As for all-time favorite sitcoms, NBC’s friends is by far one of the strongest competitors.
Aired in the late 90’s and early 00’s, friends – which follows a lovable group of twenty-somethings living in New York – is still undeniably a huge hit among fans today, especially since it was added to Netflix in 2015.
But in recent years certain aspects of friends came under renewed scrutiny and criticism from viewers — namely, the lack of diversity in the all-white main cast, which includes Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc, Matthew Perry and David Schwimmer.
And some of the main cast themselves have dealt with the criticism friends has grappled with casting, with David – who played Ross Geller for the show’s ten seasons – even revealing a few years ago that he had made a “deliberate push” for the show to hire more diverse actors.
“I was aware of the lack of diversity and for years I advocated for Ross to date women of color,” he said. “One of the first girlfriends I had on the show was an Asian-American woman, and later I started dating African-American women. That was a very conscious move on my part.”
Well, now one more from friends Lead actress Lisa has addressed the lack of diversity and seemingly justified the writers’ choices, claiming they were based on her personal experiences.
Lisa, who portrayed fan favorite Phoebe Buffay, sat down with The Daily Beast on Wednesday for a wide-ranging interview asking her how she feels about the diversity on the show.
“I feel like it was a show created by two people who went to Brandeis [University] and wrote about her life after college,” she said. “And especially for shows, if it’s going to be character-driven comedy, you write what you know.”
“They have nothing to do with writing stories about the experiences of being a person of color. I think back then the big issue I saw was, ‘Where’s the education?'” she added.
However, Lisa further noted that if friends if it were remade today, it would have to have a “different” and “more diverse” cast.
“I think if there ever was such a thing [a Friends movie]if Martha [Kauffman] and David [Crane] ever signed anything like that, it would have to be a different cast at that age,” she said, referring to the show’s co-creators. “I think it needs to be more up to date – and more diverse representation isn’t a bad idea, you know?”
Similarly, a few years ago, Lisa explained that a friends Reboot would be “completely different” from the original series. “It certainly wouldn’t be an all-white cast,” she said, before clarifying that she thinks the show “should be viewed as a time capsule, not what.” [it] wrong.”
Additionally, co-creator Marta recently expressed regret at the writers’ decision to include an all-white main cast. So much so that a few months ago she pledged $4 million to Brandeis University’s Department of African and African American Studies.
“I’ve learned a lot over the past 20 years,” she said. “Admitting and accepting guilt is not easy. It hurts to look at yourself in the mirror. I’m embarrassed that I didn’t know any better 25 years ago.”
Marta’s commitment came just over a year later friends Executive producer Kevin Bright addressed criticism of the series’ “all white, heteronormative” main casting.
Echoing Lisa’s recent comments about sticking to “what you know,” Kevin explained that he and the other writers based their casting on their own experiences when they were “young and in New York.”
“We didn’t intend to have an all-white cast,” he said. “That wasn’t the goal either. Obviously the chemistry between these six players speaks for itself.”
Kevin went on to say that it’s “important for today’s shows to reflect the way society really is,” though he was quick to emphasize that he had no regrets about his casting choices.
“I don’t regret anything except in hindsight,” he said. “I would have been crazy not to hire those six actors. What can I say? I wish Lisa was black? I loved this cast. I loved the show and I loved the experience. I know Marta has a different feeling about that. I think it affects us all.”
Interestingly, Marta recently admitted that she regrets the show’s handling of a different issue surrounding one of the main character’s transgender parents.
Fans will likely recall that Chandler Bing, played by Matthew Perry, had a transgender parent whose stage name was “Helena Handbasket.” However, the characters would always misname her, referring to her as “Chandler’s father.”
Speaking to BBC News last month on the subject, Marta addressed the fact that the show “kept referencing it [Helena] as ‘Chandler’s father’ even though Chandler’s father was trans.”
“Pronouns were something I didn’t understand yet, so we didn’t refer to this character as ‘she,'” she admitted. “That was a mistake.”