'product of the time'
The co-creator of Friends is pointing to "my own ignorance" as one of the reasons for a lack of diversity on the show.
Friends co-creator Marta Kauffman addressed criticism that the classic comedy fell short on diversity during an episode of CNN's History of the Sitcom on Sunday, per Entertainment Weekly.
"It was, to a certain extent, a product of the time period, and of my own ignorance," Kauffman said. "There were Black shows and there were white shows. There weren't a lot of shows that were interracial."
Kauffman's comments came after a portion of the documentary focused on Living Single, which debuted in 1993 at a time when creator Yvette Lee Bowser noted "we didn't have any young Black women who were really being featured on television." But Living Single star Kim Coles said it was "difficult" that the show at the time received much less attention than Friends, and actress Sheryl Lee Ralph told CNN she "never watched Friends because they could not possibly find a way to add anybody of color."
Kauffman previously acknowledged that while "we've always encouraged people of diversity in our company," she "didn't do enough," per Deadline. She told The Hollywood Reporter earlier this year that it was "certainly not conscious" that only white actors were cast in the six lead roles, as "we saw people of every race, religion, color." David Schwimmer, who played Ross, has also said he "really felt like Ross should date other people, women of all races," most notably a character played by Aisha Tyler. Executive producer Kevin Bright told the Reporter, though, that if Friends was made today, "I don't imagine they would probably end up being an all-white cast."
"I guess at the time," Kauffman said in the CNN documentary, "I was thinking, 'This is what I know.'"