The director of "Friends: The Reunion," Ben Winston, has addressed criticism over the show's seeming lack of diversity.
The special, which aired on HBO Max on May 27, was met with backlash from viewers who questioned why the Black actors who appeared in the sitcom over the years were not present at the reunion. Responding to this, Winston told The Sunday Times that critics simply "haven't seen" the special.
"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."
Many pointed out that Black "Friends" actors, like Aisha Tyler, were notably absent from the reunion special, but Winston explained that "not everyone could join us," adding "But I'm really pleased with the show we were able to put together."
"Friends" has for years been criticized for its lack of diversity. The show's creator Marta Kauffman, and executive producer Kevin Bright, recently spoke about why the six main cast members — David Schwimmer, Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc, and Matthew Perry — were all white.
"We didn’t intend to have an all-white cast. That was not the goal, either. Obviously, the chemistry between these six actors speaks for itself," Bright told The Hollywood Reporter.
"There are many things that I could say if I only knew then what I know now," Kauffman added. "Back then, there was no conscious decision. We saw people of every race, religion, color. These were the six people we cast."
Bright said he did not have any regrets about how the show was cast.
"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 meanwhile, said she would change "a hundred things" 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.
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