‘Friends’ creator apologises for show’s lack of diversity with $4million pledge: “I’m embarrassed”

“Admitting and accepting guilt is not easy”

Friends co-creator Marta Kauffman has pledged $4million (£3.2million) to African American studies as an apology for the show’s lack of diversity.

Kauffman, who is also the co-creator of Netflix series Grace And Frankie, made the pledge to her alma mater, Brandeis University in Boston, to establish an endowed professorship in the school’s African and African American studies department.

Speaking to the Los Angeles Times, Kauffman said she had a change of heart on the diversity criticism against the show following the death of George Floyd in 2020 by Minneapolis police – which sparked worldwide protests.

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“I’ve learned a lot in the last 20 years,” Kauffman said. “Admitting and accepting guilt is not easy. It’s painful looking at yourself in the mirror. I’m embarrassed that I didn’t know better 25 years ago.”

Marta Kauffman
Marta Kauffman CREDIT: Kevin Winter/Getty Images

She added: “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 this seemed to me to be a way that I could participate in the conversation from a white woman’s perspective.”

Co-creator David Bright has previously addressed the show’s lack of diversity, saying they did not intend to have an all-white central cast.

“It’s important for today’s shows to be reflective of the ways society truly is,” Bright told The Hollywood Reporter. “But for our experience, the three of us, that may have been our experience when we were young and in New York. But we didn’t intend to have an all-white cast. That was not the goal, either. Obviously, the chemistry between these six actors speaks for itself.”

He added: “I would have been insane not to hire those six actors. What can I say? I wish Lisa was Black? I’ve loved this cast. I loved the show and I loved the experience.”

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In the same interview, Kauffman added: “There are probably a hundred things I would have done differently. I’ve talked about it in the past and I do have very strong feelings about my participation in a system, but it comes down to I didn’t know what I didn’t know.”

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