“Friends” co-creator Marta Kauffman pledged $4 million in donations to her alma matter's African studies program, hoping to make up for the hit 1990s series' lack of diversity that got her feeling "embarassed".
Kauffman, a Brandeis University alum, told Los Angeles Times she used to feel that the show was being "singled out" as viewers critized the show over represenatation problems.
The show lasted 10 seasons from 1994 to 2004 and all thoughout, it centered the lives of six straight, white people played by actors David Schimmer, Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matthew Perry, and Matt LeBlanc.
“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, admitting that her internalized racism contributed to the show's failure to be more inclusive.
Kauffman said the murder of George Floyd in 2020 by Minneapolis policeman led her to this reckoning. “That was really the moment that I began to examine the ways I had participated. I knew then I needed to course-correct," she said.
The pledge establishes the Marta F. Kauffman ’78 Professorship in African and African American Studies, which will support a scholar studying Africa and the African diaspora, who will also assist the department in creating more academic and research opportunities to understand the subject matter.
“I feel I was finally able to make some difference in the conversation," Kauffman said.
After the show ended, Kauffman went on to write and produce spinoff “Joey,” “Friends: The Reunion." She is currently the showrunner of Netflix hit series “Grace and Frankie.”
“I want to make sure from now on in every production I do that I am conscious in hiring people of color and actively pursue young writers of color. I want to know I will act differently from now on. And then I will feel unburdened," she added.