The series, which is now streaming on HBO Max, has been criticized for its lack of diversity. The criticism was there during its original run and continues as more viewers discover or rewatch the show. At the 2020 ATX TV Festival (virtual because of the coronavirus pandemic), Friends co-creator Marta Kauffman spoke about the show’s lack of diversity. Set in New York, the show followed six white friends and featured predominately white guest stars with the exception of girlfriend characters played by Lauren Tom and Aisha Tyler.
Friends Co-Creator Marta Kauffman Admits Regrets Over Lack of Diversity
“We’ve always encouraged people of diversity in our company, but I didn’t do enough. 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? That’s something I wish I knew when I started showrunning,” Kauffman said according to Deadline, noting she wished she knew it “all the way up through last year” as well.
“I feel that a lot of the problem today in so many areas is that so little is taken in context. You have to look at it from the point of view of what the show was trying to do at the time,” he continued. “I’m the first person to say that maybe something was inappropriate or insensitive, but I feel like my barometer was pretty good at that time. I was already really attuned to social issues and issues of equality.”
“Maybe there should be an all-black Friends or an all-Asian Friends,” Schwimmer said. “But I was well aware of the lack of diversity and I 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. That was a very conscious push on my part.”
Lisa Kudrow, Phoebe on Friends, said the show would be “completely different” if it was currently on in 2020.