Bachelor fans have been wondering who will fill in as host of the upcoming After the Final Rose special — and Rachel Lindsay and her husband Bryan Abasolo have the perfect man in mind for the job.
In an interview with PEOPLE, Lindsay weighs in on the controversy surrounding Matt James' season, as well as who she thinks should fill in for Chris Harrison after he announced earlier this month that he would be "stepping aside" from the show for an undetermined "period of time."
"For AFTR, Bryan and I both talked about this — we think Emmanuel Acho would be fantastic," the former Bachelorette says of the former NFL linebacker and Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man host. "[He's] very outspoken about racial injustice, for social justice, and has pretty much been the person who said, 'I can have these uncomfortable conversations, and people trust it.' Who better to lead it? [He's] someone who's not involved with the franchise, no ties, no bias — I think it'd be great."
Of Acho, Abasolo adds, "I echo those sentiments. I think Emmanuel Acho would be the perfect person to have those uncomfortable conversations with the contestants, with Matt at the end of the day, and I think it would really be a positive step forward."
Harrison's decision to step away from the ABC series came after public criticism of his 14-minute, unedited conversation with Lindsay on Extra, in which he said people should have "a little grace, a little understanding, a little compassion" for current Bachelor frontrunner Rachael Kirkconnell. Kirkconnell, 24, was called out for old social media posts which saw her dressed in Native American attire in costume and attending an antebellum plantation-themed college party in 2018. She has since apologized.
In Harrison's absence, it remains to be seen who might replace him as host of the live ATFR special, the official conclusion to James' season, and potentially beyond, should he not return at all.
But while Lindsay, 35, thinks Acho, 30, could be a fit for the ATFR gig, she clarifies that she isn't thinking about any long-term replacement hosts of the ABC franchise.
"I don't want to think long-term, because I only want to take what's been given to us. Chris said he's stepping aside for ATFR, and that's as far as I want to take it because that's what he said," she says. "They said he's going to take the time to learn and understand what happened. I'm going to just stay within that."
Harrison's recent controversy — which comes amid James' historic season as the first Black Bachelor, a step forward for the franchise in terms of diversity — has shed more light on the work that still has to be done.
"I think you have to acknowledge that there has been progress made," Lindsay, who made history as the first Black Bachelorette in 2017, says of the Bachelor franchise. "Last summer, I was saying that I was going to step away if there wasn't a lead of color, if changes weren't made, and then the Bachelor Diversity Campaign came together, which was amazing."
She continues: "Those are fans wanting to see certain things changed within the franchise. They had a list of bullet points, and we've seen some of those things happen. We've seen a diversity consultant. We've seen two leads of color. We've seen an apology from the franchise, acknowledging that they've been on the wrong side of it. It would be wrong for me to deny that there has been some progress, but in light of what's recently happened, we see that the work is not done."
Lindsay, who is currently working with her husband on the #Nicklaus4Kids 50/50 raffle campaign in support of Nicklaus Children's Hospital, goes on to say that while some of the dating show's recent changes have been positive, it's clear there's more progress to be made.
"I think too often we get complacent with, 'There has been some change made,' so we think, 'It's all good,'" she says. "Things are changing, but no, there still needs to be work that's done within the franchise. I think that's obvious to everyone. That's all it means, is that we've got to keep going."
As for contestants on both James' and Tayshia Adams' seasons banding together to speak out against racism amid the recent controversy, Lindsay commends the move.
"I love the contestants coming together and putting out joint statements in unity, saying what they don't stand for and what they're not going to tolerate, [and] Matt James putting out his statement," she says.
James, 29, publicly addressed the controversy on Monday, calling this time the "most challenging" of his life and condemning Kirkconnell's actions as "disappointing."
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Acknowledging that the current season of The Bachelor has lived up to the title of "the most dramatic one yet," Lindsay points out that while the drama is new, the history is not — and she believes viewers, franchise contestants and leads can help change for the better.
"We haven't seen anything like this before, where people are coming together in large numbers to say what they want to see change," Lindsay says. "I think a lot of people wanted to hear from Matt, and they did. I think he hit every single point within his statement and even told us that there's more to come. He's got more to say. I'm like everybody else. What is it? I can't wait."
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