The director of “Friends: The Reunion” addressed critics who questioned why the show’s Black actors did not make an appearance and noted that the special lacked diversity.
Ben Winston, 39, spoke with The Sunday Times about the special, which aired on HBO Max on May 27. During the interview, Winston responded to the backlash, suggesting that those who say the special was not diverse “haven’t seen it.”
“We have Malala, Mindy Kaling, BTS [the South Korean boy band]. There are three women from Ghana, one who talks about how Friends saved her life. Two boys from Kenya. Three kids in India,” he said. “What more diversity do they want in this reunion? 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 about complaints regarding Black ‘Friends’ actors, like Aisha Tyler, not appearing in the special, Winston said, “Not everyone could join us. But I’m really pleased with the show we were able to put together.”
Tyler appeared as the girlfriend of Ross, played by David Schwimmer, in nine episodes in 2003.
“Friends,” which debuted in September 1994 on NBC, has long been criticized for its lack of diversity. The show’s six main cast members — Schwimmer, Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc and Matthew Perry — are all white.
“Friends” creator Marta Kauffman and executive producer Kevin Bright recently addressed the backlash, telling The Hollywood Reporter that the cast was chosen because of their chemistry together.
“We didn’t intend to have an all-white cast,” Bright said. “That was not the goal, either. Obviously, the chemistry between these six actors speaks for itself.”
Kauffman added: “There are many things that I could say if I only knew then what I know now. Back then, there was no conscious decision. We saw people of every race, religion, color. These were the six people we cast.”
Bright went on to say that he doesn’t have any regrets about the way “Friends” turned out, which ended in May 2004.
“I would have been insane not to hire those six actors. What can I say? I wish Lisa was Black? I’ve loved this cast,” Bright told the outlet. “I loved the show and I loved the experience.”
Kauffman told The Hollywood Reporter that there are “a hundred things” she would change about the show if given the opportunity.
“I’ve talked about it in the past and I do have very strong feelings about my participation in a system, but it comes down to I didn’t know what I didn’t know,” she said.