In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter that was published alongside the premiere of HBO Max’s Friends: The Reunion, series creators Marta Kauffman and David Crane acknowledged the sitcom’s lack of diversity.
“There are many things that I could say if I only knew then what I know now,” Kauffman said when asked if it was a conscious choice to have an all-white cast. “Back then, there was no conscious decision. We saw people of every race, religion, color. These were the six people we cast. So, it was certainly not conscious.”
Kevin Bright, who served as executive producer and director on the series, admitted that if the series were made today, the racial makeup of its six main stars would be different.
“If we did Friends today, no, I don’t imagine they would probably end up being an all-white cast,” Bright explained. “We would be so aware. It would be integral to the chemistry and the conversation that these guys would be having. And the racial makeup of them would change because of that.”
Friends has long been criticized for its lack of diversity. Aisha Tyler made appearances in nine episodes, the most for a person of color while Phill Lewis, who played Chandler’s boss in three episodes, came in second.
The creators and executive producers of Friends aren’t the only ones who’ve acknowledged the show’s diversity issues.
Last year, David Schwimmer told the Guardian that he pushed for more diverse casting, suggesting that his character Ross could date women of color.
“I was well aware of the lack of diversity and I campaigned for years to have Ross date women of color,” Schwimmer said. “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.”
Friends co-creator Marta Kauffman also spoke about diversity issues back in 2020.
“I wish I knew then what I knew today, I would have made very different decisions,” Kauffman said at a virtual panel. “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? 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.”