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“We support Chris in the work that he is committed to doing. In his absence, former Bachelorettes Tayshia Adams and Kaitlyn Bristowe will support the new Bachelorette through next season,” said ABC Entertainment, the network home to the reality franchise, and producers Warner Horizon in a joint statement to The Hollywood Reporter on Friday evening.
The statement, which comes ahead of Monday’s Bachelor finale, continued, “As we continue the dialogue around achieving greater equity and inclusion within The Bachelor franchise, we are dedicated to improving the BIPOC representation of our crew, including among the executive producer ranks. These are important steps in effecting fundamental change so that our franchise is a celebration of love that is reflective of our world.”
Production on The Bachelorette season 17 is already underway in New Mexico, according to a source. Adams, the franchise’s most recent Bachelorette, and Bristowe, who led the 2015 season, have been tapped to fill in the hosting duties left vacant by Harrison — such as presiding over dates and rose ceremonies — and are already on site. It remains to be seen, however, how the franchise will handle the gig for forthcoming seasons. An official decision has yet to be determined about Harrison’s future with the franchise, according to multiple sources.
Friday’s statement is the first one to come from ABC and Warners since the firestorm first erupted on Feb. 9. In an interview with franchise alum Rachel Lindsay, Harrison lent support to current contestant Rachael Kirkconnell amid allegations of racism (she has since apologized). The widely condemned interview resulted in Harrison stepping aside from the franchise he has hosted since 2002 and sparked renewed calls for the long-running reality series to address its systemic issues surrounding race and representation, both in front of and behind the camera. Harrison is also an executive producer on The Bachelor and its spinoffs.
After Harrison’s problematic interview with Lindsay, production on The Bachelorette was pushed back one week to deal with the fallout, according to sources, as ABC and Warners grappled with how to move forward. In the weeks that followed, the franchise is said to have adopted a wait-and-see approach and has yet to make any permanent hosting decisions.
In response to the backlash, ABC tapped Emmanuel Acho to host the upcoming The Bachelor: After the Final Rose finale special, with a programming promise that the current events surrounding the franchise will be addressed. The finale special — which was filmed last week and airs Monday — will see Acho sitting down with Bachelor star Matt James and Kirkconnell, as well as finalists Bri Springs and Michelle Young. Last season’s Bachelorette did not have a finale special due to COVID-era production restrictions; all past iterations of After the Final Rose have aired live.
On March 4, nearly one month after the firestorm began, Harrison said on ABC’s Good Morning America that he planned to return to the franchise, though he did not specify when. He also revealed that he has been working with a race educator and strategist. In a Friday interview for Extra, Acho told Lindsay that he has spoken “at length” with Harrison over the past two weeks. “We’ve had very positive dialogue,” said the Uncomfortable Conversations With a Black Man author. “People need to give him the opportunity, the grace and the time to do the work. And then they need to receive the work that he does.”
Amid the franchise fallout, Lindsay had temporarily deactivated her social media accounts due to severe online bullying. In their only public statement amid the ongoing controversy, the executive producers of the Mike Fleiss-created series released a statement to condemn the hate and support their former star, who was the first Black Bachelorette in 2017.
Lindsay has become a vocal franchise alum since her starring turn and has been leading the conversation surrounding the current controversy. After pushing for The Bachelor producers to diversify in wake of the 2020 national racial reckoning, the franchise’s first Black Bachelor was named with James. Adams, who was brought in midway through the 2020 cycle of The Bachelorette, had become the franchise’s first Black and Latina lead when she took over from original star Clare Crawley, who is Latina.
The 2020 Bachelorette and 2021 Bachelor seasons also debuted historically diverse casts, with 25 women from the current Bachelor season identifying as BIPOC. Behind the scenes, more producers of color were hired and a diversity team was brought in as a resource for both the talent and crew.
With the ongoing criticism surrounding the franchise, however, the historic cycle with James has been overshadowed by renewed calls for the franchise to confront its diversity woes, particularly among the decision-makers on the hit series. After suggesting the embattled franchise press the pause button before moving ahead with another season, Lindsay most recently renewed her call for the executive producers to diversify among their ranks. “You’ve got to have a person of color in the decision room,” Lindsay said in response to the March 9 episode airing an “uncomfortable” conversation between James and his estranged father — one that James spoke out to say perpetuated “dangerous stereotypes and negative depictions of Black fathers in media.”
With production already underway, however, the franchise shows no signs of slowing down. The upcoming Bachelorette season will follow the blueprint laid out by the bubble seasons of the 2020 Bachelorette and 2021 Bachelor cycles, which each filmed safely and without any COVID incidents amid the ongoing pandemic. A lead has yet to be named.
The Bachelor wraps on ABC Monday with a two-hour finale to conclude James’ season, followed by a one-hour After the Final Rose.
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