‘Friends’ creator: Having an all-white cast was ‘no conscious decision’

The Paley Center For Media's 2019 PaleyFest LA - "Grace And Frankie"

The Friends reunion on HBO Max has definitely added to this year’s “2002 time loop” gossip vibe, as headlines and stories abound in the year of our lord Beyonce 2021. Even when Friends originally aired, there were always conversations about the lack of diversity in the main cast. David Schwimmer was asked about it years ago in an interview, and he spoke about how from the very beginning of the show, he went to producers and asked that Ross date more women of color, and that they bring more diversity into the show with the guest stars. He was successful at times, and not so successful at times. With the reunion and the press around it, the creators and producers are once again being asked why they did an all-white show:

Over the years, Friends has faced criticism for its lack of diversity, particularly its all-white, heteronormative lead cast. In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter pegged to the premiere of the show’s highly-anticipated HBO Max reunion special, the creators and executive producers of Friends weighed in on the sitcom’s diversity issues.

“There are many things that I could say if I only knew then what I know now,” co-creator Marta Kauffman said of the issue. “Back then, there was no conscious decision. We saw people of every race, religion, color. These were the six people we cast. So, it was certainly not conscious.”

Kevin Bright, who served as executive producer and director on the series, recalled considering a diverse pool of actors for the roles of Chandler and Phoebe in particular, but ultimately defended the casting decisions that were made. “It’s important for today’s shows to be reflective of the ways society truly is,” he said. “But for our experience, the three of us, that may have been our experience when we were young and in New York. But we didn’t intend to have an all-white cast. That was not the goal, either. Obviously, the chemistry between these six actors speaks for itself.

Bright went on to say that, if Friends made today, “I don’t imagine they would probably end up being an all-white cast,” but stopped short of expressing regret about the issue.

“I don’t have any regrets other than hindsight,” he said. “I would have been insane not to hire those six actors. What can I say? I wish Lisa was Black? I’ve loved this cast. I loved the show and I loved the experience. I know Marta [Kauffman] has a different feeling about it. I think it affects us all.”

Kauffman, for her part, did indeed express different feelings about the issue and admitted to harboring some regret over the lack of diversity in the cast and for her role in perpetuating lack of representation in the entertainment industry. “There are probably a hundred things I would have done differently,” she said when asked about what she would do differently in making the series. “I’ve talked about it in the past and I do have very strong feelings about my participation in a system, but it comes down to I didn’t know what I didn’t know.”

[From Harper’s Bazaar]

There’s no way to go back and do it all over again, and I also think that producers absolutely knew that they captured the “lightning in a bottle” with those six actors and their chemistry together. But yeah, it was a conscious choice to go with an all-white cast. It was a conscious choice made in 1993-94 to have an all-white cast. Looking back on television of that era, TV shows were segregated, especially on network television – there were shows with majority-Black casts and shows with all-white casts. That was just the way it was done on network television back then like 95% of the time. I think that’s how Friends should be explained in the current cultural moment: Friends was of its time.

The 46th AFI Life Achievement Awards

Photos courtesy of Avalon Red.

Related stories

You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.

83 Responses to “‘Friends’ creator: Having an all-white cast was ‘no conscious decision’”

Comments are Closed

We close comments on older posts to fight comment spam.

  1. Shannon says:

    I am…I guess one of the few ppl who has never watched this show. I was in college at the time, and I just didn’t get the appeal. I am a POC and I always just looked at it as some super white show that white ppl loved. Wasn’t for me and I have zero plans to rectify that even though I have HBO Max.

    • Levans says:

      Friends was a blatant attempt at recreating Living Single, which came out before friends and did it better!

      • Seraphina says:

        I don’t know if it was a blatant attempt to recreate LS, but what I do know is (IMO) that LS was and still is hilarious. I still laugh out loud with the shenanigans of LS.

      • goofpuff says:

        omg I LOVED Living Single.

      • sunny says:

        @Seraphina, it is widely known that the Friends creators were influenced by Living Single. The head of NBC at the time was a big fan of Living Single and had publicly remarked if he could have one show from another network on NBC it would be Living Single. Later, the Friends creators would pitch the show based on that essentially.

        Queen Latifah has talked about that publicly. That isn’t hidden. Both shows are great but Friends was clearly an attempt to reboot Living Single for a white audience.

        Same thing happened with the band New Kids on the Block. They wanted a white version of the black band New Edition so they could appeal to white audiences.

      • Seraphina says:

        @Sunny, thank you. As they say: The more you know……

      • Lizzythe2 says:

        I don’t care that Friends was an all white cast. It’s believable that six white people end up being great friends. My closest friends and I are all of the same race although I do have a few friends of other races but I’m not as close to them (and no, I’m not white). My work friends are of different races but we don’t really socialize outside of work. After certain incidents at my current job I tend to keep that separate. Still love Friends, great show!

    • Robin says:

      I have watched some episodes of Friends. They made me smile a bit, sometimes. I never understood the appeal of something that seemed so bland and predictable. Also so self-congratulatory. The only episode that made me actually laugh was the one with Brad Pitt. I used to think it must have an American appeal that didn’t translate to the UK, but it is a obviously a global phenomenon.

      • Snuffles says:

        Pretty sure Friends was HUGELY popular in the UK. That’s why they gave Ross a British girlfriend and did a special season finale cross over episode filmed in the UK littered with British actors, and even Fergie.

      • Robin says:

        I didn’t express myself very well on this. Snuffles – you’re right. It was/is massively popular here, as in other parts of the world. To begin with, I thought it didn’t work for me because it was American and I wasn’t “getting” it. But I soon enough realised I was in the minority. I remember Gordon Brown saying it was his favourite TV show and thinking, even Gordon gets it better than I do!

      • Willow says:

        Don’t worry Robin, I’m American and 100% cannot figure out why people love this show. BTW, thank you for The Office and The IT Crowd! Those are funny shows!

    • Aphra says:

      There was a really funny segment on a sitcom I recall where the Black woman character (played by Khandi Alexander) was fantasizing about having black colleagues and eating lunch with them. Then she snaps out of it and is surrounded by white colleagues eating egg salad sandwiches who ask her “Did you see Friends last night?!”

    • Nina says:

      I just don’t see the appeal. Tried to watch it once, gave up halfway through. Hard no. Constantly anxious people, not my cup of tea.

  2. Snuffles says:

    Yeah, Ross was the only one who dated minorities. You would think with how much Joey got around he would have dated the rainbow. It would have been totally believable. Phoebe too.

    • PlutoTrineSun says:

      If David S. knew that what they were doing was racist, they ALL knew and just didn’t care. I now respect him for being better than ALL of his colleagues. I get the sense from Justin Theroux’s social media that he is much more comfortable with black folks than J. Aniston, like Pitt (even if he is now hated).

      This is what makes being a POC in the US so gaslighty. I loved friends and had no expectation that they would include POC and was pleasantly surprised by Alisa Tyler. Of course she had to be Ivy League graduate in real life to hang out with numerous high school graduates and college dropouts to be considered worthy. The exception of the higher education thing is DS who graduated from the same school as Meghan M. and Lisa K.

      • Eleonor says:

        David Schwimmer is a really nice man:he is sensitive and cares about minorities and how women are treated, he has always said his mother is a feminis and an activist, and you can see this upbringing.

    • Emmitt says:

      Joey did try to get with the Gabrielle Union character and got with Charlie, too.

  3. Lily P says:

    They can try and explain it any which way but they gave minimal effort to making it a diverse and representative cast. If they wanted to they could have, but they didn’t.

    • Hannah says:

      Agreed. And I don’t like the “it was of it’s time” excuse. Bullshit. It was racist then and it’s racist now.

      • Angela says:

        It was of it’s time, really takes all the pressure off of their obvious bias. The creators don’t have to address it on any real bases because “it was of its time”. It was wrong at that time also.

    • dollybee says:

      Girlfiriends was all black.

      • Sarah says:

        @dollybee I don’t think that’s a great comparison; Girlfriends was an all black cast but one of the characters was 1/2 white with white adoptive parents and a sister.

        Also, one of the characters on the show married a white man. The show also had white and Asian characters present fairly often.

        I have no problem with Friends because the show was not my cup of tea and I’ve tried watching the reruns and find them to be corny but they made no real effort until folks complained to add folks of color into the cast and when they did it tended to be a girlfriend of Ross that would be present for a short period of time and then disappear. I think that’s what folks had a problem with.

        For example top two people of color in Friends:

        Aisha Tyler: 9 episodes
        Lauren Tom: 7 episodes

        Top Two white and/or other folks of color from Girlfriends:

        Jason Pace: 33 episodes
        Phil Reeves: 19 episodes

        Also, I have no problem with them casting an all white group of friends because in reality most folks closest friends tend to be of the same race but when you have a show set in New York city, one of the most diverse places and you have hardly any folks of color that these characters interact with, that makes no sense. BTW I’m from NY.

  4. Tanesha86 says:

    I never got into friends for this very reason. As a Black woman it just wasn’t relatable for me and I really don’t get the appeal

    • Deering24 says:

      Good cast, but Friends was nowhere near as sharp, funny, or relatable as Living Single. Every one of LS’s characters reminded me of folks I went to school with.

  5. Lively says:

    Lool sure jan

  6. Esme says:

    Friends, Frasier, Seinfeld, SATC – they truly were of their time, and it wasn’t a very progressive time.

    • Snuffles says:

      Seinfeld did NOT age well for me. I still enjoy Friends and Frasier repeats though. I watched all kinds of stuff back in the day. I enjoyed Friends as much as I enjoyed A Different World, Fresh Prince of Bel Air or Martin.

      • Lex says:

        I’d say Friends aged very poorly. Racism, yes. But the rampant fatphobia, homophobia, transphobia, rigid and exaggerated gender roles… shall I go on?

    • Carmen says:

      I never watched a single episode of any of them.

    • lucy2 says:

      On that Beverly Hills 90210 post the other day, I went back and looked at the whole cast, not just the original group – completely white! Like, completely. Almost every show in the 90s was very segregated.

      I think they absolutely should have tried harder to hire a more diverse cast, but I also bet if they had, the network would have vetoed those cast members.

    • molly says:

      Just say, “we cast the show in the early 90s, but we should have done better. Entertainment has come a long way since then, and it still has a long way to go, but we’d never cast such lack of diversity today.”

    • Eurydice says:

      For me, Friends was dull, Sienfeld irritating and SATC both dull and irritating. But I’ll still watch Frazier for the clever dialogue – complete sentences, words of more than one syllable.

      I get the casting in 1993 – new show, network involvement, actor chemistry, blah, blah. But it was on for a billion years and 200+ episodes – there was plenty of time to add diversity.

      • Robin says:

        Exactly this, Eurydice (lovely name btw). I thought Friends was dull, dull, dull – I smiled a bit through a few episodes. It was so bland and predictable. And so self-congratulatory. SATC was flat, when it thought it was so risky and groundbreaking. It was childish and sometimes offensively so. I’m with you, Frasier – it still holds up.

      • Darla says:

        Yeah, Frasier was miles ahead of all of them, and that definitely includes Seinfeld. i recently rewatched the whole series, and it’s still so funny and every person in it is so talented. The writing is so much sharper than any of these other shows.

      • Deering24 says:

        Frazier is still terrific—right up there with any great 30s screwball comedy/farce.

    • Seraphina says:

      I could not watch Seinfeld AT ALL. Still can not. Never understood the craze it got.

      • Robin says:

        Seraphina. I’m with you on this. Seinfeld has such a devotional following. Why? It’s painful.

  7. nicegirl says:

    I love when you use your ‘in the year of our lord Beyoncé’ term ok lady. Like, I love it.

  8. Darla says:

    It was, like segregated, right? I find myself today so much more drawn towards very diverse casts. I just don’t have any interest in all white casts, and I would guess they are still on CBS? I don’t know. I don’t watch network tv for the most part. But I think I was drawn in the 90′s too. I remember loving when they brought Principal Wood into Buffy, and wondering why it took so long, and I loved Gun on Angel. And two really hot talented guys, who are still acting today. (I love DB Woodside in Lucifer, he’s amazing).

    Buffy and Angel were my two big late 90′s shows. Whedon was even further behind than the Friends producers, let’s be honest. People were already talking about the lack of diversity in Friends when Buffy began airing. They had been talking about it for a while.

  9. Jayce says:

    It’s not just the cast that wasn’t very diverse, but I don’t remember a lot of background artists of colour either and it took place in New York. You can’t get more multicultural than NY city.

    • Deering24 says:

      Yeah—it was like watching a Woody Allen movie. Or Notting Hill. Teeth-grindingly undiverse.

  10. Amy Bee says:

    Oh, yes it was.

  11. Maria says:

    “What can I say? I wish Lisa was Black?”

    Yikes.

  12. Mee yo says:

    I keep telling people this, FRIENDS was the white version of LIVING SINGLE. LS was first, was successful, then Warner Brothers asked a few of the writers from LS to go do a ‘white’ version. Both shows were Warner Brothers, on the same lot. And from the start FRIENDS were paid more, got bigger trailers etc… Once FRIENDS took off 2nd season, WB could take or leave LS.
    Also, these 2 definitely didn’t care about having POC on the show. Sherri Shepherd who played a coworker to Ross (I think) said after she filmed she made a comment that ‘FRIENDS got some color’ or something to that effect, and they never invited her back.
    This was a white show by request from Warner Brothers.

    • Genevieve says:

      Unacceptable. And what this white man doesn’t understand is that the idea that the casting was all white was “not conscious,” is EXACTLY THE PROBLEM. It’s a problem either way in the actuality and execution of the product. I have a sentimental attachment to Friends because of my relationship with my sister, so I appreciate it for what it was. However, I find a lot of the whitewashing, stereotyping and intolerant plot lines (also, Joey was a sexist pig) completely noticeable in rewatching. The reunion should have touched on these issues even a little bit-The Atlantic wrote a great article about it.

    • Persephone says:

      Didn’t know that about Sherri Shepherd but I sure do believe it.
      I remember an episode with Gabrielle Union as a woman both Ross and Joey wanted to date and I really enjoyed it, like the episodes with Aisha Tyler.

  13. Becks1 says:

    So I do think it was a conscious decision to have an all white cast but at least David Schwimmer was aware of it. But he only dated two WOC, right? Julie and Charlie? I know Gabrielle Union was in an episode but really just as a side character.

    But okay, so let’s say they had this chemistry so they went with those 6 actors who were white and there was no other choice (just go with me here.) The supporting cast was also 99% white. I don’t think Joey or Chandler ever dated a WOC besides Charlie for Joey, the black supporting cast was usually just there for comic relief in very bit roles (Monica’s co-chef in the first season, Sherri Shepherd’s “I gave you my snack pack!”) They could have made any one of Rachel’s bosses black. Monica could have worked with more minorities. And so on. It wasn’t just the Friends, they made NYC look so WHITE.

    • Emmitt says:

      Ross dated 2 WOC (Julie & Charlie) and was trying to date a third (Kristin).

      Monica worked with Jenifer Lewis.

      2 of Chandler’s bosses were black.

      At least one casting director of Joey’s was black and he was teaching a black student (who got the role Joey wanted even after Joey told him to play the role “gay”).

      One of Ross’s fellow professors was black and I’m pretty sure one of his coworkers at the museum was Asian. Sherri Shepherd was actually Joey’s coworker at the museum; they were tour guides.

      But none of Rachel or Phoebe’s coworkers were non-white. It probably never occurred to anyone to even wonder why none of Rachel or Phoebe’s coworkers (or customers) were non-white.

      • Becks1 says:

        Yes but most of those people you’re mentioning were incredibly bit parts, with the exceptions of Julie and Charlie and most were only in one episode (i.e. Sherri Shepherd.)

        They brought in plenty of side characters that were more than bit parts but not the leads, and very, very, very few of those were minorities.

        Even the fact that we can sit here and NAME the minority characters in a show with over 200 episodes that took place in NYC is….problematic.

    • Amelie says:

      Monica worked in RESTAURANTS and there are sooooo many POC who work in the service industry. It’s hard for me to believe there was not ONE POC in any kitchen she worked in on a show set in NYC.

  14. Winnie Cooper’s Mom says:

    I agree with the comment that tv at that time really was segregated, so I’m not sure why just the show Friends gets all the heat for that. At the time, we had white shows: Boy Meets World, Step by Step, Full House, Friends, Seinfield .. and black shows: The Cosby Show, Family Matters, Fresh Prince of Bel Air, Sister Sister.. pretty much every single comedy of that time was either majority white or majority black. The only reason people pick on Friends is because it’s the main show from that time that’s had a resurgence of popularity in 2020/2021.

    • Ann says:

      I think because it was so successful. Friends was white, no doubt about it. It was a show about people living in New York but it wasn’t made for New Yorkers, who knew/know that the city was way more diverse than as depicted there. It was kind of a fantasy, in which Monica could afford that apartment. I know, I know, it was her grandmother’s. Whatever.

  15. HeyJude says:

    It’s funny you should heteronormative. Because at the time the whole lesbian ex-wife storyline and particularly the lesbian wedding episode broke down big barriers to discussing LGBT people. It opened a door for us.

    It aired in 1996, a year before Ellen came out on TV. So it was a big deal. And one of the first times I personally came remember my very straight, whitebread, uninformed family talking about gay people 1. openly and 2. in a positive way. That episode gave me a huge amount of relief as an LGBT little kid in mid-America. That people could like LGBT people. That we were normal and could get married. It was huge.

    I mean it aired when I was 6 and I still remember it and how it felt watching it to this day.

    • Darla says:

      Yeah, Friends gets a lot of heat for some homophobic and transphobic jokes, and sure, but the normalization of gay marriage was big. I do think Gen X was already there, if I recall correctly. I know I was. But that was big, it really was.

    • lucy2 says:

      In the beginning there were a lot of jokes about Carol leaving Ross for a woman, but I do remember their wedding episode being really touching, and ground breaking.

      • Emmitt says:

        Right, in the wedding episode Carol’s parents refused to come to the wedding because they felt it was wrong but Ross put his feelings about Susan aside to walk Carol down the aisle because he wanted to see Carol happy.

    • BethAnne says:

      I thought it was also interesting that Carol and Susan’s marriage was the only stable relationship for the whole 10 year run. It was always portrayed as the healthiest, and most supportive romantic union on the show in my opinion.

  16. Noki says:

    I am a black woman and I have to say i enjoy certain shows and seeing a majority black cast and they are other shows that i think go best with an a majority white cast. Like Friends or SATC I dont really think those characters would have a close black friend.

    • Emmitt says:

      Exactly. I can’t see too many BIPOCs even wanting to be friends with any of the FRIENDS, especially Rachel & Monica who got their “Karen” on numerous times. I don’t like it when they try to force white characters onto black shows and I don’t like it when they try to force black characters onto white shows. Charlie was not the “seventh Friend”; if anything JANICE was the seventh Friend.

      • Amelie says:

        I’m white and I wouldn’t want to be friends with Monica or Rachel. They are both self-centered mean girls. Phoebe definitely! Which is hilarious because I hated Phoebe as a kid and thought she was annoying but as an adult I see she was one of the real ones. Probably Ross too, I would get along with his nerdy behavior. Chandler I could take or leave. Joey, too stupid for me to want to be friends with and nowadays he just comes across a serial harasser.

      • NewKay_ says:

        Who are these certain BIPOC of which you speak? Please stop saying this. Just say who you mean. Racialized groups are distinct!

    • goofpuff says:

      Yeah, the only person on SATC who I could see having a diverse friend pool would be Samantha. The others are super “karen” esque. All the the characters aside from Ross on Friends are super “karen” as well. For Fraiser and Seinfeld, again, those characters would be the ones who would make the micro aggressions due to their super priveledge backgrounds (their characters that is).

  17. TheOriginalMia says:

    Friends was a pale (pun intended) imitation of Living Single. I never liked Rachel & Ross. Joey was dumb. Phoebe was funny, but weird. I liked Monica & Chandler. But…the show was never must see for me. I chalk it up now to the lack of diversity. When Ross would date a minority, I knew it would never last because the show was white. They’d never allow a POC into that friend group.

    • Ann says:

      I think Joey was supposed to be dumb, or at least not that educated and not intellectually curious. He was endearingly dopey. It was endearing to everyone, of course.

    • teva says:

      They are all just a version of the same theme. Old wine, new wineskins

      Golden Girls – original recipe
      Designing Women – southern fried
      Living Single – urban spiced
      Friends – yuppie blend
      Girlfriends – reheated urban spiced
      How I Met Your Mother – leftover yuppie blend

      It’s a straight line in some places for the archetypes, a little bendy in others.

      Dorothy-Julia-Kadijah-Monica-Joan-Lilly
      Blanche-Suzanne-Regine-Rachel-Toni-Robin
      Rose-Charlene-Synclaire-Phoebe-Lynn-
      Sofia-MaryJo-Maxine-Chandler-Maya-Barney
      -Anthony-Overton-Joey- -Marshall
      -Kyle-Ross-William-Ted

  18. Annaloo. says:

    Why I watched Star Trek. Diversity is not an issue, it is the mission.. to boldly go where no man (or a 90s tv writer) has gone before

  19. PlutoTrineSun says:

    If David S. knew that what they were doing was racist, they ALL knew and just didn’t care. I now respect him for being better than ALL of his colleagues. I get the sense from Justin Theroux’s social media that he is much more comfortable with black folks than J. Aniston, like Pitt (even if he is now hated).

    This is what makes being a POC in the US so gaslighty. I loved friends and had no expectation that they would include POC and was pleasantly surprised by Aisha Tyler. Of course she had to be Ivy League graduate in real life to hang out with numerous high school graduates and college dropouts to be considered worthy. The exception of the higher education thing is DS who graduated from the same school as Meghan M. and Lisa K. who also has an elite undergraduate education.

  20. Emmitt says:

    Well, that was the problem. They didn’t think anything of it.

    FRIENDS was a reflection of the writers’ experiences and the writers probably did not interact with non-whites.

    Most white Americans have the ability not to have to interact with non-whites if they don’t want to. They can move to all white neighborhoods and enroll their kids in predominately white schools. Then those kids go to predominately white colleges where they don’t have to interact with any of the BIPOC kids unless they have to. BIPOC people are just in the background, if they’re there at all.

    We never see any non-white classmates of Rachel and Monica’s because there probably were very few and if there were, Ross, Rachel and Monica didn’t interact with them.

    We don’t see many, if any, non-white college classmates of Ross and Chandler’s in their reunion/flashback scenes. Nobody that showed up to mourn Ross after Chandler said he was dead were BIPOC.

    Rachel’s sorority sisters were white…I doubt seriously Rachel interacted with non-whites when she was in college.

    None of Rachel’s coworkers at Bloomingdales or Ralph Lauren were non-white. I know fashion itself is very white but not one of Rachel’s coworkers were non-white?

    There were black characters in the background of FRIENDS hanging at Central Perk and 4 of the characters had either a black coworker or black boss, but the interactions were minimal.

    But there were NO non-whites in both Rachel and Phoebe’s workplaces. Again, even in 2021, most white Americans can choose to work for a small business that has no BIPOC people working at them.

    Do I think the writers actively decided to exclude BIPOC characters from FRIENDS? No. They just didn’t think to include them. When they did write a BIPOC character for longer than an episode (Julie, Charlie) it was always as a love interest for Ross. David Schwimmer shouldn’t have had to be the one to advocate for BIPOC characters to be included on FRIENDS. The writers should’ve thought of that themselves.

    But they didn’t because they didn’t have to.

    • Darla says:

      That’s true. It would have been great if one of the women had advocated the way David did. I know Ross and Rachel were endgame, but Rachel could have had a black boyfriend before the endgame. And so I know everyone will freak out, but I don’t care for Paul Rudd the way everyone else does. He’s okay. A real meh in my book. And he and Lisa had zero chemistry imo. She had way more chemistry with Hank Azaria IMO. Anyway, Phoebe had no endgame and Lisa could have advocated this ending for her character. The writers by then had to be CONSCIOUS and they could have written that ending, so easily. Why didn’t they? It’s interesting it was only David.

      • Emmitt says:

        That’s because David Schwimmer was friends with non-whites in real life. I believe he was good friends with Aisha Tyler, too.

        I doubt seriously Rachel or Phoebe would’ve had a non-white boyfriend. Phoebe didn’t even have non-white massage clients—I wonder if the writers/network at the time didn’t want the audience seeing white Phoebe’s hands touching a black body.

        I think Monica would’ve had a black/Latino boyfriend though.

        I think Chandler would’ve had a black workplace buddy…I could see him becoming friends with his black boss at the ad agency had the show continued.

  21. IMARA219 says:

    I honestly never cared that they were an all-white cast. I stumbled upon Friends in the summer of ’95. I was going to start 7th grade and spent the whole summer secretly watching the reruns late at night and not telling anyone I liked the show 🤪. I cared more that not even the background characters and the extras and side characters were more diverse. Lots of people have racially homogenous friend groups so it didn’t strike me as odd. I also don’t like the comparison-hate with Living Single. Let Living Single be great! I love Living Single as it was, I watched the first few seasons and viewed the pilot with my mom. Those were great times and memories. Friends and Living Single have completely 2 totally different vibes and I appreciated what both were trying to do.

  22. MJM says:

    I was in my 20’s when Friends released and I watched it and loved it. Never noticed the all white cast. Things like that never occurred to me.

    Now if I watch a show with a majority white cast I’m like wtf?

    • Annabel says:

      Same. I’m white and used to not notice when all of the characters in a show/movie/whatever were white too. (That’s whiteness for you, I guess!) Now when I see a mostly white show I’m like WTF too.

  23. Amelie says:

    I never thought of Friends and its all white cast at the time, I was 6 years old when the show started and 16 when it ended so pretty young. In fact, when Friends ended, it truly felt like the end of an era for me because I couldn’t remember Thursday night TV without Friends. For as long as I could remember (KINDERGARTEN!) it had been a constant in my life. I wasn’t a superfan, my mom was the one who mainly watched it but even I tuned in for the finale. I enjoyed plenty of shows with all-black casts growing up: Fresh Prince, Family Matters, the Cosby Show, Sister Sister, the Parkers, Girlfriends, from the ones I remember. But once I hit college and grad school, its lack of diversity were definitely things I thought about time to time. I don’t have many friends of color but the ones I have talked to say they never gravitated to Friends and I completely understand why.

    I think it’s very telling that Marta Kauffman, the white female creator, is willing to admit she’d do things over differently and admits to her racial bias. And yet Kevin Bright, the white male creator, the one with the most privilege, is completely willing to say he has zero regrets. Yes, he would have been insane not to cast those six actors. But they had very few POC guest stars with any major storylines and it’s insane to me that he doesn’t regret that Friends could have done more for POC actors. Yes, it was typical to segregate shows by skin color with majority all white and all black casts. Just because that was the norm at the time doesn’t mean it was right and it’s so disappointing he can’t admit that.

  24. Izzy says:

    Admitting that you were oblivious to people of color isn’t much better than deliberate choice here. Maybe they should just say they should have done better, and then they should shut up.

    Also, Friends was a mediocre show. I said what I said.

  25. jferber says:

    I have never seen a whole episode of the show. The bits I watched were badly acted (especially by Aniston) and unfunny. I thought Lisa Kudrow and David Schwimmer (sp.?) were the most talented cast members. Although it may not have been a conscious decision, in that it never occurred to them to have any non-white cast members, it’s still a mark against them since it never occurred to them to have any non-white cast members. It doesn’t have to be overt or conscious to be racism.

  26. Shannon says:

    I appreciated reading all the comments. This could have devolved, but ppl have kept it civil.

    I as said, I have never watched Friends, but I have watched episodes of Fraiser, Seinfeld, and SATC. My parents were very fond of Fraiser. But…tbh…I found all these shows too colorless for my tastes.

    During that period as a young adult living in CA, I only watched FOX and KCOP/UPN (Ch. 13). Fox had just become a new network at the time and they had very racially diverse shows. It was a tag line for the network at one point. Star Trek in any iteration was also my go to.

    So, there were racially diverse shows, but they just weren’t shown on CBS, NBC, Or ABC. That’s just facts.

  27. outofthecloset says:

    i really didn’t watch this show, but it was ubiquitous. I think the problem was that it was an idealized version of NYC. Not only were there few black characters, but no Asian characters or Latinx characters either. And were there ever people who spoke a different language? It just doesn’t look anything like the New York I live in–and I moved here in ’99.

  28. Freddy says:

    I’m a Black gay man who moved to NYC when “Friends” debuted…Living in the East Village, my group of friends were a multi-cultural mix–mainly because I grew up an Army brat, so I ALWAYS had a diverse group of friends. To this day, my friends and I knowingly nod at the fact that YES Virginia, if you are White and live on the Upper Westside of Manhattan, it is completely feasible that you would have no friends of color…sad but true….As for watching this show: it being all-White didn’t bother me—I was way too busy experiencing life and love in the streets of NYC to ever want to run home to watch it.