Gabrielle Union to Host Friends Cast Reading with Black Stars
Friends is getting reimagined with an all-Black cast.
On Tuesday evening, Gabrielle Union will host a live table read of an episode of the beloved sitcom, this time featuring Uzo Aduba, Ryan Bathe, Aisha Hinds, Sterling K. Brown, Kendrick Sampson and Jeremy Pope.
The actors will re-enact the classic episode “The One Where No One’s Ready" from season 3 of the show, which originally starred Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc, Matthew Perry and David Schwimmer.
For the cast reading, Aduba will play Phoebe, Bathe will play Rachel, Hinds will portray Monica, Brown will appear as Ross, Sampson will take on Joey, and Pope will be Chandler.
Members of the production team include Bathe, Hinds, Cynthia Erivo, Tessa Thompson, Kerry Washington, Rashida Jones, Stefanie and Quentin James, Channing Dungey, Karen Richardson, Issa Rae, Latanya Richardson and Ava DuVernay.
The event is part of “Zoom Where It Happens" — a live table read series presented by Black women artists (in partnership with Zoom), whose goal is to raise activation, awareness and intention about the right to vote.
“Zoom Where It Happen" launched Sept. 8 and will continue with a rotating cast of actors through Election Day on Nov. 3, 2020. Its aim is to catalyze voters and amplify the fight for electoral justice and voting rights.
This isn't the first time that Friends has been reimagined with an all-Black cast.
In 2017, Jay-Z replaced the original cast with all-Black actors — including Insecure‘s Issa Rae and Atlanta’s Lakeith Stanfield — for his “Moonlight" music video, which also took on “The One Where No One’s Ready."
The sitcom, which aired for 10 seasons from 1994-2004, has come under fire for its lack of diverse representation. Aisha Tyler was the first Black person to have a major role in seasons 9 and 10. Prior to that, in season 7, Union appeared in"The One with the Cheap Wedding Dress."
In June, co-creator Marta Kauffman acknowledged the sitcom's lack of diversity. Kauffman, who created the series with David Crane, got emotional at the virtual 2020 ATX TV festival when she was asked what she wishes she'd known at the start of her career.
"I wish I knew then what I know today," Kauffman, 63, tearfully said, according to Page Six. "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?" she continued. "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.”
Months earlier, Schwimmer told the The Guardian that he made a “conscious push” for more diversity on the show.
"I was well aware of the lack of diversity and I campaigned for years to have Ross date women of color,” he 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." (Ross dated Julie, played by Lauren Tom, in season 2, and courted Tyler's character Charlie.)
Schwimmer said he would like to see a reimagined version of Friends with a more diverse cast. “Maybe there should be an all-black Friends or an all-Asian Friends,” he added.
To register for the free virtual Sept. 22 event, visit here.