Friends co-creator admits she ‘didn’t do enough’ to encourage diversity

One of the creators of Friends has admitted she “didn’t do enough” to encourage diversity on the hit TV comedy.

Marta Kauffman co-created the much-loved sitcom, which ran from 1994 to 2004, alongside David Crane.

Friends is still popular today – but has been criticised in recent years for not featuring more black and Asian characters.

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - JUNE 02: Marta Kauffman attends FYC Netflix Event Rebels And Rule Breakers at Netflix FYSEE at Raleigh Studios on June 02, 2019 in Los Angeles, California
Image:Marta Kauffman co-created the hit sitcom

Its six stars – Courteney Cox, Jennifer Aniston, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc, Matthew Perry and David Schwimmer – were all white, as was the majority of the supporting cast.

Speaking at a virtual TV festival in Texas, Kauffman said that if she had her time again, she “would’ve made very different decisions”.

According to US media reports, she became tearful when asked what she wished she had known at the beginning of her career in television.

“I wish I knew then what I know today. Sorry, I just wish I knew then what I know now. I would’ve made very different decisions.

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“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?”

Kauffman, who also co-created Netflix comedy Grace and Frankie, added: “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.”

It is not the first time one of the Friends cast and crew has commented on the lack of diversity in the series.

Jennifer Aniston and David Schwimmer as Ross and Rachel in the last episode of Friends
Image:Jennifer Aniston and David Schwimmer as Ross and Rachel in the last ever episode

Speaking to The Guardian last year, Schwimmer, who played Ross Geller, said he was “well aware” of the issue and had spoken about it with producers.

He said: “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.”

Last month, Kudrow, who played Phoebe Buffay, defended the show, saying it was “progressive” at the time but would not feature an all-white cast if it was made today.

She told The Sunday Times that fans should look at the show as a “time capsule”, saying it would be “completely different” now.

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“Well, it would not be an all-white cast, for sure,” she said. “I’m not sure what else, but, to me, it should be looked at as a time capsule, not for what they did wrong.

“Also, this show thought it was very progressive. There was a guy whose wife discovered she was gay and pregnant, and they raised the child together.

“We had surrogacy too. It was, at the time, progressive.”

A Friends reunion special had been set to air in May, but was delayed due to the coronaviruspandemic.

While not a reboot, the unscripted special promises fans: “You’ll get to see us together again for the first time in ages, as we reminisce about the show and celebrate all the fun we had.”

Mark Gibson

Graduates in Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois 1990. Move to Los Angeles California in 2004. Specialized in Internet journalism.

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