Marta Kauffman, the co-creator of “Friends,” sounds off on the legendary sitcom’s staggering lack of diversity.
While speaking at the virtual 2020 ATX TV festival, the writer — who also co-created the Netflix comedy “Grace and Frankie” — was asked what she wished she’d known when she started her career.
“I wish I knew then what I know today,” the 63-year-old said as she apologized for tearing up. “Sorry, I just wish I knew then what I know now. I would’ve made very different decisions.”
She continued, “I mean, we’ve always encouraged people of diversity in our company, but I didn’t do enough, and now all I can think about is what can I do? What can I do differently? How can I run my show in a new way? And that’s something I not only wish I knew when I started showrunning, but I wish I knew all the way up through last year.”
The NBC show — which premiered in September 1994 and ran for 10 seasons until May 2004 — featured a cast of all-white actors.
Back in January, David Schwimmer, who played the character of Ross, told The Guardian that he made a “conscious push” for more diversity on the show.
While referencing actresses Lauren Tom, who is Asian, and Aisha Tyler, who is black, Schwimmer said, “I was well aware of the lack of diversity, and I campaigned for years to have Ross date women of color. One of the first girlfriends I had on the show was an Asian American woman, and later I dated African American women. That was a very conscious push on my part.”
“Maybe there should be an all-black ‘Friends’ or an all-Asian ‘Friends,’” he added.
After Schwimmer’s comments went viral, “Living Single” actress Erika Alexander criticized his remarks by mentioning that her show about a group of friends living in New York did, in fact, feature an all-black cast.
Schwimmer later apologized to Alexander, writing on Twitter, “I didn’t mean to imply ‘Living Single’ hadn’t existed or indeed hadn’t come before ‘Friends,’ which I knew it had.”
Though a “Friends” reunion was supposed to film on March 23 and 24, the HBO Max special has been postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.