Friends star Lisa Kudrow comes out in defense of the iconic sitcom’s frequently-maligned lack of diversity. First airing in 1994 and following the personal, professional, and romantic lives of a group of 20-to-30-somethings living in New York City, Friends quickly became a massive hit. Friends ultimately ran for 10 seasons before coming to an end in 2004. Despite the show having concluded almost 20 years ago, the rise of streaming has allowed Friends to remain immensely popular to this day.
In addition to Kudrow as Phoebe, the show stars Courteney Cox as Monica, David Schwimmer as Ross, Jennifer Aniston as Rachel, Matt LeBlanc as Joey, and Matthew Perry as Chandler. Although Friends continues to entertain viewers all these years later, the hit NBC sitcom has not managed to totally avoid controversy. In recent years, many have called the show out for its all-white leading cast and the fact that most of the impressive roster of guest stars were also white. Over the last few years, Friends co-creator Marta Kauffman has addressed complaints about the show’s lack of diversity, expressing regret for not knowing better at the time and even donating $4 million to charity in an effort to make amends.
In a new interview with The Daily Beast, Kudrow defends Friends from complaints about the show’s lack of diversity, explaining the writers, who are white, were only writing what they were familiar with. Kudrow elaborates, saying that the show’s white writers had “no business” writing about what it’s like to be a person of color. The actor does explain, however, that the show should have done more to elevate and include the voices of people of color by offering apprenticeships to up-and-coming writers. Check out Kudrow’s full comment below:
“Well, I feel like it was a show created by two people who went to Brandeis and wrote about their lives after college. And for shows especially, when it’s going to be a comedy that’s character-driven, you write what you know. They have no business writing stories about the experiences of being a person of color. I think at that time, the big problem that I was seeing was, ‘Where’s the apprenticeship?'”
Although sitcoms like Friends, Seinfeld and a number of other shows from the 1980s and 1990s still remain popular today, they often don’t hold up to modern standards for inclusion and diversity. Today’s television landscape is vastly different from the one that existed two or three decades ago, with various shows featuring diverse casts and depicting cultures and lifestyles that have previously been overlooked in the world of entertainment. To Friends’ credit, however, it did make strides in certain areas of representation and was the first show to ever depict a lesbian wedding on TV.
Many would likely agree with Kudrow’s assertion that white writers lack the knowledge to be able to authentically depict the experiences of other cultural groups, something that could have indeed been rectified by bringing diverse voices onto the writing staff. Although years have passed since Friends ended in 2004, the lack of diversity on TV has continued to a lesser degree, with even more recent hit shows like How I Met Your Mother featuring predominantly white casts. Despite this, however, Kudrow clearly recognizes that diversity in TV is about more than just casting actors of color, it’s also about working from the ground up to incorporate diverse voices at all stages of development.
Source: The Daily Beast