More than 25 years since the hit sitcom's debut, the show's co-creator addressed the notable issue with the '90s show while accepting some of the responsibility. "It was, to a certain extent, a product of the time period and of my own ignorance," Kauffman said during a recent episode of CNN's History of the Sitcom, per Entertainment Weekly. "There were Black shows and there were white shows. There weren't a lot of shows that were interracial."
As she elaborated, "I guess at the time I was thinking, 'This is what I know. This is what I know.'"
It's a sentiment she's echoed in the past regarding the series' predominantly white cast. "I wish I knew then what I know today," Kauffman said during an ATX TV…from the Couch panel in June 2020.
"We've always encouraged people of diversity in our company," she continued, per Deadline, "but I didn't do enough. Now all I can think about is what can I do? What can I do differently? How can I run my show in a new way? That's something I wish I knew when I started showrunning, but all the way up through last year."
While the series fell significantly short on the diversity front, some of the series' stars have pointed out how the sitcom was considered progressive for its time in other ways. As David Schwimmer, who played Ross Gellar, told The Guardian in January 2020, "The truth is also that show was groundbreaking in its time for the way in which it handled so casually sex, protected sex, gay marriage and relationships. The pilot of the show was my character's wife left him for a woman and there was a gay wedding, of my ex and her wife, that I attended."
In the course of the show, his character also had girlfriends played by Lauren Tom and Aisha Tyler. "Maybe there should be an all-black Friends or an all-Asian Friends," Schwimmer told The Guardian. "But I was well aware of the lack of diversity and I campaigned for years to have Ross date women of color. One of the first girlfriends I had on the show was an Asian American woman, and later I dated African American women. That was a very conscious push on my part."