“I’m embarrassed that I didn’t know any better 25 years ago,” said co-creator Marta Kauffman, who hopes to now feel “at ease” by supporting voices of color.
The One With a Charity Pledge: Friends co-creator Marta Kauffman announced a $4 million donation to her alma mater, Brandeis University, to create a fund to support scholars working in Africa and the… study African diaspora.
Kauffmann said that Los Angeles Times that she’s “embarrassed” by the lack of diversity on the hit ’90s sitcom Friends, which ran for ten seasons and focused on six straight white singles in New York City. The show’s most prominent colorist was Aisha Tyler, who portrayed Ross’s (David Schimmer) love interest for nine episodes.
Kauffman, who created the series with David Crane, revealed that she originally found criticism of underrepresentation “difficult and frustrating,” but the events of 2020, namely the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police, throws a new one light on her understanding of the series.
“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.”
Friends ran from 1994 to 2004 and starred Schimmer, Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matthew Perry and Matt LeBlanc as the core of the friends group. Kauffman added, “I’ve learned a lot over the last 20 years. 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.”
To “correct course,” as Kauffman put it, she pledged $4 million to Brandeis University to establish the Marta F. Kauffman ’78 Professorship in African and African American Studies. The fund will support a scholar studying Africa and the African diaspora and help the department recruit more experienced scholars and teachers, as well as provide new opportunities for existing students.
“I feel like I’ve finally been able to change the conversation,” Kauffman continued. “I want to make sure on every production I do from now on that I’m consciously hiring people of color and actively nurturing young writers of color. I want to know that I will behave differently from now on. And then I feel unencumbered.”
After Friends, Kauffman wrote and produced the spinoffs Joey, Friends: The Reunion, and the Netflix hit series Grace and Frankie.