Aside from having a former Bachelorette runner-up as his BFF (heyyy, Tyler C.), Matt James was brand new to the franchise when he became the star of The Bachelor Season 25. Without any sort of lived experience to go off of, his first night as the leading man was full of surprises. But what surprised Matt the most during Night 1 of Bachelor filming had nothing to do with the long hours, intrusive microphones, or ridiculous limo entrances.
"I think my biggest surprise that first night was just how nervous I was," Matt tells Elite Daily. "There's nothing that would prepare me for what I was walking into."
Whereas most Bachelors first enter the franchise as Bachelorette contestants, Matt bypassed that step to go straight to the leading man role. Sure, he was briefly announced as one of Clare Crawley's Bachelorette contestants ahead of her season, but he was bumped to Bachelor status in June 2020 (before Clare's season even began).
Matt also faced the added pressure of being the franchise's first Black Bachelor — a step toward increased diversity many fans have wanted to see for many years. "Before I got there, I had the weight of the world on my shoulders," Matt says. "I was putting a lot of pressure on myself to represent an entire race of people, and you can't do that. I can only speak to how I was raised, my upbringing, and what's important to me."
Luckily, Matt quickly learned to lean on his co-stars (and potential future partners) to power through his nerves that first night of filming. "What did give me peace was the women, and how well put-together they were, and how they maneuvered that night. It just gave me energy, and you see that carry on throughout the entire season," he explains.
Matt thinks his nerves as a Bachelor Nation newbie make have actually benefitted him on his journey to find love. "I was dealing with these situations how any random person who was thrown in would deal with it ... I'm just going at it how I would go at it if there [were] no cameras around," he says. "And it was my first time, just like a lot of these women, so I think they could relate to that where it's like, 'We're going through this together.' So, I saw it as an advantage."
And the best part? Matt is no longer so anxious about his time in the spotlight. "If you asked me [what I was nervous about] a few months ago, I would have had a long list of things, but throughout that whole experience, I became less worried about what people are going to think and say and do," he says. "Now I'm just hoping to enjoy it, hoping to celebrate that journey and share it with everybody ... If they don't like who I am, then that's a personal problem."
The Bachelor airs Mondays at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.