Welcome to Bachelor Nation, Matt James!

In June 2020, ABC announced that Matt — who was originally going to compete on Clare Crawley‘s season of The Bachelorette — is set to be the first Black Bachelor. Bachelor Nation had already gotten to know the former football player as he is best friends with Tyler Cameron, who came in second place on Hannah Brown‘s season of The Bachelorette in 2019.

When the reveal was made, the ABC Food Tours founder shared how blessed he is to become the first Black Bachelor — something that ABC had been asked about for years.

“I don’t think it’s ever the wrong time to do the right thing. We can’t have change until we put that first foot forward,” he said on Good Morning America on June 12. “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 again it paves the way for a lot of diverse love stories, because those are beautiful stories.”

Shortly after the news broke, the real estate broker popped up on The Bachelor: The Greatest Seasons — Ever! and shared his excitement with host Chris Harrison.

“I’ve heard from a lot of my Black friends that aren’t Bachelor Nation faithful that are excited about me and honored that I’m in the position I’m in and have this opportunity to just represent what it’s going to look like to have diverse relationships and tell those love stories,” he said.

The announcement also opened up a wider conversation on ABC’s end when it comes to casting.

“We can and we will do better to portray diverse love stories that reflect the world around us,” Harrison, 49, posted via Twitter following the news. “This is just the beginning.” (Rachel Lindsay paved the way as the first Black Bachelorette in 2017.)

Hours after the reveal, the executive producers of the show also released a joint statement, vowing to do better casting more diverse suitors and leads. “We acknowledge our responsibility for the lack of representation of people of color on our franchise and pledge to make significant changes to address this issue moving forward,” they said in a statement on June 12. “We are taking positive steps to expand diversity in our cast, in our staff, and most importantly, in the relationships that we show on television. We can and will do better to reflect the world around us and show all of its beautiful love stories.”

Scroll through the gallery for everything we know so far about his upcoming season.

Location

Matt’s season is set to film at the Nemacolin Woodlands Resort in Pennsylvania — a location used for a two-on-one date during JoJo Fletcher‘s season of The Bachelorette in 2016. Matt tagged the resort in a September post on Instagram ahead of filming, writing, “See y’all in a few months.”

Courtesy of Jason Tartick/Instagram

Filming Schedule

Season 25 will begin filming toward the end of September, Us Weekly confirmed in July. The show wrapped in late November.

 

Courtesy of Matt James Instagram

Premiere Date

Matt’s season will premiere on ABC Monday, January 4.

 

Shutterstock

A Learning Curve

Harrison told Us that there were “some mess-ups and some trip-ups” as Matt’s never filmed a reality show before.

 

“There were also some trials and tribulations and a few hurdles we had to overcome. … It is an extraordinary circumstance and a range of emotions. And I told him, ‘You’re going to feel it all. There will be moments where you want to punch me in the face and you’re going to be crying and upset.’ And he’s like, ‘Whatever, man, it’s all good,’” he told Us. “And lo and behold, he didn’t punch me. But you know, there were just these moments, the show strips you down. It takes you on this emotional ride that most people don’t understand until you’re a part of it.”

 

ABC

Never Been in Love

In the trailer for the season, Matt admits he’s never been in love. The host gave Us insight into how his revelation affects the season.

 

“It’s not that he hasn’t said ‘I love you’ before. I think the problem with him is he realized being the Bachelor, he had never fully understood what it means. He didn’t understand the weight of it,” Harrison explained. “And now I think this has really opened [his] eyes and one thing about the Bachelor or Bachelorette — you can ask any of them — it changes you. … He is a different man than when he came to us in and he got really a crash course because he didn’t get the few steps of being on the show. He really just ripped the Band-Aid off and sometimes that hurts a little bit. So, I think he had a bit of a rude awakening of the man he is, the way he loves [and] what love means to him. It really is an amazing journey you’re going to take with Matt, not just as the Bachelor but also as this man who realizes, ‘Wow, OK, this is love and this is what it means and I’m really here to find this.’”

 

Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP/Shutterstock; ABC/Billy Kidd

What He’s Looking For

During his appearance on GMA, the model said he was looking for a “selfless, honest, caring, compassionate” woman and hopes “there’s a lot of diversity and I see every type of woman coming out of that limo.”

He also shared what his mom hopes for. “I think that the grandkid counter for my mom started when that announcement was made,” he said during The Bachelor: The Greatest Seasons — Ever in June. “She wants a basketball team! I’ll have a minivan, that’s the max.”

ABC

Night 1 Details

“It was so interesting because Matt is not on the season of The Bachelorette, and the reason why we take leads from a previous season is because you know them so well and we can predict which person he might like or not, but we just didn’t know at all, so it was really fun to watch him interact with everyone,” ABC Entertainment executive Robert Mills told Variety in an October 2020 interview. “And the women were so fantastic. It couldn’t have gone better.”

Gregory Pace/Shutterstock

Perfection

The host told ET that the format and formula used to shoot The Bachelorette is “working out perfectly” on The Bachelor as well. “I can tell you it’s working, it’s successful and — knock on wood — it’ll continue to be successful,” he said in a November 2020 interview. “He is absolutely awesome. I can’t wait for people to see his season of The Bachelor.”

Kathy Hutchins/Shutterstock; ABC/Craig Sjodin

The Only Lead

After Clare Crawley wrapped up her Bachelorette season 16 journey early because she was in love with Dale Moss, ABC called in Tayshia Adams to take over. Mills confirmed Matt will be the only season 25 lead. 

 

“Matt did something on night one that we’ve never had happen before … It’s not what you think though, it’s really crazy,” Mills teased on “Viall Files” in October 2020. “[But] I feel confident saying Matt James will be the only Bachelor this season.”

 

ABC/Kwaku Alston; ABC/Craig Sjodin