Former 'Bachelorette' Star Mike Johnson Calls Diversity Efforts 'Atrocious'
ABC's very popular Bachelor franchise has been called out for its lack of diversity before — Rachel Lindsay is the only Black lead with a season (the 13th) that has aired so far, with Matt James scheduled to be the first Black Bachelor with his upcoming season — and Mike Johnson wishes it hadn't taken online petitions and fans speaking out to see a change.
"It's atrocious," Johnson, who was one of Hannah Brown's potential suitors in The Bachelorette Season 15 and appeared on Bachelor in Paradise Season 6, tells Variety. "There have been numerous, wonderful Black and indigenous people of color that could have been cast in the lead roles, and for the franchise to not to do that, it’s just terrible." He's hoping that going forward, there is a change, and not just in front of the camera, but with the "people in charge," too.
Matt is going be the first Black Bachelor, in Season 25, but Johnson was considered for Season 24, Peter Weber's. (He compared how that played out to "when you go for a job interview and you never hear back, but then you just don't get the job.") In his mind, "Peter was the perfect fit for what they like," while he's "like no other Bachelor in the past," Johnson explained. (He noted he was never told why he ultimately was not chosen.)
"I'm not white, I have tattoos, I'm a veteran of the Air Force and I speak my mind," he said. He's hoping that he can see the franchise "to be a representation of America" and "a melting pot on diversity and culture differences because it’s not just about color."
He's "happy that it's Matt" but does think "the timing was definitely off" for the announcement of the new lead being announced, calling it "very forced." (Lindsay said she'd leave the franchise if she didn't see a change about a week earlier.)
As for the rumors going around about Clare Crawley's upcoming season of The Bachelorette and Tayshia Adams potentially replacing her mid-season, Johnson's relying on the news to find out anything official. But if there is a switch, "I don't think they were like, 'We need a Black lead, so we're choosing Tayshia,'" he said.
The Bachelorette, Season 16, Fall 2020, ABC
The Bachelor, Season 25, TBA, ABC