James, 33, has been cast as the first-ever black lead of the male-led version of the dating show, but some fans are disappointed that Mike Johnson, a popular suitor on Hannah Brown’s season of The Bachelorette, was once again passed over for the role.
In a departure from the rose-filled reality show’s usual casting cycle, James has never appeared on a previous season of The Bachelorette. Instead, he is the best friend of Brown’s runner-up, Tyler Cameron, and was recently announced as a suitor for Clare Crawley’s upcoming season of the dating franchise.
In comments to ABC’s announcement, fans were confused, with some asking who James was. Others felt Johnson, who works as a portfolio manager and is an Air Force veteran, was robbed.
“Congrats. But would have much rather seen [Mike Johnson],” one fan wrote.
“How can you play Mike like that,” added another, with the hashtag “mikeforbachelor.”
“Seriously! I don’t understand what the issue with Mike is,” a third comment read.
“Again, [Mike Johnson] got the shaft by the show and [ABC],” remarked a fourth.
The Bachelor has faced years of controversy about its lack of diversity for its leads. Rachel Lindsay, the only black Bachelorette ever cast on the show, has been vocal about the fact that a black Bachelor star is long overdue. The leading lady even threatened to stop working with the franchise if changes weren’t made.
Earlier this week, Lindsay told Entertainment Tonight that while she feels Johnson was the perfect choice for The Bachelor after his stint on Brown’s season, producers told her there was a reason Peter Weber was cast as The Bachelor instead of Johnson last season. Lindsay said she wasn’t given a “specific” reason why he didn’t get the role, but she added she did not think it was due to 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 said. The Bachelorette star also noted that Johnson is still single.
As for James, Lindsay said what many others are also now thinking.
“Matt James, we don’t even know you,” she said. “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.”
The Bachelorette star added that she can’t say she is “sold” on James because she knows nothing about him.