'Friends' Co-Creator Shares Emotional Apology Over Controversial Aspect of Classic Show

Marta Kauffman, co-creator of Friends, is now accepting responsibility for the sitcom's missteps. Despite previously dismissing critics who said the NBC series wasn't diverse enough, the showrunner sees now that they were right.

 "Admitting and accepting guilt is not easy," Kauffman told The Los Angeles Times on June 29. "It's painful looking at yourself in the mirror. I'm embarrassed that I didn't know better 25 years ago."

According to Kauffman, it was "difficult and frustrating" to understand why the series, which ran from 1994 to 2004, was criticized for no reason. Only recently has she begun to realize how vital representation on screen is. "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," Kauffman said. "That was really the moment that I began to examine the ways I had participated. I knew then I needed to course-correct."

Among Kauffman's efforts to make amends is a $4 million donation to Brandeis University's African and African American studies department. She said, "I'm finally, literally putting my money where my mouth is."

Kauffman also hopes to promote more diversity in her next project. "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," she explained. "I want to know I will act differently from now on. And then I will feel unburdened."

Regarding the criticism surrounding the Friends reunion and its lack of self-awareness, Kauffman didn't think it was the right time or place to address the issue. "I don't know how the two were related," she told the L.A. Times. "And I also don't know how we could have addressed it in that context of that reunion, going into all the things we did wrong."

Friends alum David Schwimmer had previously been critical of the series, sharing that he believes the show should have done more to uplift Black actors." I was well aware of the lack of diversity, and I campaigned for years to have Ross date women of color," he told The Guardian in 2020. "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."

In response to a question about how the show would look in 2020, Lisa Kudrow told The Sunday Times, "It would not be an all-white cast, for sure. To me, [Friends] should be looked at as a time capsule, not for what they did wrong."

0comments

Kauffman told the L.A. Times she was not done undoing her past mistakes despite the pledge."I feel I was finally able to make some difference in the conversation," Kauffman said. "I have to say, after agreeing to this and when I stopped sweating, it didn't unburden me, but it lifted me up. But until in my next production, I can do it right, it isn't over." 

"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."