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Marta Kauffman, co-creator of hit sitcom Friends, recently spoke out about systemic racism and how she believes it influenced the show’s casting choices.
Earlier this month she made a generous donation of $4 million to Brandeis University, her alma mater. The funds aim to establish an endowed professorship in the African and African American Studies Department there.
At the time of the pledge Kauffman said, “It took me a long time to begin to understand how I internalized systemic racism. 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.”
Friends, which Kauffman co-created with David Crane, has been criticized through the years for its lack of diversity. For many years Kauffman felt the show was being unfairly targeted, however, she has since declared that she regrets some of its shortcomings.
When recently speaking to the Los Angeles Times, Kauffman says she feels her own failings in this area are somewhat responsible for the show’s flaws.
“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,” she 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,” continued Kauffman. “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 Grace and Frankie co-creator added that her revelation is what made her want to donate to Brandeis University.
“I feel I was finally able to make some difference in the conversation,” she said. “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.”
Stream Friends on HBO Max