“Friends” co-creator Marta Kauffman explained her guilt behind the hit sitcom’s highly noticeable lack of diversity. Although the show ended nearly two decades ago, Kauffman still feels the sting of her past decisions. “I’ve learned a lot in the last 20 years. 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,” she said in a recent interview.
The popular NBC TV show ran for 10 seasons from 1994 to 2004. It featured a cast of six straight, white best friends (Monica, Rachel, Ross, Phoebe, Chandler and Joey) living in New York. In September 2019, the series celebrated its 25th anniversary and showed past episodes in movie theaters across the country. While many praised the show, Kauffman regretted that things weren’t done differently. “It took me a long time to begin to understand how I internalized systemic racism,” she told her alma mater, Brandeis University.
To make up for her actions, Kauffman pledged $4 million to the university. The funds will go to the school’s African and African American studies department. The school released a statement regarding The Marta F. Kauffman ’78 Professorship in African and African American Studies. It “will support a distinguished scholar with a concentration in the study of the peoples and cultures of Africa and the African diaspora” and “assist the department to recruit more expert scholars and teachers, map long-term academic and research priorities and provide new opportunities for students to engage in interdisciplinary scholarship,” according to the release.
Along with her sizable donation, Kauffman has promised to do better on future projects. “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 [pursuing] young writers of color. I want to know I will act differently from now on. And then I will feel unburdened,” she said.