Friends Creators Open Up About the Show's Lack of Diversity: 'We Didn't Intend to Have an All-White Cast'
"If we did Friends today, no, I don't imagine they would probably end up being an all-white cast," director and executive producer Kevin Bright said in a recent interview
The creators and executive producers of Friends have strong feelings about the show's lack of diversity, all these years later.
In a wide-ranging interview with The Hollywood Reporter published Wednesday, series creators Marta Kauffman and David Crane — and director and executive producer Kevin Bright —acknowledged 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, 66, said in the piece, which came on the heels of the Friends reunion special on HBO Max.
"We would be so aware," he added. "So much would change, but to get them to behave realistically within this time, there would be a lot that would change about them. And the racial makeup of them would change because of that."
Friends — which starred Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc, Matthew Perry, and David Schwimmer as six twenty-somethings living in New York — has recieved criticism in the past for its all-white, heteronormative cast.
Both Kauffman, 64, and Bright insisted they casting a group of white actors wasn't the plan.
"We didn't intend to have an all-white cast. That was not the goal, either," Bright explained. Obviously, the chemistry between these six actors speaks for itself."
"Back then, there was no conscious decision," said Kauffman. "We saw people of every race, religion, color. These were the six people we cast. So, it was certainly not conscious. And it wasn't because it was literally based on people, because it wasn't literal. You get an inspiration for someone, you write what you think their voice is going to be, but it wasn't literal."
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When asked if they would have done anything differently when making the series, Kauffman said, "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," she said.
Bright said he didn't have any regrets "other than hindsight."
"I would have been insane not to hire those six actors," he explained. "What can I say? 'I wish Lisa was Black?' I've loved this cast. I loved the show and I loved the experience. I know Marta has a different feeling about it. I think it affects us all."
"It's important for today's shows to be reflective of the ways society truly is. But for our experience, the three of us, that may have been our experience when we were young and in New York," Bright also said.
Aisha Tyler joined the cast as Dr. Charlie Wheeler in 2003, becoming the show's first Black actor with a recurring role since its 1994 premiere.
Tyler, 50, spoke to InStyle in 2018 about her role on the series, saying that her casting "was a milestone for the show. As an actor, that was the biggest show on TV at the time, so it was a milestone."
"Well, I think it was a pivotal moment for the show in regards to race, in terms of having a character of color that had some durability, and stuck around a while, but what was interesting was that they didn't really make a meal of it," Tyler said at the time.
"The role wasn't written as a woman of color, and when I auditioned, I read against women of every ethnic background," she said. "I think why it worked was that they didn't make it into a 'very special episode of Friends' where the friends suddenly confront issues of race, or try to somehow counterbalance the previous eight seasons' relative lack of diversity."
"I was just a character on the show, with her own appeal and quirks and foibles, and I think that's why it worked so well," Tyler added.