Lisa Kudrow says 'Friends' creators 'had no business' writing about people of color

·4 min read

"Friends" star Lisa Kudrow is weighing in on the '90s sitcom's perceived lack of diversity.

During an interview with The Daily Beast published Aug. 10, the Emmy-winning actress was asked about "Friends" co-creator Marta Kauffman, who recently spoke about how she felt regarding criticism of the show's racial diversity.

Kudrow, who played oddball Phoebe Buffay on the landmark NBC sitcom, said the show’s "character-driven" nature meant the series reflected the experiences of its creators, who were white.

"Friends" ran from 1994 to 2004 and centered on the camaraderie and romance between six friends living in New York City. The show's main characters were all white, but people of color were seen on screen occasionally in primarily supporting roles, including Gabrielle Union, Lauren Tom and Aisha Tyler.

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Lisa Kudrow visits the SiriusXM Hollywood Studio on June 28, 2022. During an interview, the actress addressed comments made by "Friends" co-creator Marta Kauffman, who recently opened up about how she felt about criticism of the show's racial diversity.
Lisa Kudrow visits the SiriusXM Hollywood Studio on June 28, 2022. During an interview, the actress addressed comments made by "Friends" co-creator Marta Kauffman, who recently opened up about how she felt about criticism of the show's racial diversity.

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Lisa Kudrow on 'Friends' diversity, Marta Kauffman's comments

In an interview with the Los Angeles Times published in June, Kauffman said she felt "embarrassed" by the lack of diversity on "Friends." "I've learned a lot in the last 20 years," she said. "It’s painful looking at yourself in the mirror."

Kudrow told The Daily Beast in August that creators of the sitcom had "no business writing stories about the experiences of being a person of color."

"It was a show created by two people who went to Brandeis (University) and wrote about their lives after college," Kudrow explained. "And for shows especially, when it’s going to be a comedy that’s character-driven, you write what you know."

She added: "I think at that time, the big problem that I was seeing was, 'Where's the apprenticeship?' "

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Marta Kauffman's $4 million donation after reckoning with 'Friends' diversity issue

Kauffman told the LA Times that while she initially rejected criticism of the diversity on "Friends," her mindset shifted in 2020 after the murder of George Floyd at the hands of police.

"I began to wrestle with my having bought into systemic racism in ways I was never aware of," Kauffman said.

Part of the TV writer's plan to effect change included pledging $4 million to her alma mater, Brandeis University, to establish an endowed professorship in the university's African American studies department. Beyond the multi-million donation, Kauffman said she would also take her efforts to the entertainment industry.

"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," Kauffman said. "I want to know I will act differently from now on. And then I will feel unburdened.”

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David Schwimmer weighs in on 'Friends' lack of diversity

Kauffman isn't the only person from the "Friends" production to talk about the backlash it has faced. In an interview with The Guardian in 2020, David Schwimmer, who played Ross Geller on the sitcom, said he pushed for diversity on set.

"I was well aware of the lack of diversity and I campaigned for years to have Ross date women of color," Schwimmer told the outlet. "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."

But Schwimmer also defended the show’s progressiveness, adding "Friends" was "groundbreaking in its time for the way in which it handled so casually sex, protected sex, gay marriage and relationships."

"A lot of the problem today in so many areas is that so little is taken in context," Schwimmer explained. "You have to look at it from the point of view of what the show was trying to do at the time. 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."

Contributing: Elise Brisco

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Lisa Kudrow: 'Friends' star weighs in on show's lack of diversity