"At the end of the day, I'm not really as worried about meeting a quota as I am about meeting a quota of quality people," Chris Harrison said about racial diversity on The Bachelor

By Natalie Stone
May 07, 2020 04:41 PM
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Chris Harrison is proud of the progress The Bachelor has made in bringing more racial diversity to the franchise — but he believes there's still more room for improvement.

Speaking with SiriusXM's Bevy Smith, who hosts Bevelations on Radio Andy, on Thursday, Harrison admitted that the franchise had to make changes to casting when viewers vocalized that they didn't see themselves represented on the show, which has largely featured Caucasian contestants since its debut in 2002.

"Now we have diversity in age, but you guys have had a lot of problem with diversity when it comes to race. Come on, Chris, what's the deal, babe?" Smith, 53, asked. "How can we get this fixed? ... My mom loves, loves, loves the show, but whenever I watch I feel very much like ... there's no black and brown people that like go the distance really, so it's disheartening."

"Well, I think you just hit the nail on the head," said Harrison, 48. "When you watch, you don't see yourself represented, and I think that was what the issue was early on when we would ask people to come audition for the show and we were begging people to come audition for the show and we weren't getting the numbers. And we had to stop and think: Why? Is it the chicken or the egg? So what we realized is if you don't see yourself represented, no matter what it is — on TV or in a club or whatever — you're probably not going to want to attend, you're not going to feel comfortable. So we had to take that first step and have done better at casting and putting more diverse people on the show. Therefore, you see yourself represented more."

Chris Harrison
Eric McCandless via Getty

While Harrison admitted that he thinks "it takes a long time to turn around a big boat, and we needed to take that step," he added: "I think we've done much better in the last few seasons for sure and we will continue to do that."

"I think you had to show that hey, you're going to be seen if you come audition, so now we are getting better numbers in audition. Therefore, we are getting better people — we're getting better quality people," he said. "Because also, at the end of the day, I'm not really as worried about meeting a quota as I am about meeting a quota of quality people."

Speaking about the current Bachelorette Clare Crawley (whose season has yet to begin filming because of COVID-19), Harrison said, "I want Clare [Crawley] to have a broad spectrum, but a broad spectrum of really good men and quality people."

In February 2017, the franchise took a major step in broadening diversity when it announced that Rachel Lindsay  would be the first black Bachelorette.

As to why she was selected? Overall, "she was the right pick," Harrison said.

"I said that all along when Rachel was our first black Bachelorette, I said, 'I'm glad she's the right Bachelorette — I'm not glad she's the right black woman.' Because she's just a badass woman: she's beautiful, she's smart, she's talented, and she's fiery, all those great things," Harrison said about Lindsay, who wed her season's final pick Bryan Abasolo in August 2019. "And I just loved her because she was the right pick."

Rachel Lindsay
John Fleenor via Getty

Looking to future seasons of the ABC shows, Harrison said that he wants "to get to the point where everybody feels represented and you're just picking the right person."

But would the franchise "ever consider" doing a "race-specific" spinoff?

When posed that question — along with the possibility of him not being the host — Harrison said he hopes to "find that sweet spot in the middle" where all are represented on-screen.

"Well first, I would rather not lose my job in this. That would be great," Harrison said, as he and Smith laughed.

"I don't know if that's kind of what happens. In this country right now with politics and everything else is the pendulum swings so far from one side to the next, and I don't know if the answer is to go all the way to the opposite side to where then the other side doesn't feel represented," he added.

Harrison said that his ultimate "goal is to hopefully find that sweet spot in the middle and just bring the two sides together."

"You know, I think in all issues, no matter what it is, there's such drastic separation and there's such fanaticism on the fringes and I think most of us live in the middle and most of us don't care. We just want to live in the middle," he said. "And so I think that would be the sweet spot I hope we get to."

In September, many members of Bachelor Nation were hopeful that the show would choose its first-ever black Bachelor for the show's 24th season.

Although former Bachelorette contestant Mike Johnson was considered, half-Cuban Peter Weber was ultimately chosen — which came as a disappointment to Lindsay.

“I think Peter seems like a very nice guy. He seems lovely. This is absolutely nothing against him, but how many Peters have we seen before? What season are we on? 24. So, we’ve seen 24 Peters,” Lindsay, 35, told Entertainment Tonight. “I’m bored. And it’s nothing personal against him.”

Lindsay said her frustrations stem from the franchise’s lack of diversity. Had Johnson been cast, he would have made history as the first black man and the first military veteran to become the Bachelor.

Bryan Abasolo
Slaven Vlasic/Getty

“For the first time, I was very confident that we were going to see our first black Bachelor,” she explained. “And so if no one else is going to speak on it, then I guess it’s my duty to say it.”

Lindsay called for the franchise to make some serious changes in their casting practices.

“I’m sure they have some reason for not picking him, and I’m going to trust in that, but at the same time, the system isn’t working in giving us a Bachelor who is a person of color. So we need to change the system,” she said. “Something has to be done. Break the rules, step outside the box, give the people what they want!”