‘Friends’ Creator Marta Kauffman Says She ‘Would’ve Made Very Different Decisions’ On All-White Cast Today
Co-creator of Friends Marta Kauffman admitted to not doing enough for diversity on the virtual ATX TV Festival where she participated on a panel that was all women along with Robin Thede, Liz Feldman and Julie Plec.
As they discussed how to get more black writers, outside of Los Angeles and New York, in the industry Kauffman, who is also the creator of Grace and Frankie said, “I just wish I knew then what I know now. I would’ve made very different decisions,” she said. “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.”
Friends ran for 10 season from 1994 to 2004 and has seen great success, but despite this in recent years it has been criticized for its lack of diversity. The cast was predominately white with the exception of Ross’, David Schwimmer, girlfriends. Aisha Taylor, who is black, played Charlie Wheeler and Lauren Tom, who is Asian, played Julie.
Schwimmer told The Guardian earlier this year, “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. Groundbreaking in its time” for some storylines, such as “the way in which it handled so casually sex, protected sex, gay marriage and relationships.”
Lisa Kudrow, who played Phoebe, told the Sunday Times that a modern day re-boot of Friends would look very different. She stated, “Well, it would not be an all-white cast, for sure. 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.”
The cast of Friends is planned to reunite on HBO Max to talk about their time spent on the show. HBO Max had paid $425 million to have streaming rights for the series.