friends may be embedded in the collective conscience of anyone with a working television – or streaming service – from Generation X to Generation Z, but it has also been subject to much scrutiny for its lack of diversity.
Now, the show’s co-creator Marta Kauffman has given her money where her mouth is and has issued a $4 million (about $5.8 million) apology for the failure.
The 65-year-old writer admitted to the Los Angeles Times that at first it was challenging for her to understand the “difficult and frustrating” criticism of her show and chose to believe friends was selected.
Now, nearly 20 years after the show stopped filming, she sees the error of her ways.
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“I’ve learned a lot over the past 20 years,” Kauffman told the Zoom publication.
“It’s not easy to admit and accept blame. It’s painful to look at yourself in the mirror. I’m ashamed that I didn’t know any better 25 years ago.”
friends‘ main cast was a group of six actors – Jennifer Aniston† Courtney Cox† Matthew Perry† Lisa Kudrow† David Schwimmer and Matt LeBlanc — who were all white playing straight friends living in New York City’s Greenwich Village, a famous gay neighborhood in a historically diverse city.
From the 10-year series from 1994 to 2004, only two recurring characters of color were introduced, and both were short-lived love interests for Schwimmer’s Ross Geller.
Kauffman emphasizes the murder of George Floyd in 2020 as something that prompted her to think about her own part in perpetuating systemic racism.
“I knew then that I had to correct course,” Kauffman explained to the publication.
As a result, she pledged $4 million (about $5.8 million) to Brandeis University, where she previously studied.
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The money will fund a chair in the university’s African and African American Studies Department, one of the oldest in the United States.
According to the university, the Marta Kauffman ’78 confers professorship in African and African American studies is established to “support a leading scholar with a concentration in the study of the peoples and cultures of Africa and the African diaspora” and “to help the department recruit more expert scientists and educators, map out long-term academic and research priorities and new opportunities for students to engage in interdisciplinary science.”
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Kauffman told the university it took a long time to understand how she had “internalized systemic racism”.
“I’ve worked really hard to become an ally, an anti-racist,” Kauffman said. “And this seemed like a way to join the conversation from a white woman’s perspective.”
The show faced renewed calls last year when: Friends: the reunion sent out to address the lack of diversity, but Kauffman told the Los Angeles Times she didn’t think it was the right thing to do at the time.
“I also don’t know how we could have handled it in that context of that reunion, by addressing all the things we did wrong,” she told the publication. “And there were others.”
She previously told the Hollywood reporter before the reunion aired that there were many things she would have done differently with the show, and clarified that the all-white cast had not been deliberately chosen due to that fact.
However, co-creator Kevin Bright doubled down on the casting choices, citing the “chemistry” between the main cast as the reason.
“I would have been crazy not to hire those six actors. What can I say? I wish Lisa was black?” he said.
Kauffman said her donation makes her feel like she can “finally make a difference in the conversation.”
“I have to say, after I agreed to this and when I stopped sweating, it didn’t relieve me, but it lifted me up. But until my next production, I can do it right, it’s not over,” she says . told the Los Angeles Times†
“From now on I want to make sure that in every production I make I am consciously hiring people of color and actively looking for young writers of color. I want to know that from now on I will behave differently. And then I will feeling unburdened.”
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