Fans are hoping we'll see a black Bachelor for season 25 -- and Rachel Lindsay has some thoughts. In an interview with ET's Lauren Zima on Tuesday, the former Bachelorette broke down a few of the men who fans think could potentially get the gig. Over 70,000 viewers and counting have signed a Change.org petition for The Bachelor to cast a black lead for season 25.
The most popular choice last year was Mike Johnson, a portfolio manager and Air Force veteran, who many viewers were certain was going to become the Bachelor franchise's first black male lead after appearing as a contestant on Hannah Brown's season of The Bachelorette. The role instead went to Peter Weber.
Lindsay says Johnson was a "gift," and a perfect choice for Bachelor. But, the attorney revealed to ET on Tuesday that she asked production at the time why they didn't go with Johnson, to which they explained it was something behind the scenes. "I was told there was a reason. What that reason may be, I don't know," she reveals. "I wasn't given a specific answer." Lindsay says she does not believe that Johnson was passed on for the job because of his race.
"They do all kinds of background checks and vet things out. I have no idea what the reason was, but they have it. I'm told they have a reason," Lindsay says, "because I was definitely up in arms when I found out it wasn't going to be him."
But even with that knowledge, Lindsay is "definitely still an advocate" for Johnson, and noted that he recently posted that he's single. "I feel like that post was on purpose," she guesses.
Many fans, meanwhile, have thrown their support behind Matt James, the best friend of popular Bachelorette alum Tyler Cameron. In March, it was announced in that James would be a contestant on Clare Crawley's upcoming season of the dating show. Production was then paused on Crawley's cycle due to coronavirus concerns. The franchise has yet to announce a new start date, but has revealed that they're recasting some of the men due to scheduling. But Lindsay is not a proponent for James.
"Matt James, we don't even know you," Lindsay jokingly calls out. "The only reason people are into Matt James is because people are into Tyler. We don't know anything about Matt James other than the fact that he's affiliated with Tyler."
"So, I can't say I'm sold on him, because I know nothing about him," she shares of the 28-year-old.
However, that's not to say Lindsay is against casting a fresh face as the Bachelor. "I'm also an advocate for just bringing somebody in who's not affiliated with the franchise," she says.
The attorney recently heard Rashad Jennings' name thrown out, and she "loved that choice." The former football player also has a history with ABC and is popular with the network's viewers; he won season 24 of Dancing With the Stars in 2017.
"If that's what it takes, bringing somebody who's not affiliated with the franchise, I'm for that. That's what they used to do," Lindsay notes. "They did it with Kristian [Haggerty] and Demi [Burnett, on Bachelor in Paradise]. So, I don't have a problem with that at all."
"If you don't feel like there's a good candidate for whatever reason, then let's do whatever we need to do to have a lead of color," she suggests.
Lindsay is the Bachelor franchise's only black lead in its 18-year history and the only Bachelorette of color. The Bachelor has had two Hispanic leads, Juan Pablo Galavis and Peter Weber.
In a powerful post on her blog on Monday, Lindsay said she would cut ties with The Bachelor unless they made real strides toward diversity and released a statement acknowledging "systemic racism" in the franchise.
"Since the blog, no, I haven't heard from anyone," Lindsay tells ET. "In the past week, yes. I have heard from an executive producer just saying that they hear me and they want to make changes."
"It does [feel good], but this isn't my first rodeo with hearing an executive producer say, 'We want to make some changes.' I believe you want to, or I used to believe you want to. But I'm not seeing anything," she adds. "I've been affiliated with this franchise for almost four years and I hear you. But I'm not seeing any action behind those words."
To Lindsay, it's taken so long for The Bachelor to cast a black lead because "they want to pick the closest to perfect lead of color they can, so the audience can say, 'Oh, I understand.'" Though it hasn't been directly said to her, she feels that Bachelor candidates of color are held to a different standard. "They can't be mediocre. And let's be honest, we've had a lot of mediocre leads," she points out.
See more on the changes Lindsay would like to see in the franchise in the video below.