The reveal, which was made on Good Morning America, is the first time in 12 years that a Bachelor has been cast without previously appearing on a season of The Bachelorette. Notably, James was supposed to be a contestant on Clare Crawley's cycle of the reality dating show, but production was halted due to coronavirus concerns on March 13, just before she met her suitors at the Bachelor mansion. This left the franchise in an unprecedented position, having to reconfigure schedules for all of its shows. Filming has yet to resume on The Bachelorette.
So, fans now have a Bachelorette and a Bachelor, but neither show is in production yet. On Friday, host Chris Harrison answered a fan asking about what James' announcement meant for Crawley's season. "We will still be doing Clare’s season first...Then Matt’s season of #TheBachelor," he tweeted.
Here's what we know about where things stand for the franchise.
Clare Crawley's Season Is Expected to Film This Summer
In an April interview with ET, Harrison assured fans that The Bachelorette was still their No. 1 priority over all other shows; Crawley, a longtime alumni of the franchise, had been promised her love story. He said the show's calendar was "in the shredder" due to the coronavirus, but production is hoping to start filming Crawley's season again later this summer, to air in the fall.
According to Harrison, it's possible that Crawley's season will film at a location other than the Bachelor mansion, and that the amount of travel will be decreased to ensure safety of the cast and crew.
Some of Her Contestants Are Being Recast
As the coronavirus outbreak continued, production knew they would have to recast some of the men on Crawley's season due to scheduling. Of course, James will no long appear as a contestant.
"Are they going to be healthy enough? Are jobs going to be on the line if they leave? All of our lives are turned upside down, so it's naive to think that all of these guys are going to be able to come back and pick right back up where we left off," Harrison previously told ET. "We are going to continue casting, so if you have someone... let us know."
Many fans hope recasting could also bring in men more suited for Crawley -- or for actually trying to find love. Fans critiqued her group of men, announced earlier this year, for being too young overall. Crawley, the franchise's oldest Bachelorette ever, is 38, though she has said she has dated younger men in the past. As ABC exec Rob Mills pointed out, James' casting as Bachelor could also eliminate the concern of men appearing on Crawley's season solely with the hope of becoming a lead themselves.
"I think where this is really great for Clare is that every guy who will be on her season will know there is no chance of becoming the Bachelor, so they should really all be there only for Clare," he told Variety in an interview published the morning of James' Bachelor announcement.
Matt James' Season Is Expected to Film This Fall
The early announcement of James as Bachelor doesn't mean his season will film any earlier. It was always intended for after Crawley's season of The Bachelorette. "We could have made this announcement earlier or later," Mills said. "Certainly no one is blind to what is happening in the world, so hopefully this announcement serves as a bit of optimism during a time that we can really use this."
Each season of The Bachelor or The Bachelorette films for about 10 weeks. If Crawley's season of The Bachelorette is in fact able to film in late summer, she'll wrap up at the start of fall, in time for James' season to start filming right after. His season will premiere in early 2021, sticking to the usual Bachelor plan. (The show typically films from September to November, and starts airing in January.)
Casting for His Season Has Already Begun
"I do want to emphasize we are casting [men for] the next Bachelorette, that is Clare, and [women for] the next Bachelor, we don't know who that is yet," Harrison told ET in April. "If you want to nominate someone, go to ABC.com/casting and nominate someone for The Bachelor and Bachelorette. We are still looking."
With at least two to three months before filming starts, the Bachelor team is hopeful about finding a cast of women that includes James' future wife, and committed to making sure diversity is a priority.
"Everyone agrees we can be doing better and we will work to do that," Mills told Variety. "I do think there have been some strides made -- small and maybe not enough, but there has been a commitment and that will continue."
The franchise has been working on diversity initiatives in recent years, and the last season of The Bachelor, Peter Weber's, featured the show's most diverse cast ever. But still, there had never been a Black Bachelor.
On Instagram, Harrison posted the news about James, with the caption, "We can and we will do better to portray diverse love stories that reflect the world around us. This is just the beginning."
James echoed that sentiment, saying on Good Morning America that he was looking forward to showcasing "diverse love stories" onscreen.
"I think a lot of people are in that situation where they're uncomfortable dating outside their race … it's a conversation starter for a lot of people and hopefully it paves the way for a lot of diverse love stories," he shared.
James is also taking inspiration from his mom when it comes to qualities he looks for in a wife. "[She is] selfless, honest, caring, compassionate -- those are qualities found in women of all shapes, sizes and races, it's not a black or white thing," he said. "So I'm hoping that when that limo pulls up, there's a lot of diversity and I see every type of woman."