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An Executive Producer Of "Friends" Said He Didn't "Have Any Regrets" About Casting All-White Actors After Being Asked About Diversity Criticism

"What can I say? I wish Lisa was Black?"

Posted on May 28, 2021, at 7:56 a.m. ET

The co-creators and executive producer of Friends have opened up about the criticism leveled at the show for its lack of diversity, seemingly revealing a difference of opinion between those behind the cameras.

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In an interview with the Hollywood Reporter published after the reunion aired earlier this week, Marta Kauffman and Kevin Bright gave their view on the criticism in separate conversations.

John Lamparski / Getty Images for Tribeca TV Festival

When asked if casting "all-white, heteronormative" actors for the main roles was a conscious choice, Bright (an executive producer and director for the show) explained that it wasn't intentional, but that the chemistry of the cast spoke for itself.

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"For the parts of Chandler and Phoebe, we saw everybody and we picked what we thought with the two best actors," he said. "There are different priorities today and so much has changed."

"It's important for today's shows to be reflective of the ways society truly is," he went on. "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."

Bright added that he didn't have any regrets "other than hindsight" and that he would've been "insane" not to hire the six actors who eventually secured the roles.

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"What can I say? I wish Lisa was Black?" he said. "I've loved this cast. I loved the show and I loved the experience. I know Marta has a different feeling about it. I think it affects us all."

As Bright suggested, Kauffman did have a slightly different opinion when posed the same question, with the co-creator explaining that there were "probably a hundred things" she'd have done differently if given the chance.

John Lamparski / Getty Images for Tribeca TV Festival

She said: "I've talked about it in the past and I do have very strong feelings about my participation in a system, but it comes down to I didn't know what I didn't know."

"There are many things that I could say if I only knew then what I know now. Back then, there was no conscious decision," Kauffman continued. "We saw people of every race, religion, color. These were the six people we cast. So, it was certainly not conscious."

Michael Caulfield / WireImage

However, both agreed that the pilot episode would be unrecognizable if it were written today, with Bright noting that the "racial makeup" of the cast would most likely be very different.

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"We would be so aware. It would be integral to the chemistry and the conversation that these guys would be having," he said. "Do they get together as much as they do on the show, or is this more of a social media back and forth?"

"So much would change, but to get them to behave realistically within this time, there would be a lot that would change about them," he added. "And the racial makeup of them would change because of that. If we did Friends today, no, I don't imagine they would probably end up being an all-white cast."

Kauffman simply said: "You couldn't write that pilot today. You couldn't do it. They'd all be sitting on their phones."

Bright also pointed out the same-sex wedding in Season 2 as an example of inclusivity, saying: "When the show gets hammered about a lack of diversity, I like that episode also to be remembered as doing something that nobody else had done before."

NBCUniversal via Getty Images

He added: "I would have figured that NBC would have been so pressured by the middle of the country that they would have shut it down — and they didn't."

This isn't the first time that the cast and crew have opened up about their feelings on the criticism of diversity, with Kauffman previously expressing regret that she "didn't do enough" at the time.

Charley Gallay / Getty Images for Netflix

"I wish I knew then what I know today," she said in an interview last year. "I just wish I knew then what I know now. I would've made very different decisions."

"We've always encouraged people of diversity in our company, but I didn't do enough," she went on. "And now all I can think about is, 'What can I do?'"

David Schwimmer also said he'd made a "conscious push" for more diversity in the show during its 10-season run.

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"I was well aware of the lack of diversity and I campaigned for years to have Ross date women of color," he said in an interview published last year. "One of the first girlfriends I had on the show was an Asian American woman, and later I dated African American women. That was a very conscious push on my part."

You can read the full interview with Marta Kauffman, David Crane, and Kevin Bright in the Hollywood Reporter here. The Friends reunion is airing on HBO Max now.

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.

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