Lisa Kudrow has said that while the cast of Friends would not be all-white if the show were made today, the sitcom did other things that she thinks were progressive for the time.
Kudrow, 56, played Phoebe Buffay on the series, which aired from 1994 to 2004, but as Friends prepares to make a comeback for a reunion special, it had been criticized recently for lacking diversity.
The actress admitted in a new interview that the show – also starring Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, David Schwimmer, Matthew Perry and Matt LeBlanc – would be different in 2020, but defended the decisions made in the decade it was on air from the 1990s.
‘Oh, it’d be completely different,’ Kudrow told British newspaper the Sunday Times. ‘Well, it would not be an all-white cast, for sure.’
Lisa Kudrow said Friends ‘should be looked at as a time capsule, not for what they did wrong’
With an all-white cast, critics have said the show was not representative of Manhattan from 1994 to 2004. Pictured: (l-r clockwise) Jennifer Aniston as Rachel Green, Matthew Perry as Chandler Bing, David Schwimmer as Ross Geller, Lisa Kudrow as Phoebe Buffay, Matt LeBlanc as Joey Tribbiani, Courteney Cox as Monica Geller
Kudrow’s character Phoebe Buffay (right, with Jennifer Aniston’s Rachel Green) was the surrogate mother for her brother’s twins
Early on in the series David Schwimmer’s character Ross Geller (center) must come to terms with the fact his wife (left) – and mother of his child – has realized she’s a lesbian
‘I’m not sure what else, but, to me, it should be looked at as a time capsule, not for what they did wrong,’ she continued.
Early on in the series Schwimmer’s character Ross Geller must come to terms with the fact his wife – and mother of his child – has realized she’s a lesbian.
Kudrow’s character Phoebe was the surrogate mother for her brother’s twins.
‘This show thought it was very progressive,’ Kudrow said. ‘There was a guy whose wife discovered she was gay and pregnant, and they raised the child together? We had surrogacy too. It was, at the time, progressive.’
Friends has come back into the spotlight as fans wait for it to air on HBO Max this November – pushed back after the coronavirus pandemic delayed filming with a live audience.
Her comments about the show from creators David Crane and Marta Kauffman, echoed Schwimmer in January.
‘I don’t care,’ Schwimmer told the Guardian. ‘That show was groundbreaking in its time for the way in which it handled so casually sex, protected sex, gay marriage and relationships… You have to look at it from the point of view of what the show was trying to do at the time.
‘I’m the first person to say that maybe something was inappropriate or insensitive, but I feel like my barometer was pretty good at that time. I was already really attuned to social issues and issues of equality.’
‘Maybe there should be an all-black or an all-Asian Friends,’ Schwimmer added to the Guardian. ‘But I was well aware of the lack of diversity and I campaigned for years to have Ross date women of color. 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.’
Last year, Aisha Tyler (right) – who played Ross Geller’s girlfriend on the show – said ‘people of color were always aware of it [the lack of diversity]’
But last year, Aisha Tyler – who played Ross Geller’s girlfriend on the show – shared a different view to Kudrow and Schwimmer. She said it was apparent at the time that the sitcom wasn’t representative of New York living.
Tyler also revealed that they were not looking to be more representative in casting her character Charlie.
‘People of color were always aware of it [the lack of diversity],’ Tyler told British newspaper The Guardian. ‘Even at the time, people were constantly pointing out that Friends wasn’t as diverse as the Manhattan of the real world.’
She added: ‘My character wasn’t written on the page to be a woman of color, and I auditioned against a lot of other women of different ethnic backgrounds, so I like to think they picked me because I was the right person for the role.
‘But I knew it was something new for the show, and it was really important because, the fact of the matter was, it was a show set in Manhattan that was almost entirely Caucasian.
‘It was an unrealistic representation of what the real world looked like.’
Last Year, Cosimo Fusco, who played the love interest of Aniston’s Rachel Green character said about the cast last year: ‘Today, one of the six would have to be black, of course.’
He added that he didn’t agree with the portrayal of his own character Paolo.
‘There was one scene where I was getting a massage, and I had to be this greasy guy who was touching Phoebe’s ass. ‘I had a problem with how it portrayed me, as if guys from Italy are like that. What they wanted me to do was quite disrespectful. But I remember we were able to find a compromise, so I felt comfortable.’
In March 2018, Oscar-winning comedy show producer Lena Waithe addressed Gabrielle Union being the only black character on friends.
Union was a love interest of both Ross Geller, and LeBlanc’s character Joey.
‘You being on that show was a big deal at my crib. I also remember ACCESS HOLLYWOOD covering it,’ Waithe tweeted Union.
But Union revealed: ‘I got in trouble for saying I was the only black person on Friends… they made me change it to ‘1st African American love interest.’