Friends creator Marta Kauffman told the Los Angeles Times that she was so “embarrassed” and “guilty” about the lack of diversity on her classic NBC sitcom that she was donating $4 million to create the Marta F. Kauffman ’78 Professorship in African and African American Studies at Brandeis University. Kauffman said it was originally “difficult and frustrating” to have the show criticized for its lack of different characters, but she became self-critical after the 2020 murder of George Floyd.
“After what happened with George Floyd, I began to wrestle with the fact that I had bought into systemic racism in a way I was never aware of,” Kauffman said. “That was really the moment I started investigating my participation. I knew then that I had to correct the course.”
All six main characters of “Friends” were white, and the show rarely featured black actors in prominent roles throughout 10 seasons and 236 episodes. The likes of Lauren Tom, Gabrielle Union, Mark Consuelos and Craig Robinson appeared in small supporting roles on the show, while Aisha Tyler, the show’s most prominent actress of color, only starred in nine episodes. Tyler played a paleontology professor who dated both Joey and Ross.
According to the LA Times, Kauffman’s $4 million African and African American Studies program will support “a distinguished scholar focused on the study of the peoples and cultures of Africa and the African diaspora. The gift will also help the department recruit more experienced scientists and faculty, set long-term academic and research priorities, and create new opportunities for students to engage in interdisciplinary scholarship.”
I’ve learned a lot over the last 20 years,” Kauffman said. “Admitting and accepting guilt is not easy. It hurts to look at yourself in the mirror. I’m embarrassed that I didn’t know any better 25 years ago. “
Kauffman said she’s “got nothing but love” since the announcement, adding, “It’s been amazing. It surprised me a bit because I didn’t expect the news to be so widely shared. I got a flood of emails and texts and posts that were nothing but support. I got a lot of ‘It’s about time’. Not in a mean way. It’s just that people are acknowledging that it was long overdue.”
https://variety.com/2022/tv/news/friends-creator-embarrassed-diversity-donates-4-million-1235307727/ Friends Creator Embarrassed By Show’s Diversity Donates $4M