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After All The Flak Friends Faced For Not Featuring Enough People Of Color, Lisa Kudrow Shares Her Point Of View

The issue of Friends’ lack of diversity has reared its head again of late. 17 years after the iconic series aired its last episode on NBC, fans are still celebrating the infinitely quotable sitcom, but it’s hard even for its most loyal followers to overlook what is likely its harshest criticism. The cast and creators have responded in different ways over the years, including David Schwimmer’s defense of the series, and now Lisa Kudrow has weighed in with her own point of view.

Lisa Kudrow played the kooky Phoebe Buffay for Friends’ 10 seasons, alongside her five also-white co-stars. When discussing the issue of the New York City-set sitcom lacking characters from other races and nationalities, and stories from more diverse perspectives, the actress told The Daily Beast that Marta Kauffman and David Crane had no place in telling POC stories, and she points out her own biggest issue with the discussion. In Kudrow’s words:

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?’

It’s a good point to make that the Friends creators were merely writing what they knew from their own experiences, and there would have been no way for them to authentically write POC stories. So in that way, the issue isn't so much about the writing that exists, but with the lack of diversity in the writers room. Not having anyone on staff who could contribute in that way is a big part of what co-creator Marta Kauffman said she’s going to change in future projects. 

In June, Kauffman said she was “accepting guilt” for the series’ shortcomings, and admitted that it took her a long time to understand how she’d “internalized systematic racism.” Along with pledging $4 million to Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts, to create an endowed chair in the school’s African and African-American studies department, Kauffman said she would actively pursue more diversity in her productions going forward. She promised:

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. I want to know I will act differently from now on.

While the lack of people of color was a huge issue, for many, the depiction of New York City itself — which is a melting pot of representation — also rubbed fans the wrong way. The Good Doctor’s Daniel Dae Kim seemed a little conflicted about Friends, speaking in June about how his family loved the show, but saying that his kids would ask, “How come in their New York, everyone is white?” Friends certainly isn't the only TV series guilty of such one-sided casts and stories, but its massive and maintained popularity over the years has made it easy to continuously put under the microscope in such ways.

The popularity of Friends isn’t likely to go away anytime soon, either, so it’s important to look at such a successful and beloved series and recognize how shows can and should do better in the future. All 10 seasons of Friends, including Friends’ emotional reunion special, are available for streaming with an HBO Max subscription.

Heidi Venable
Content Producer

Mom of two and hard-core '90s kid. Unprovoked, will quote Friends in any situation. Thrives on New Orleans Saints football, The West Wing and taco trucks.