Ben Winston, the director of the Friends reunion special that is currently streaming on HBO Max, addressed the criticism about the show’s black actors not appearing in the special. This one-off event, which gathered together the main Friends cast to discuss their favourite moments, re-enact scenes, and answer questions from the in-studio audience, was criticized for failing to include significant Black performers who starred in guest-starring roles during the show’s decade-long run.
The comedy series, whose actors David Schwimmer, Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matthew Perry, and Matt LeBlanc were all white, has long struggled with diversity issues. Although the show did introduce characters of colour throughout the series, such as Ross’s girlfriend Julie (Lauren Tom) in season 2 and Charlie (Aisha Tyler) in seasons 9 and 10, these guest-starring roles were never permanent additions to the series and did not penetrate the central storylines of the six central Friends characters.
The beloved sitcom, which followed six white friends as they entered adulthood in New York City, has long been troubled by diversity difficulties. Marta Kauffman, the creator of Friends, addressed critics’ complaints about the show’s casting and said she didn’t do enough to promote diversity.
David Schwimmer, who played Ross on the show, also argued for a Friends remake with an all-Black or Asian cast, revealing that he was the one who pushed for Ross to date women of colour.
Friends had an impact on people of all kinds, notwithstanding these issues. Men and women of colour, as well as members of the LGBTQ+ community, were featured during a critical part of the reunion special, speaking about how watching the series altered their lives for the better. Malala Yousafzai, a Nobel Peace Prize recipient and campaigner, claimed that her best friend introduced her to the show. A montage of people repeating Friends sound bits from different focuses demonstrated the show’s global influence.
In defence of the special, it did reach out to a number of past Friends guest stars who were unable to attend due to schedule conflicts. There was also the issue of the reunion’s length, which was just under two hours, which was insufficient for devoted fans to delve into the show’s history and allow for direct contact amongst the actors.
Hundreds more guest-starring actors over the course of the series’ ten-year run would have needed a separate special. The key focus of Friends during the reunion has to be on the six cast members who have continued to affect followers socially to this day.