Friends creator Marta Kauffman got emotional during a recent ATX TV…from the Couch panel with female showrunners when she got a question about what she wished she’d known when she started her television career. Kauffman admitted that she wishes she would have known then what she knows now because she would have made “very different decisions.”
“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,” explained Kauffman, who is also the showrunner for Grace & Frankie.
"Friends" co-creator Marta Kauffman says that the show’s very white version of New York City was a mistake https://t.co/egkKuvUvFl
— New York Magazine (@NYMag) June 8, 2020
Despite being one of the most iconic sitcoms in television history, Friends has faced criticism for it’s all-white main cast and lack of diversity on the series overall. In January, David Schwimmer told The Guardian that he was “well aware of the lack of diversity” on Friends, and he “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,” said Schwimmer, referring to actresses Lauren Tom and Aisha Tyler.
Schwimmer said that was a “very conscious push” on his part. He also noted that Friends was “groundbreaking in its time” because it casually handled the topics of sex, protected sex, gay marriage, and relationships. He also said that fans today need to look at the show in context, and see it from a point of view of what the show was trying to do at the time.
As for Kauffman and the ATX panel, fellow panelist and Vampire Diaries showrunner Julie Plec said that the classic TV shows people are turning to for comfort – like Gossip Girl, Dawson’s Creek, Gilmore Girls, and Vampire Diaries – are predominantly filled with white cast members. She says that being a part of that group is a “hard pill” for her to swallow
A Black Lady Sketch Show creator Robin Thede responded to Marta Kauffman’s comments by explaining that Kauffman and other TV showrunners are just as much a part of systemic racism because they are a system. Thede explained that it’s not just one person being racist and ruining everything. Instead, it’s a system that racists set up to encourage, teach, and disguise racism.
The co-creator of Friends, Marta Kauffman, admitted she missed the mark on diversity: "We've always encouraged people of diversity in our company, but I didn't do enough." https://t.co/6wMt13JjmK pic.twitter.com/TdmrkNDhYo
— E! News (@enews) June 8, 2020
“No one was supposed to know it was wrong, that was the point,” said Thede. “We were supposed to look like we were yelling for no reason. We were supposed to look like kneeling was an offense to the flag and not a cry to stop killing us. We’re supposed to be made to look bad and now people know better and when you know better, you do better and that’s all that people are asking for.”