Lisa Kudrow addresses lack of diversity on Friends: ‘You write what you know’

·2 min read

Lisa Kudrow has addressed the lack of diversity in Friends in a new interview.

Kudrow, 59, portrayed the character of Phoebe Buffay in the hit sitcom, which ran from 1994 until 2004, about a group of six friends navigating life and love in New York City.

Despite its overwhelming success, Friends has been repeatedly called out for its predominantly white cast, with people of colour appearing in significantly smaller roles – if at all.

In an interview with The Daily Beast, published on 10 August, Kudrow spoke about why Friends co-creators Marta Kauffman and David Crane had “no business” writing about people of colour – given their own experiences.

When asked about Kauffman’s recent $4m donation to fund an endowed chair at her alma mater Brandeis University’s African and African American studies department, Kudrow said: “Well, I feel like it was a show created by two people who went to Brandeis and wrote about their lives after college.

“And for shows especially, when it’s going to be a comedy that’s character-driven, you write what you know,” she continued, adding: “They have no business writing stories about the experiences of being a person of colour.”

At that time, Kudrow said, “the big problem that I was seeing was, ‘Where’s the apprenticeship?’”

In addition to her donation, Kauffman has also previously expressed her “embarrassment” at how she “didn’t know better 25 years ago” – with regards to diversity on Friends, which has remained a cultural phenomenon in the years since the finale was aired.

She told the Los Angeles Times: “It took me a long time to begin to understand how I internalised systemic racism.

“I’ve been working really hard to become an ally, an anti-racist. And [the fund] seemed to me to be a way that I could participate in the conversation from a white woman’s perspective.”

Elsewhere, in her interview with The Daily Beast, Kudrow recalled Jerry Seinfeld taking some credit for the success of the sitcom, which aired on NBC during the evening slot after Mad About You.

“The first season our ratings were just fine,” Kudrow explained, adding: “We held onto enough of Mad About You and started building.”

However, it was only when Friends reruns began airing after Seinfeld that the show “exploded”, Kudrow admitted.