Mike Johnson Believes Bachelor Franchise 'Would Not Be in This Position' If They Named a Black Lead Sooner
"The best overall person doesn't always have to be a Caucasian individual," the reality star told PEOPLE
"I'd absolutely love to see and to be represented with diversity, with Black individuals, with Native American individuals, with Asian individuals, with Indian individuals, with more than one sized individuals, with more different classes," the Bachelorette alum, 33, told PEOPLE while promoting the Schick Hydro Stubble Eraser razor, which shaves up to seven days of stubble with less tugging and pulling.
"I just want the best overall person and the best overall person doesn't always have to be a Caucasian individual," he added of casting the lead roles of Bachelor and Bachelorette.
Fans rallied for Johnson to be the Bachelor after Hannah Brown sent him home on season 15 of The Bachelorette in 2019. Had ABC chosen him, Johnson would've been the show's first Black Bachelor — a move the Air Force vet thinks would've positively changed the trajectory of the franchise, which has come under fire following host Chris Harrison's controversial interview with former Bachelorette Rachel Lindsey.
"Unequivocally, no. We would not be in this position right now," Johnson said.
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Last month, Harrison, 49, first faced backlash for his Extra interview with Lindsay. At the time, he weighed in on Bachelor contestant Rachael Kirkconnell's resurfaced social media posts, which saw her dressed in Native American attire in costume and attending an antebellum plantation-themed college party in 2018. (Kirkconnell has since issued an apology and asked those defending her actions to "please stop.")
After receiving criticism for his failure to denounce Kirkconnell's behavior, Harrison apologized and announced that he would be "stepping aside" from the franchise and would not appear in Bachelor Matt James' After the Final Rose special. (James made history in June when he was announced as the franchise's first Black Bachelor. Lindsay made history as the first Black female lead of the ABC franchise for season 13 of The Bachelorette in 2017.)
"He's phenomenal," Johnson told PEOPLE of Acho, 30. "I think that he speaks with so much compassion and like my stubble razor, he's comfortable to talk to. And quite honestly, he's going to be amazing."
With Kirkconnell, 24, in James' final three, Johnson feels "this season has drifted so far away from what the intention of the show is supposed to be about, which is love."
"I feel that love conquers all and we will see what takes place," the Talking It Out podcast host continued. "The franchise does have a privilege and with that privilege comes a platform. And they need to use that platform and that privilege for the good and to the betterment of all people."
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Though Johnson hadn't yet gotten a chance to watch Harrison's Good Morning America interview that aired on Thursday, in which the longtime host apologized and announced his plans to return to The Bachelor, the Making the Love You Want author appreciated the action. "I'm extremely happy that Chris has resurfaced and he's gone on Good Morning America," Johnson said.
With fans and members of Bachelor Nation alike divided over whether they want to see Harrison, 49, return, Johnson wants viewers to remember, "Chris isn't going to be the host forever," he said. "If the show goes on for 100 years, there's going to come a time and point where Chris is no longer the host. Some people are just going to have to come to terms with the fact that he will not be the host for life."
Still, "I think he's had an absolutely phenomenal run," he added. "I've said it before: He's [the] G.O.A.T. host."
Earlier this week, fans saw Harrison host the Women Tell All — which was taped prior to him announcing he'd be temporarily stepping away from the show — where he was joined by James, 29, and 15 of this season's contestants.
On the episode, James sported a thick beard that caused some of the women to compare him to NBA star James Harden. "The boy looks great no matter what," Johnson added of James. "It's just a big change."
"I think we need to help him out with some of his stubble," he said. "I think I'm going to have to send him one of my razors because his little grizzly bear beard that he is growing — I mean, come on."
Like the current Bachelor, Johnson is also on a journey to find love — but his is instead away from cameras.
"One of my favorite virtual dates was to ride on a bike and have a picnic set up in my backpack and ride out before sunset. And we FaceTime each other and as the sun's coming down, we have a glass of wine," Johnson said. "I've become more creative [about dating]."
Although he didn't find his happily ever after on The Bachelorette or Bachelor in Paradise, Johnson called the experience "such a positive aspect" of his life. Johnson even met his roommate, Connor Saeli, through the show — a far different dynamic than fans have seen between some of the women arguing on James' season.
"On our season with living with all the guys, to me it was just about understanding, and understanding that your way is not always the right way," Johnson said. "And so that was a huge thing for me to learn and for me to understand."
Should Johnson ever return to a Bachelor show, he knows one thing for sure. "If I ever were to go on any show again, 100 percent I would bring my Schick Hydro Stubble razor," he said, "because I got to look good for the camera."
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