8:45am PT by Jackie Strause
First Black 'Bachelor'? 'Bachelorette' Contestant "Definitely" in the Mix
Will ABC finally have its first black Bachelor star?
The hit reality dating franchise welcomed its first black Bachelorette in 2017 with Rachel Lindsay. The historic casting came late in the franchise's run (after 33 combined seasons of The Bachelor and The Bachelorette), but was a celebrated move that had the potential to steer the show into more inclusive territory.
Since then, summer spinoff Bachelor in Paradise has embraced diversity with its revolving-door cast of past stars, but the mainstays of the franchise have continued to be led by white stars. When asked about the potential for the first black lead of The Bachelor, the producers have consistently explained the combining factors at play when choosing a lead: that person has to be popular among the fans who make up "Bachelor Nation" and has to be sincere in his search for love.
Now, it seems the franchise has found someone who fits that bill.
Mike Johnson, a 31-year-old Air Force vet and portfolio manager from San Antonio, Texas, has emerged as a fan-favorite since his week seven elimination on Hannah Brown's currently airing The Bachelorette. When speaking to The Hollywood Reporter at the recent taping for the Men Tell All reunion show (which airs Monday night), host Chris Harrison said Johnson is "definitely in the mix" when it comes to casting the star of the forthcoming 24th season of The Bachelor.
"Everyone’s excited about Mike here tonight," Harrison told THR at the taping (which was filmed before news broke about Bachelor creator Mike Fleiss being accused of attacking his wife). "I love him. The smile, the charm, the sincerity, the maturity. He’s a great man and I feel like he’s a dear friend of mine already, so he’s a great candidate and he’s definitely going to be in the mix."
The franchise has more time when it comes to casting its male star. The Bachelorette heads into production shortly after The Bachelor wraps in early spring, which is why the female star is usually plucked from the previous cycle and announced during The Bachelor finale. The Bachelor, however, doesn't go into production until later in the fall, so the producers are able to see who pops from both The Bachelorette and summer's Bachelor in Paradise. Past Bachelors Nick Viall and Colton Underwood both went from Paradise to leading The Bachelor. When Johnson turns up on this summer's Paradise, that could only work in the fan-favorite's favor.
Still, Harrison cautions, "I know that, having been doing this a while, when we get to After the Final Rose and have two nights of that, people are going to be clamoring for those guys as well. So we have to let the dust settle a little bit and then go back to the board and debate this whole thing."
The two-night Bachelorette and After the Final Rose finale will see Brown continuing on her journey with three finalists: Jed Wyatt, Tyler Cameron and Peter Weber. Though Wyatt is an unlikely pick due to swirling off-camera drama, Cameron and Weber are other fan-favorites who would certainly also be in the running for the main gig if they aren't Brown's final choice.
But if you ask Johnson, he says it's "100 percent time to have a black Bachelor."
Also speaking to THR at the reunion show, Johnson said he would entertain the conversation if asked, indicating that he has yet to be officially approached. But he made a compelling case: "They’ve never had a Bachelor that’s a veteran either, so I think that it’s time to have a veteran that served the country as well."
In perhaps a reference to how race was mishandled during Lindsay's historic season, Johnson added to THR. "I’m super grateful that it’s even in the conversation, but most importantly, I would want to have a conversation about the contestants being there for the right reasons. That’s something that I hold near and dear to my heart. In this process, love is 100 percent possible. We have proof that love has happened and love can happen, and that’s what I have to say about that."
The Bachelorette: Men Tell All airs Monday at 8 p.m. on ABC.
Kristen Chuba contributed to this story.