Culture/TV

Apparently the creators of Friends refused to make the cast more diverse

Creators Marta Kauffman and David Crane insisted that the wrote the script “with specific people in mind” and challenged network notes to make cast less white and straight.

June 12, 2018

One of the benefits afforded to viewers by the current era of “Peak TV” we’re in isn’t just the seemingly endless river of content to binge, it’s that a comforting amount of that content – She’s Gotta Have It, Fresh Off the Boat, and many more – tell stories from handful of refreshing and diverse perspectives. During a roundtable discussing the evolution of this diversity in the television industry, Freeform’s EVP of Programming & Development, Kathryn Burke, revealed that this diversity wasn’t only something that Hollywood lacked – it was something they actively resisted.

Burke shares a story of being in the room when Friends, now the New Testament for upper-middle class white Millenials, was pitched to network execs by creators Marta Kauffman and David Crane. According to Burke, the network execs weren’t completely taken with the idea of a cast with the combined whiteness and straightness of a baguette, but in response to this request for diversity, Kauffman and Crane pushed back, emphasizing that “they wrote the script with specific people in mind.”

“I think now it might be a different conversation. I also think that was Gen X, and I think Millenials and subsequently Gen Z are far more diverse generations. And I think to honestly serve those generations…it might feel a little tone deaf to not be more inclusive.”

Karey Burke, EVP, Freeform Programming & Development

In all fairness, Kauffman may have learned a thing or two since those days, as she would go on to co-create Netflix’s Grace and Frankie, which although still sports a pretty racially homogenous cast, features characters that diverge both from the age brackets and sexualities that make up the bulk of who we see on our TV screen.

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