‘Friends’ Co-Creator Says She’s ‘Embarrassed’ by Series’ Lack of Diversity, Pledges $4 Million to Alma Mater

Marta Kauffman, co-creator of the NBC comedy 'Friends,' says she's "learned a lot" in the years since the show's heyday and is now putting that to use.

The cast of the NBC comedy Friends is pictured in an archival photo

Image via Getty/Chris Haston/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal

The cast of the NBC comedy Friends is pictured in an archival photo

Marta Kauffman, co-creator of Friends, says she feels “embarrassed” by the NBC comedy’s lack of diversity.

As such, Kauffman recently made a $4 million donation to Brandeis University that will be put toward an endowed professorship in the African and African American Studies Department. As Kauffman revealed in a Los Angeles Times interview this week, the donation came about as a result of her having “learned a lot” over the years.

“I’ve learned a lot in the last 20 years,” Kauffman, who also reflected on initially being frustrated and defensive over the criticism during the show’s original run, 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.”

The aforementioned professorship, formally known as the Marta F. Kauffman ’78 Professorship in African and African American Studies, is aimed at providing support for distinguished scholars “with a concentration in the study of the peoples and cultures of Africa and the African diaspora.” Additionally, the donation will help in the recruitment of more scholars and in the facilitation of “new opportunities” for students.

In a statement, Ron Liebowitz—who serves as president of Kauffman’s alma mater—said the donation will ultimately help multiple generations of students.

“It is the first endowed professorship in the program, which means it will ensure the study of African and African American culture, history, and politics for generations of Brandeis students—something more critical than ever,” Liebowitz said in June. “We are so grateful to Marta for her generosity and vision.”

Kauffman has spoken out on this issue in the past, including during an ATX TV Festival panel in 2020.

“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?” Kauffman said at the time.

While Friends wrapped its original NBC run back in 2004, a reunion special featuring all of the main cast members was released via HBO Max just last year.

Latest in Pop Culture