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Friends Creator Says Sorry Over Show's Lack Of Diversity With $4 Million Apology

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Friends Creator Says Sorry Over Show's Lack Of Diversity With $4 Million Apology

Co-creator Marta Kauffman has addressed the lack of diversity in Friends.

Despite being the hit sitcom which graced many of our screens regularly as we grew up - a staple to any sleepover and a trusty series to have on repeat when needing some background tv after having watched it through for the sixth time - Friends hasn't aged well.

Kauffman has previously admitted it was a mistake to cast an all-white main cast even though the show is set in New York City - a highly multicultural city.

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However, she has since pledged a large sum of money to consolidate her apology.

Co-creator of Friends Marta Kauffman has apologised for the lack of diversity in the main cast. Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures
Co-creator of Friends Marta Kauffman has apologised for the lack of diversity in the main cast. Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

It's because of the internalised systematic racism which is so present in society which is why Kauffman believes the show lacked any diversity or inclusion in its main cast.

The co-creator told Los Angeles Times: "It was after what happened to George Floyd that I began to wrestle with my having bought into systemic racism in ways I was never aware of.

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"That was really the moment that I began to examine the ways I had participated. I knew then I needed to course-correct."

Kauffman said the murder of George Floyd resulted in her thinking about Friends in a different light. Credit: Alamy
Kauffman said the murder of George Floyd resulted in her thinking about Friends in a different light. Credit: Alamy

Kauffman has pledged $4 million (£3,298,220) to private research Brandeis University in Boston.

The money will go to the African and African American studies department.

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Established in 1969, the department strives to study 'peoples of African descent through the lens of history, literature, economics, art and sociology' using a 'breadth of interdisciplinary engagement'.

The money will specifically be used for the recruitment of more teachers and scholars to assist in the department.

It will also support one university scholar who has chosen to focus their studies within the department.

It will be known as The Marta F. Kauffman ’78 Professorship in African and African American Studies.

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Kauffman's donation will go to Brandeis University. Credit: Alamy
Kauffman's donation will go to Brandeis University. Credit: Alamy

Kauffman noted how the response she's had to the funding has been 'amazing' and she's gotten 'nothing but love'.

"It surprised me to some extent, because I didn’t expect the news to go this wide. I’ve gotten a flood of emails and texts and posts that have been nothing but supportive.

"I’ve gotten a lot of ‘It’s about time'. Not in a mean way. It’s just people acknowledging it was long overdue," she reflected.

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Kauffman reflected that her pledge has been readily received. Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures
Kauffman reflected that her pledge has been readily received. Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

The Friends' main cast members have previously addressed the lack of diversity on the show.

David Schwimmer (Ross Geller) called the producers insistence of not including a more diverse and inclusive range of actors because of the chemistry between the original six 'just wrong' in an interview with Entertainment Tonight in 2020.

Schimmer also explained he pushed for his character to 'date other people, women of all races'.

Indeed, Ross did go on to date palaeontology professor Charlie Wheeler (played by Aisha Tyler), however she only appeared in a total of nine episodes.

Tyler's fleeting appearance was similar to that of the other non-white characters, Lauren Tom’s Julie and Gabrielle Union’s Kristen, who also dated Ross.

Aisha Tyler took on the role of Charlie Wheeler, however she was only in the sitcom for nine episodes. Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures
Aisha Tyler took on the role of Charlie Wheeler, however she was only in the sitcom for nine episodes. Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

Samuel J. and Augusta Spector Professor of History and African and African American Studies, Chad Williams, noted the support to Kauffman's pledge to donate $4 million has been 'pouring in'.

"There is a lot of excitement in the Brandeis community and [among] alumni.

"It’s an important milestone for the university and the department. Marta’s gift is an extremely important message that African and African American studies is extremely important, not only to Brandeis but to the academic world broadly," he said.

Kauffman resolved: "I’ve learned a lot in the last 20 years. Admitting and accepting guilt is not easy. It’s painful looking at yourself in the mirror. I’m embarrassed that I didn’t know better 25 years ago."

However, she noted that despite her donation, her quest to right her wrong 'isn't over' until her 'next production'.

Kauffman - who is also the co-creator of recent Netflix release Grace and Frankie - concluded: "I want to make sure from now on in every production I do that I am conscious in hiring people of color and actively pursue young writers of color. I want to know I will act differently from now on. And then I will feel unburdened."

If you have been affected by any of the issues in this article and wish to speak to someone in confidence, contact Stop Hate UK by visiting their website www.stophateuk.org 

Featured Image Credit: Alamy/Warner

Topics: Film & TV, Friends, Film and TV

Poppy Bilderbeck
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