“When it’s going to be a comedy that’s character-driven, you write what you know.”
While still incredibly popular in syndication and on streaming, “Friends” has come under fire in more recent years for its startling lack of diversity considering it takes place in New York City, one of the most diverse places in America.
And yet, Lisa Kudrow defended the way the show came out because its creators, Marta Kauffman and David Crane, were both white creators.
“I feel like it was a show created by two people who went to Brandeis and wrote about their lives after college,” she told The Daily Beast. “And for shows especially, when it’s going to be a comedy that’s character-driven, you write what you know.”
That means, as far as Kudrow is concerned, “They have no business writing stories about the experiences of being a person of color.”
At the same time, Kudrow does acknowledge that there was a lack of representation, but her concern is more about the lack of mentoring for minority creators. “I think at that time, the big problem that I was seeing was, ‘Where’s the apprenticeship?'” she said.
Kudrow’s comments come two months after Kauffman herself acknowledged the show’s lack of diversity and took full responsibility and ownership for it, definitely seeing it as a real problem.
She explained to the Los Angeles Times that it wasn’t until the death of George Floyd and its aftermath that she “began to wrestle with … having bought into systemic racism in ways [she] was never aware of.”
“Admitting and accepting guilt is not easy,” Kauffman said then. “It’s painful looking at yourself in the mirror. I’m embarrassed that I didn’t know better 25 years ago.”
She said that after the death of Floyd and the nationwide protests driven by the Black Lives Matter movement, she “began to examine the ways I had participated,” adding, “I knew then I needed to course-correct.”
Part of that work included a $4 million donation to the aforementioned Brandeis University in Boston. Specifically, the funds will establish an endowed professorship in the African and African American studies department.
Kauffman said that while she feels she has perhaps made “some difference in the conversation,” she by no means feels this “unburdens” her from the mistakes made with the show’s diversity, or lack thereof.
“It didn’t unburden me, but it lifted me up,” she said, but insisted it wouldn’t be made right until she makes it right with properly representative casting in a future production.
“I want to make sure from now on in every production I do that I am conscious in hiring people of color and actively pursue young writers of color,” she explained. “I want to know I will act differently from now on. And then I will feel unburdened.”