Washington: Friends creator Marta Kauffman has recently revealed to LA Times that she was so ’embarrassed’ and ‘guilty’ about the lack of diversity on her classic NBC sitcom that she is donating USD 4 million to help Marta F. Kauffman ’78 Chair in African and African American Studies at Brandeis University.
Kauffman said it was originally ‘difficult and frustrating’ to have the show criticized for its lack of diverse characters, but she became critical herself after the 2020 murder of George Floyd, as per Variety.
“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. That was really the moment that I began to examine the ways I had participated. I knew then I needed to course-correct,” Kauffman said.
All of the six main characters on Friends were white, and the show rarely featured black actors in prominent roles throughout 10 seasons and 236 episodes. Lauren Tom, Gabrielle Union, Mark Consuelos, and Craig Robinson appeared in small supporting roles on the show, while Aisha Tyler, the show’s most prominent black actress, starred in only nine episodes.
Tyler played a palaeontology professor who dated both Joey and Ross.
According to the LA Times, Kauffman’s USD 4 million for the African and African American studies program 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.
“I’ve learned a lot in the last 20 years. 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,” Kauffman said.
She mentioned on getting “nothing but love” since making the announcement, adding, “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.”