Wednesday, August 10, 2022

‘Friends’ Creator Donates Millions to African American Studies at Alma Mater

*One of the co-creators of the hit ’90s show “Friends” is speaking out once again about the deliberate decision not to diversify the show during its run.

We reported previously that series co-creator Marta Kauffman addressed the show’s lack of diversity during a 2020 ATX TV From the Couch virtual panel.  

“I wish I knew then what I knew today, I would have made very different decisions,” Kauffman said at the time. “I mean we’ve always encouraged people of diversity in our company, but I didn’t do enough and now all I can think about is, what can I do? What can I do differently? How can I run my show in a new way? And that’s something I not only wish I knew when I started showrunning, but I wish I knew all the way up through last year.”

Now Kauffman says she’s “putting [her] money where [her] mouth is” by donating “$4 million to establish an endowed professorship in the African American studies department at her alma mater, Brandeis University,” per The Hill

READ MORE: ‘Friends’ Co-Creator Admits She ‘Didn’t Do Enough’ to Promote Diversity on Series

Kauffman told the Los Angeles Times that she used to be annoyed by the show’s criticism. But the murder of George Floyd in 2020 and the racial justice protests that followed opened her eyes to her own internalized racism. 

“I’ve learned a lot in the last 20 years,” Kauffman told the Times.

“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,” she said. 

“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,” Kauffman said. “That was really the moment that I began to examine the ways I had participated. I knew then I needed to course-correct.”

“In this case, I’m finally, literally putting my money where my mouth is,” she added.

“Friends” aired on NBC from September 22, 1994, to May 6, 2004, and revolved around six New Yorkers in their 20s and 30s.  Series star David Schwimmer told the Guardian in 2020 that he pushed for more casting of actors of color, even suggesting that his character Ross date women of color. 

“I was well aware of the lack of diversity and I campaigned for years to have Ross date women of color,” Schwimmer said. “One of the first girlfriends I had on the show was an Asian-American woman, and later I dated African American women. That was a very conscious push on my part.” 

Kauffman said going forward she will make a point to hire people of color for her productions. 

“I feel I was finally able to make some difference in the conversation,” the show creator said of her donation to Brandeis University. “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 pursue young writers of color. I want to know I will act differently from now on. And then I will feel unburdened.”

Ny MaGee
Ny MaGee is an entertainment reporter with over 15 years of experience working in the film industry in areas including production and post-production, marketing, distribution, and acquisitions. She has worked for legendary film producer Roger Corman, Quentin Tarantino's production team at Miramax, the late Larry Flynt, MTV/ VH1, Hallmark Channel, Paramount, Jim Henson Co., Parade Magazine, and various LA-based companies representing above-the-line talent.

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