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Rachel Lindsay wants more. Before Friday, the former Bachelorette remained the only black lead in Bachelor franchise history. Then, on Good Morning America, Matt James was announced as the next Bachelor -- the first black man to be cast in the role in its 18 years and 25 seasons.
The announcement came days after Lindsay said she would cut ties with the franchise if they didn't make real strides towards diversity and acknowledge their "systemic racism" in a statement. In an interview with ET on Tuesday, the attorney said she needed to see a person of color cast as the Bachelor for season 25 in order to stay.
"I think it's a step in the right direction. When Rachel speaks, we listen," James said on Good Morning America. "She has a very important voice in all this, being the first black woman, person of color to be a lead, and ... this is hopefully the first of many black men to be in the position I'm at now."
Lindsay also appeared on GMA to address James' historic casting. "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," Lindsay said.
"I want producers of color," she continued. "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. I need the acknowledgment of that. Not putting a band-aid over the situation and just saying, 'Here, we're going to put this here. Are you happy now?'"
She also later took to Twitter to address the timing of the franchise's announcement. "Congrats to Matt James," Linssay wrote. "I am happy to see that a black man was cast after 18 years and 40 seasons. I believe it is a step in the right direction."
Congrats to Matt James. I am happy to see that a black man was cast after 18 years and 40 seasons. I believe it is a step in the right direction.
I would be remiss to not point out that based on the current climate, it feels like a knee-jerk reaction and a result of societal pressure. This announcement, without any further commitments regarding diversity, sweepingly brushes deeper issues under the rug .
"I would be remiss to not point out that based on the current climate, it feels like a knee-jerk reaction and a result of societal pressure," she added. "This announcement, without any further commitments regarding diversity, sweepingly brushes deeper issues under the rug."
Until we see action to address the systemic racism within the franchise, the casting news today is equivalent to the trend of posting a black box on your social media account without other steps taken to dismantle the systems of injustice.
"Until we see action to address the systemic racism within the franchise, the casting news today is equivalent to the trend of posting a black box on your social media account without other steps taken to dismantle the systems of injustice," she concluded. "I look forward to hearing more about the additional efforts the franchise plans to make towards change."
James, who is best friends with Tyler Cameron, was originally cast as a contestant on Clare Crawley's season of The Bachelorette. Production on Crawley's cycle was halted in March, just before she met her suitors at the mansion. Crawley seemed to shade James on social media in April, calling him out for having a Cameo account and accusing him for not joining the franchise for the right reasons. Fans quickly came to his defense, pointing out that proceeds from his Cameo were being donated to charity, and calling for him to be the next Bachelor.
A source close to the situation tells ET that Crawley and Lindsay were told about Matt James being the new Bachelor the day before the announcement, noting that it’s typical ahead of any Bachelor or Bachelorette announcement for certain people to be looped in and get a heads up ahead of the big news.
The source added that Crawley supports this next move for the franchise and is, of course, excited for her season to get going too.
While speaking with ET on Tuesday, Lindsay addressed fans' support for James as the next lead.
"Matt James, we don't even know you," she jokingly called 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 added of the 28-year-old.
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 pointed out.
Lindsay said she was expecting to hear from the Bachelor franchise about her suggestions within the next week.
"Since the blog, no, I haven't heard from anyone," she told 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 said. "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."