“I can’t wait to watch him next year,” Tyler Cameron joked to PEOPLE about Matt James in August

By Natalie Stone
June 12, 2020 02:10 PM
Advertisement

Months before Matt James was declared the new Bachelor, Tyler Cameron was already pitching his good friend to be the franchise's next leading man.

On Friday, James, 28, made history with the show when ABC announced he will be handing out the roses on the next season of The Bachelor — making him the franchise's first-ever black male lead.

Of course, James — a N.Y.C.-based commercial realtor —  being selected was no surprise to Cameron, 27, who suggested his good friend and roommate take on the role.

In August, PEOPLE caught up with Cameron — who was the runner-up on Hannah Brown's season of The Bachelorette — to learn more about ABC Food Tours, the non-profit he runs with college friend James that takes kids from underserved elementary schools to restaurants in their local communities.

When asked at the time who he’d want to see as the next Bachelor, Cameron didn't hesitate to name James. (The pals met as teammates on Wake Forest University’s football team in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.)

“I can’t wait to watch him next year,” he joked, pointing to James, who laughed.

“With everything going on with ABC, I can’t really talk about it,” James quipped.

Matt James and Tyler Cameron

“That’s my line. That’s funny,” Cameron said. “I know my mom signed him up,” he added, noting his late mother, who died earlier this year from a brain aneurysm.

It wasn't just banter, though: Ever since James caught the eye of Cameron’s female fans, his Instagram has been flooded with comments begging for him to give reality TV a shot.

And finally, ABC is giving fans what they asked for.

During Friday's Good Morning America, the morning show announced James' new role with a statement from ABC saying they are "privileged to have Matt" as the first black Bachelor.

Matt James and Tyler Cameron
Tyler Cameron/Instagram

"We know we have a responsibility to make sure the love stories we’re seeing onscreen are representative of the world we live in, and we are proudly in service to our audience," the statement read. "This is just the beginning, and we will continue to take action with regard to diversity issues on this franchise. We feel so privileged to have Matt as our first Black Bachelor and we cannot wait to embark on this journey with him.”

James' new position comes after Bachelor Nation called for more diversity in the franchise — rallying around a new petition that called on ABC and executive producer Mike Fleiss to cast more people of color.

The petition, which has garnered more than 84,000 signatures as of Friday morning, called the franchise's lack of diversity "unacceptable" and noted that in 40 seasons of The Bachelor and The Bachelorette, Lindsay has been the only black lead. (Mike Johnson was a contender to become the first-ever black Bachelor last season, but Peter Weber, who is half-Cuban, got the gig.)

Matt James and Tyler Cameron
Matt James/Instagram

Prior to being named the new Bachelor, James was previously cast as one of Clare Crawley's Bachelorette contestants.

It is not immediately clear if James remains one of Crawley's suitors as production shut down in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. Host Chris Harrison explained in March that the cast could be restructured due to the pandemic.

However, in May, Harrison told Entertainment Tonight: "As far as I know, [he'll still be a contestant]. I mean, I have not heard anything different. I mean. I don't know if he wants to do this after quarantine, who knows? But as far as I know, yes."