The woman behind “Friends” is trying to make things right.
In a new interview with the Los Angeles Times, co-creator Marta Kauffman addressed the decades of criticism the classic sitcom received for its lack of diversity among its leads.
Despite feeling for years that the criticism unfairly singled “Friends” out, calling it “difficult and frustrating,” Kauffman’s perspective has shifted in recent years.
That shift led her to recently pledge $4 million to Brandeis University, her alma mater, to establish an endowed professorship in the school’s African and African-American studies department.
“I’ve learned a lot in the last 20 years,” she explained. “Admitting and accepting guilt is not easy. It’s painful looking at yourself in the mirror. I’m embarrassed that I didn’t know better 25 years ago. ”
What inspired Kauffman’s change of mindset on the issue was the reckoning over racism and police violence against Black people in recent years.
“It was after what happened to George Floyd that I began to wrestle with my having bought into systemic racism in ways I was never aware of,” she said. “That was really the moment that I began to examine the ways I had participated. I knew then I needed to course-correct.”
Some had criticized last year’s “Friends” reunion special for not addressing the criticism, but Kauffman said, “I don’t know how the two were related. And I also don’t know how we could have addressed it in that context of that reunion, going into all the things we did wrong. And there were others.”
She added of the $4-million pledge, “In this case, I’m finally, literally putting my money where my mouth is.”
As for how the donation is being received, Kauffman said, “I’ve gotten nothing but love. It’s been amazing. It surprised me to some extent, because I didn’t expect the news to go this wide. I’ve gotten a flood of emails and texts and posts that have been nothing but supportive. I’ve gotten a lot of ‘It’s about time.’ Not in a mean way. It’s just people acknowledging it was long overdue.”