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Topline

Marta Kauffman—one of the co-creators behind the mega-hit sitcom Friends—apologized in an interview about the way the show handled a transgender character, one week after she pledged a donation to make up for the series’ lack of racial diversity.

Key Facts

In a teaser released Tuesday for an upcoming interview with the BBC World Service’s The Conversation, Kauffman said it was a “mistake” not to refer to Chandler Bing’s parent—a transgender woman formerly named Charles—using “she” pronouns, saying “pronouns were not yet something that I understood.”

In the new interview with the BBC, which airs July 11, Kauffman also said she was “guilty” of not having “​​enough representation of Black people” on the show and was “clearly part of systemic racism in our business.”

Last week, Kauffman told the Los Angeles Times she pledged $4 million to Brandeis University’s African and African American studies department for an endowed professorship, after reckoning with the way the show missed diverse representation.

Crucial Quote

“We kept referring to her as ‘Chandler’s father,’ even though Chandler’s father was trans,” Kauffman said.

Key Background

Friends propelled its six white lead actors—Jennifer Aniston, Courtney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matthew Perry, Matt LeBlanc and David Schwimmer—to super stardom. The crew reunited last year for a highly-anticipated reunion on HBO Max. Though the show took place in New York City, the show displayed little diversity among its roles, with only a few Black actors appearing throughout its 10 seasons. While the show was heralded at the time for its representation of a lesbian couple, it also constantly mocked the character it called Charles, who had relationships with men and worked as a drag queen in Las Vegas using the name Helena Handbasket. Kathleen Turner, who portrayed Chandler’s parent on the show, said in 2019 she would not have taken the role if offered it today because “there would be real people able to do it,” and said she was intrigued at the opportunity to play a “woman playing a man playing a woman.”

Further Reading

‘Friends’ Creator Says It Was a ‘Mistake’ to Misgender Chandler’s Trans Parent (Variety)

Friends Creator Marta Kauffman Regrets Misgendering Chandler’s Transgender Parent (Huffington Post)

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