Friends is one of television's most popular shows but co-creator Marta Kauffman has admitted it included a huge failure.
Speaking to Los Angeles Times, Kauffman has not only apologised for the major flaw in the show but pledged US$4 million ($6.4m) to her alma mater, Brandeis University, in an attempt to make amends.
The popular show, which ran from 1994 to 2004 has received constant criticism for its lack of diversity and while Kauffman initially struggled to understand the "difficult and frustrating" backlash, she has now revealed she sees the error of her ways.
During a zoom interview with the Los Angeles Times, Kauffman said she's "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."
The show – which is centred around six white, heterosexual best friends, was called out many times for its predominantly white environment despite being based in the famously diverse New York City.
Throughout its 10 seasons, the show introduced a total of two recurring characters of colour – both of whom were short-lived love interests of Ross Gellar (David Schwimmer).
Yet despite constant feedback about the near-absence of black people and other people of colour, Kauffman said she shrugged it off and instead chose to believe the show was being singled out because of its success.
It wasn't until the shocking murder of George Floyd in 2020 that Kauffman looked more in-depth at her part in perpetuating racism.
"I knew then I needed to course-correct," she said, adding the series' failure to be more inclusive was a symptom of her "internalisation of the systematic racism that plagues our society".
Floyd's tragic death became the catalyst for the historic Black Lives Matter movement in America as well as Kauffman's decision to donate US$4m towards funding an endowed chair in her old school's African and African American studies department.
"It took me a long time to begin to understand how I internalised systemic racism," said Kauffman, who is also the co-creator of Netflix's Grace and Frankie.
"I've been working really hard to become an ally, an anti-racist. And this seemed to me to be a way that I could participate in the conversation from a white woman's perspective."
According to a statement released by the Massachusetts university, Kauffman's pledge "will support a distinguished scholar with a concentration in the study of the peoples and cultures of Africa and the African diaspora" and "assist the department to recruit more expert scholars and teachers, map long-term academic and research priorities and provide new opportunities for students to engage in interdisciplinary scholarship".
Kauffman told the Hollywood Reporter the cast was not "consciously chosen" to be entirely white and admitted there are "probably a hundred things" she would have done differently.
However her co-creator Kevin Bright took a different route and instead focused on the "chemistry" between the six main actors - Schwimmer, Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc and Matthew Perry.
"I would have been insane not to hire those six actors. What can I say? I wish Lisa was black?" Bright said.
Kauffman later noted in her interview with the Los Angeles Times she will "act differently from now on" and make a conscious effort of hiring people of colour and actively pursue young writers of colour in every future production she works on.