Marta Kauffman, creator of “Friends” has donated $4 million to apologize for the lack of diversity in her New York-based sit-com.
“Friends,” which ran for 10 years and 236 episodes, was a very white show. The most prominent actor of color featured in the show was Aisha Taylor, who appeared in only nine episodes of the final two seasons as a love interest for both Joey and Ross, with no story-line of her own.
If “Friends” was demographically accurate for its New York City setting, only two of the six main characters would have been white, and the remaining four would have been one each; Hispanic or Latino, Black, Asian, and mixed race.
Kauffman, who is white and Jewish, says that for years, she resented the criticism of the show’s lack of diversity, but after the 2020 demonstrations over the murder of George Floyd, she came to see where the criticism was coming from.
“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.
“I’ve learned a lot in the last 20 years,” Kauffman said. “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 $4 million donation to Kauffman’s alma mater, Brandeis University will endow the Marta Kauffman ’78 Professorship in African and African American Studies and will “support a distinguished scholar with a concentration in the study of the peoples and cultures of Africa and the African diaspora. The gift will also 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.”