“It’s atrocious,” Johnson, 32, told Variety on Monday, August 10. “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.”
“It should not have taken an outcry from the fans, who I absolutely adore — that was a clear sign that there is power in numbers,” he explained. “I love the fans who signed petitions and things like that, but it shouldn’t have taken that.”
Ahead of James’ Bachelor announcement, there was speculation that Johnson was in the running to be cast and Bachelor Nation called for a Black lead by signing a petition amid the Black Lives Matter protests.
The Texas native added: “I hope that they do listen. And I hope that it’s not just the leads and contestants, but people in charge should also be diverse, as well.”
The U.S. Air Force veteran said he’s “happy” that James was announced to helm season 25 of the series in June. He did, however, note that he also had discussions with ABC about being the first Black Bachelor.
“I conveyed to them that I would absolutely love it. I wouldn’t be shy about it, and I’d go out in front of it,” the Bachelor in Paradise alum explained. “I brought up Tiger Woods, Eminem and Serena Williams because the three of those people are in areas that are not predominantly with people in their race, but they’ve all crushed it, so I told the people who were interviewing me that I would do the same.”
Johnson continued: “I’m like no other Bachelor in the past — I’m not white, I have tattoos, I’m a veteran of the Air Force and I speak my mind.”
The Making Love You Want author made it known that he thinks the franchise is missing the boat when it comes to inclusivity.
“I want The Bachelor to be a representation of America. It’s supposed to be about love, and love comes in all forms and colors — not just white America,” he told the outlet. “If the show wants to continue to be absolutely amazing, I would want it to not only be the poster child for the show with the Bachelor or Bachelorette who is diverse, but also people from the top down, so the contestants feel like they can relate to someone on the show.”
He added: “It needs to be a melting pot on diversity and culture differences because it’s not just about color. I would like for the show to represent all of America.”
Earlier this month, Us Weekly confirmed that Tayshia Adams will take over as season 16’s lead following Clare Crawley’s decision to step down as the Bachelorette after finding love with a contestant. Although ABC has yet to comment on the lead change, Johnson is ready to see another Black female getting her shot at love.
“I’m obviously a proponent for representation — if she’s the new Bachelorette, which it seems almost certain that she is Bachelorette — this is wonderful,” Johnson told Variety. “And I know she wants love, I know she’s extremely thoughtful in her process of thinking things through and she loves to have fun. She’s a wonderful catch.”
When it comes to why she was chosen, the former reality star doesn’t think it had anything to do with the color of her skin. “I think that whatever the hell happened, they needed a new Bachelorette, and it had nothing to do with diversity,” he said. “I don’t feel Tayshia was chosen because she is a Black woman.”