The former Bachelorette and Bachelor in Paradise contestant called the franchise's diversity efforts "atrocious"

By Claudia Harmata
August 11, 2020 11:11 AM

Mike Johnson is speaking out against the Bachelor franchise.

In a new interview with Varietythe former Bachelorette contestant slammed producers for waiting to cast their first Black male lead until there was an "outcry" from fans.

"It’s atrocious," he said of the show's diversity efforts. "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, so I love the fans who signed petitions and things like that, but it shouldn’t have taken that."

Johnson — who starred on season 15 of The Bachelorette led by Hannah Brown —  noted that the teams behind the scenes of the reality show need to become more diverse as well.

"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," he added.

Mike Johnson
Slaven Vlasic/Getty

Still, the Air Force veteran supports Matt James being cast as the first Black Bachelor.

"I am happy that it’s Matt. I’m not sure how Matt went from being a contestant to being a lead, but I thought that was pretty dope, and I texted Matt to congratulate him and called him," he said. (James, the roommate of Bachelorette star Tyler Cameron, was among Clare Crawley's pool of men before COVID-19 halted production.)

For the last couple of years, Johnson has been a popular choice among fans to become the first Black Bachelor. He told Variety that he was "never given a reason" as to why he was not picked to be the lead, but that he did have conversations with ABC about the significance of him becoming the Bachelor.

Mike Johnson
John Fleenor/ABC

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"I didn’t get the feeling that they were interviewing me because I was Black. I can honestly say, without any doubt, that they interviewed me because they thought I was a great candidate, just like the rest of the guys," he noted, before adding, "and I conveyed to them that I would absolutely love" being the first Black Bachelor.

"I wouldn’t be shy about it, and I’d go out in front of it. 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," he said. "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 former Bachelor in Paradise contestant also spoke about the news that  Tayshia Adams is replacing Crawley on season 16 of The Bachelorette. (Multiple sources have confirmed the switch to PEOPLE.)

"I am just baffled, like everyone else is. I’m friends with some of them, but I haven’t reached out to them. I’m just watching and reading the news, like everyone else," he said.

Johnson is excited to see Adams find love on the show, but he said he doesn't think her taking Crawley's place had anything to do with her being a Black woman.

"Tayshia is awesome. She’s a wonderful human being. I’ve spoken to her many times on TV and off TV. 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," he said. "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. Those suitors will have a great time with Tayshia."