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The Director Of The "Friends" Reunion Responded To Criticism Of Its Lack Of Diversity

"What more diversity do they want in this reunion? The cast is the cast."

Posted on June 8, 2021, at 9:20 a.m. ET

The director of last month's highly anticipated Friends reunion, Ben Winston, has responded to accusations that the special lacked diversity.

Kevin Mazur / Getty Images for The Recording Academy

The special, which premiered on HBO Max on May 27, was accused of ignoring the show's long-criticized diversity problem.

HBO

Even after the trailer dropped and the star-studded list of guests was revealed, many questioned the absence of any Black guest stars.

But in an interview with the Times published on Sunday, Winston said he believes those criticizing the special for a lack of diversity haven't actually seen it.

"We have Malala, Mindy Kaling, BTS," Winston said. "There are three women from Ghana, one who talks about how Friends saved her life. Two boys from Kenya. Three kids in India."

"What more diversity do they want in this reunion?" he went on. "The cast is the cast. It was made in 1994. I think it's remarkable how well it does stand the test of time."

When asked why none of Friends' few Black cast members — like Aisha Tyler, who played Joey and Ross's girlfriend Charlie — participated in the reunion, Winston simply said "not everyone could join" the show.

Valerie Macon / AFP via Getty Images

"I'm really pleased with the show we were able to put together," Winston concluded.

JC Olivera / WireImage

Winston's comments come a week after Friends cocreators Kevin Bright and Marta Kauffman shared their own feelings about the show's diversity issue.

John Lamparski / Getty Images for Tribeca TV Festival

Speaking to the Hollywood Reporter, Bright admitted that hiring all white actors in the show's six lead roles was never their intention, but said he has no regrets about the casting.

"There are different priorities today and so much has changed," Bright said. "It's important for today's shows to be reflective of the ways society truly is."

"We didn't intend to have an all-white cast," he went on. "That was not the goal, either. Obviously, the chemistry between these six actors speaks for itself."

"What can I say?" he added. "I wish Lisa was Black? I've loved this cast. I loved the show and I loved the experience."

Kauffman, on the other hand, said there were "probably a hundred things" she would change about the show in hindsight if she had the opportunity.

"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 told the Hollywood Reporter. "We saw people of every race, religion, color. These were the six people we cast. So, it was certainly not conscious."

Read Ben Winston's interview with the Times in full here.

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.