The next season of ABC’s “The Bachelor” will feature the franchise’s first Black star in 25 seasons with leading man Matt James. However, a few seasons before James was selected, the network had been eyeing fan-favorite contestant, Mike Johnson, who appeared on Season 15 of “The Bachelorette” and then on “Bachelor In Paradise.”
Johnson was ultimately not selected to be “The Bachelor” for the season that ended up starring Peter Weber, even though fans had started an online campaign for Johnson to be the first Black Bachelor.
Though Johnson doesn’t rule out becoming “The Bachelor” in the future, he is now turning his attention to writing, as a first-time author of “Making the Love You Want” (out on Oct. 2 from The Self Publishing Agency Inc.). The book is not a memoir, but goes into great detail of Johnson’s life experiences, as an inspirational self-help book for readers.
“‘The Bachelor’ was a part of my life, but it’s not my whole life,” Johnson says. “I’m not a reality TV personality who decided to write about my time on TV; I’m a person who was on TV who truly listened and cared for the fans, and through all the DMs and messages I received, I learned so much. This is book is to inspire and is a toolbox.”
Johnson’s first draft was completed in March, but with the Black Lives Matters movement and the coronavirus pandemic in the news, he’s added to the book since then. “I definitely speak about the current events because part of loving yourself is to stand up for what’s right and to stand up for equality,” he says.
Earlier this summer, ABC announced James as the newest star of “The Bachelor,” shortly after George Floyd’s death. That, combined with former “Bachelorette” Hannah Brown’s use of the N-word during an Instagram live video, resulted in questions (again) about the lack of diversity in the juggernaut ABC franchise. Rachel Lindsay, the only Black “Bachelorette” star to date, questioned the timing of the new “Bachelor” announcement.
The reality TV hit has made other recent headlines surrounding drama on the current season of “The Bachelorette,” where producers are reportedly switching the female lead Clare Crawley with former contestant Tayshia Adams midway through production. Adams, who is Black, is believed to be currently filming the rest of the season, following Crawley’s departure.
Here, Johnson weighs in on all of that. (ABC declined to comment on Johnson’s thoughts about the franchise’s lack of diversity.)
I know all of the “Bachelor” alums are friends. What do you know about what’s going on at La Quinta with Clare and Tayshia’s season?
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.
There are always rumors of producers creating drama. As someone who has been on “The Bachelor” franchise and knows the ins-and-outs of production, are you surprised by the turn of events with Clare’s season?
I’m definitely surprised. This is a bit much. The point is for the lead to find love and then the second point is to create a little bit of drama because the fans all like the drama. But from what I’m hearing, they’re going over the top, like too far. But we’ll see. They always do a great job and they have for nearly 20 years, so they’re doing something right.
What do you think about Tayshia as “The Bachelorette?”
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. 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.
“The Bachelor” has received years of criticism for its lack of diversity. The first Black Bachelor was recently set with Matt James, but many say it’s too late. What do you think?
It’s atrocious. 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. 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.
Why do you think Tayshia was chosen to replace Clare?
I don’t think they were like, “We need a Black lead, so we’re choosing Tayshia.” I think that whatever the hell happened, they needed a new Bachelorette, and it had nothing to do with diversity. I don’t feel Tayshia was chosen because she is a Black woman.
Were you ever told why you weren’t selected to be “The Bachelor?”
I wish I knew. I wish I knew. I really do. I was never given a reason, ever. I don’t know. I just know that they chose who they chose. I really do wish I knew more.
What did you feel at the time that Peter was chosen and you weren’t?
I felt that Peter would be “The Bachelor.” I really did. I just felt that from what I’ve seen of the past, that’s how the show goes. Peter was the perfect fit for what they like. I said he’d end up being the Bachelor, and he was the Bachelor. I was just annoyed because I wish I was told beforehand. That would have been nice. It’s like when you go for a job interview and you never hear back, but then you just don’t get the job. We were talking, but then they just chose the person they chose.
Before Matt James was announced, fans had started campaigning online for you the become “The Bachelor.” They even created fan art with you on a poster as “The Bachelor.” Did you ever get a call from ABC about being cast for the upcoming season?
Even though you didn’t get a call from the network, with all the momentum online, did you think you had a chance?
I have to be honest — I know that two years in a row, I was a popular choice. That’s not a dig towards anyone else, that’s just the truth. I was super appreciative to even just be in consideration. My whole objective was to find love. When I didn’t find love on “Bachelorette” or “Bachelor In Paradise,” the fans slapped me in the face and said, “You should be the lead!” I was really appreciative. When it didn’t happen both times, it was like you can win the popular vote, but lose the electoral college vote. The people in charge didn’t want me for whatever reason, but I know they think I’m great, and I think they’re great. They just chose who they chose.
What do you think about Matt James as the lead?
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.
Rachel Lindsay has said that she thought the timing of Matt’s announcement was strange. The announcement came right after she had said she will cut ties with the franchise if they don’t fix their diversity problems. Did you think the announcement was poorly handled?
Oh, 100% — I think everyone thinks that, right? We were all talking about Clare being “The Bachelorette,” and before her season had even aired, we bring on a different Bachelor? That the timing was definitely off. I think everyone can agree with that.
At the time that they said it, it was peculiar. It wasn’t natural. It was forced. That’s how it felt for me. Even if I were chosen to be “The Bachelor,” my homeboys would tell me, “Why did they announce you right now?” It’s not about the person in the role, but it’s about the timing of the role being announced. It just felt very forced to me.
How did your casting interviews go when you were being considered as “The Bachelor”?
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.
Did you have conversations about the fact that you would be the first Black Bachelor?
Yes, for sure. And I conveyed to them that I would absolutely love it. 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. 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.
If I look outside my apartment balcony right now, I see America — white, Black, Indian, Chinese, every color, not a size zero. I see people Black men that have locks in their hair. I want “The Bachelor” to be a representation of America. It’s supposed to be about love, and love comes in all forms and colors — not just white America. If the show wants to continue to be absolutely amazing, I would want it to not only be the poster child for the show with “The Bachelor” or “Bachelorette” who is diverse, but also people from the top down, so the contestants feel like they can relate to someone on the show. It needs to be a melting pot on diversity and culture differences because it’s not just about color. I would like for the show to represent all of America.