Friends Creator Concedes She 'Didn't Do Enough' To Encourage Diversity On The Show

The award-winning sitcom ended in 2004 but is still available to stream on Netflix.

Friends co-creator Marta Kauffman has lamented that she “didn’t do enough” to encourage diversity on the show.

The award-winning sitcom went off the air in 2004, however the lack of diversity among the principal actors has been raised again since its debut on streaming services like Netflix and HBO Max.

During an ATX panel discussion, Marta was asked if there were things she’d do differently had she known more at the beginning of her career, and gave a tearful response about the show’s lack of diversity.

I wish I knew then what I know today,” she said, according to Page Six. “Sorry, I just wish I knew then what I know now. I would’ve made very different decisions.”

Marta Kauffman
Marta Kauffman
Charley Gallay via Getty Images

She continued: “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.”

While criticism about Friends’ predominantly white cast is often framed as a modern issue, the show was actually called out for it throughout its original run, with David Schwimmer claiming recently that he “pushed” for his character to date women of a different race to his own.

The cast of Friends
The cast of Friends
NBC via Getty Images

“One of the first girlfriends I had on the show was an Asian American woman and later I dated African American women,” he told The Guardian. “That was a very conscious push on my part.”

As well as issues relating to race, Friends has also faced criticism over jokes relating to the LGBTQ community.

Last year, Marta expressed regret over these moments, saying: “I think we didn’t have the knowledge about transgender people back then, so I’m not sure if we used the appropriate terms. I don’t know if I would have known those terms back then. I think that’s the biggest one.”

Explaining that she was specifically referring to the character of Chandler’s dad, Charles Bing, Marta added: “Every time I watch an episode, there’s something I wish I could have changed… Like, how did we leave that joke in there? Or, really, that storyline? That’s what we went with?”

She also named The One With The Rumor – which was slammed by the intersex community even when it first aired in 2001 – as an episode she would change, adding: “In that sense, it really is a period piece.”


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