's exclusive sneak peek in the video below!