"Friends" co-creator Marta Kauffman regrets the lack of diversity on the classic NBC sitcom — and she's taking responsibility for it.
Kauffman, 63, who co-created the series with David Crane, got emotional when she was asked what she wished she'd known at the start of her career during an appearance at the virtual 2020 ATX Festival. "I wish I knew then what I know today," Kauffman said, holding back tears. "Sorry, I just wish I knew then what I know now. I would’ve made very different decisions."
"I mean, we’ve always encouraged people of diversity in our company, but I didn’t do enough and now all I can think about is what can I do? What can I do differently? How can I run my show in a new way?" she continued.
"And that’s something I not only wish I knew when I started showrunning, but I wish I knew all the way up through last year," she added. (Watch Kauffman share her remarks at the 4:51:57 mark in the video above.)
Though "Friends" remains wildly popular 16 years after it left the air, the series, which is set in New York City, has long faced criticism for many issues. Arguably the biggest was that it featured mostly white characters. Yet it’s also come under fire for its homophobic jokes and sexist treatment of women.
David Schwimmer, who played Ross Gellar, agreed the show should have had a more diverse cast, but he argued it was ahead of its time in other ways.
"The truth is also that show was groundbreaking in its time for the way in which it handled so casually sex, protected sex, gay marriage and relationships. The pilot of the show was my character’s wife left him for a woman and there was a gay wedding, of my ex and her wife, that I attended," Schwimmer, 53, told The Guardian in January.
“Maybe there should be an all-black 'Friends' or an all-Asian 'Friends,'" he said. "But I was well aware of the lack of diversity and I campaigned for years to have Ross date women of color," he added. "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."