A Friends producer responded to criticism about the show’s lack of diversity, and could he BE any more tone deaf?
As anyone with internet access knows, the Friends reunion premiered on HBO earlier this week. The revival of the classic sitcom is bringing up a lot of nostalgia for millennials and Gen X-ers — but another thing that’s being revived is the longstanding criticism of the show’s lack of diversity.
Friends featured a group of six close friends who lived and worked together in New York City. Considering the show was set in one of the most diverse cities on earth, critics have often pointed out how ridiculous it is that everyone in the friend group was white and heteronormative. Now, an executive producer is speaking out about that criticism, and surprise! He says he doesn’t regret the casting at all.
In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, producer Kevin Bright made it crystal clear that he wasn’t taking diversity (or realism) into account when he cast the show in the ’90s.
“There are different priorities today and so much has changed,” he said. “There was no social media when Friends was on the air. Can you imagine what every episode might have been like if it had to go under that scrutiny every week? You might not have gotten the whole series.”
Bright continued, “It’s important for today’s shows to be reflective of the ways society truly is. But for our experience, the three of us, that may have been our experience when we were young and in New York. But we didn’t intend to have an all-white cast. That was not the goal, either. Obviously, the chemistry between these six actors speaks for itself.”
It’s true that the cast ended up having incredible chemistry. But is Bright really defending his decision by saying that his experience being young and in New York was having only white friends? That’s certainly one argument against inclusion.
When asked if he’d do anything differently with the benefit of hindsight, Bright doubled down.
“No. I don’t have any regrets other than hindsight,” he said. “I would have been insane not to hire those six actors. What can I say? I wish Lisa was Black? I’ve loved this cast. I loved the show and I loved the experience.”
To their credit, other producers on Friends (and some of the cast, including David Schwimmer) have said they wish they had had a better understanding of diversity and inclusion during the time the show was on the air, and made the show actually reflect the society in which it takes place.