Friends star David Schwimmer has made light of the show’s perceived lack of diversity as he presented an award at the TV Baftas.
The iconic TV series has been criticised in recent years for its depiction of four white friends in New York.
Schwimmer, who remains best-known for his role as Ross Geller in the show, was presenting an award alongside Intelligence co-star Nick Mohammed when the show was brought up.
“We’re also here to celebrate the huge, huge array of diversity within BAFTA,” Mohammed said. “Not just on display across all the shows nominated tonight, but also in terms of those presenting the awards.”
Schwimmer then joked: “That’s right, look at us. Only 50% of us is white heterosexual male,” prompting Mohammed to reply: “And we all remember how diverse Friends was…”
— Philip O'Meara (@philipomeara) May 12, 2019
“Thank you. Thank you,” Schwimmer replied. “Yeah, it was a groundbreaking show in that fully half the cast were women, and I made sure we were all paid equally.”
Mohammed then jabbed back: “Wasn’t Courteney [Cox] making more than the rest of you when you first started?”
“Yes, that was a problem,” Schwimmer said.
Last year, it emerged that one of the executives behind the original concept of Friends has said that it was suggested that the cast be ‘more diverse’ – but that this idea was rejected by the creators.
EVP of Freeform Programming & Development Karey Burke was present when Marta Kauffman and David Crane first pitched the hit US sitcom. Speaking in 2018, she said that Kauffman and Crane ‘pushed back’ when it was brought up that the characters show more diversity – claiming that they had very specific ideas that would only work with six white straight people.
“I think now it might be a different conversation. I also think that was Gen X, and I think Millenials and subsequently Gen Z are far more diverse generations,” said Burke. “And I think to honestly serve those generations…it might feel a little tone deaf to not be more inclusive.”
While it’s been fifteen years since airing its last episode, Friends still remains as popular as ever.
This summer, a special FriendsFest tour will take place to mark 25 year since the show first aired.
But a reunion seems unlikely – with Jennifer Aniston discussing the prospect last year.