"Friends" co-creator Marta Kauffman is holding herself accountable for the iconic sitcom's "lack of diversity" and has decided to pledge $4 million to correct her part in perpetuating systemic racism.
Almost two decades after the sitcom ran for a successful ten seasons, Kauffman has decided to right her wrongs, according to New York Post.
"I've learned a lot in the last 20 years," Kauffman said in a Zoom interview. "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," the co-creator said.
"Friends" featured a group of six straight white best friends living in New York City's Greenwich Village. The iconic cast included Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, David Schwimmer, Matt LeBlanc and Matthew Perry.
It was the death of George Floyd in 2020 that prompted Kauffman to take accountability of her part in perpetuating systemic racism in America.
"I knew then I needed to course-correct," Kauffman explained, according to NY Post.
Kauffman pledged $4 million to fund an endowed chair in Brandeis University's African and African American studies department, in an attempt to redeem herself.
According to Brandeis University, the Marta F. Kauffman '78 Professorship in African and African American Studies "will support a distinguished scholar with a concentration in the study of the peoples and cultures of Africa and the African diaspora" and "assist the department to recruit more expert scholars and teachers, map long-term academic and research priorities and provide new opportunities for students to engage in interdisciplinary scholarship."
"It took me a long time to begin to understand how I internalized systemic racism," Kauffman told Brandeis. "I've been working really hard to become an ally, an anti-racist. And this seemed to me to be a way that I could participate in the conversation from a white woman's perspective."
Kauffman told the LA Times about the praise she has received since announcing the $4 million pledge.
"In this case, I'm finally, literally putting my money where my mouth is," Kauffman said. "I feel I was finally able to make some difference in the conversation."
"I have to say, after agreeing to this and when I stopped sweating, it didn't unburden me, but it lifted me up. But until in my next production, I can do it right, it isn't over. I want to make sure from now on in every production I do that I am conscious in hiring people of color and actively pursuing young writers of color. I want to know I will act differently from now on. And then I will feel unburdened," she added.
As the Friends reunion aired last year to celebrate the success of the show, activists called on its creators to address the show's lack of diversity, but Kauffman said that wasn't the place and time.
"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 told the LA Times.
However, not all Friends creators are apologizing for their casting decisions. Kauffman's co-creator Kevin Bright said the cast was selected over the actors and actresses undeniable "chemistry."
"I would have been insane not to hire those six actors. What can I say? I wish Lisa was black?" Bright told the Hollywood Reporter.
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