'Friends' creators say show's lack of diversity was 'not conscious' decision

'If we did 'Friends' today, I don’t imagine they would be an all-white cast,' says executive producer and director Kevin Bright

Hit sitcom 'Friends' has previously been criticised for its all-white lead cast. Getty Images
Hit sitcom 'Friends' has previously been criticised for its all-white lead cast. Getty Images

The team behind hit sitcom Friends have admitted that if the show was made in the modern day, the cast might look a little different.

Creators Marta Kauffman and David Crane, and executive producer and director Kevin Bright, have addressed the TV favourite's lack of diversity, revealing that it was not their intention to feature an all-white lead cast.

Friends, which was broadcast between 1994 and 2004, centred around six New York City residents, portrayed by Jennifer Aniston, Lisa Kudrow, Courteney Cox, Matt LeBlanc, Matthew Perry and David Schwimmer.

"Back then, there was no conscious decision. We saw people of every race, religion, colour. These were the six people we cast," Kauffman told The Hollywood Reporter in a new interview.

Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Matthew Perry, Lisa Kudrow, David Schwimmer and Matt Leblanc take part in the special 'Friends: The Reunion', which was broadcast last week. NBC
Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Matthew Perry, Lisa Kudrow, David Schwimmer and Matt LeBlanc take part in the special 'Friends: The Reunion', which was broadcast last week. NBC

"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."

The show has, over the years, been criticised for its homogenous casting, but Bright told the publication he had no "regrets other than hindsight".

"I would have been insane not to hire those six actors. What can I say? I wish Lisa was black? I’ve loved this cast. I loved the show and I loved the experience," he said.

Kauffman, however, said there were "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," the TV writer, who also co-created the show Grace and Frankie, said.

The six lead actors reunited on screen last week, for the first time in 17 years, to film a reunion special.

The One Where They Get Back Together, which aired on OSN in the UAE, featured interviews, bloopers and celebrity cameos.

While the cast-mates reflected on their time making the hit show, Friends creators admitted a number of things would be different if the sitcom was made today.

"We would be so aware. It would be integral to the chemistry and the conversation that these guys would be having. Do they get together as much as they do on the show, or is this more of a social media back and forth?" Bright told THR.

"And the racial makeup of them would change because of that. If we did Friends today, no, I don’t imagine they would probably end up being an all-white cast."

Actor Schwimmer, who portrayed Ross Geller on the show, said earlier this year that he had lobbied for his character to date a woman of colour.

"I was well aware of the lack of diversity, and I campaigned for years to have Ross date women of colour. One of the first girlfriends I had on the show was an Asian-American woman, and later I dated African-American women," he told The Guardian last year.

"That was a very conscious push on my part."

Updated: May 30, 2021 01:06 PM

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