Quinta Brunson, the legend behind the acclaimed series Abbott Elementary, recently called out the iconic ‘90s series Friends, spotlighting its glaring lack of diversity during her stint hosting Saturday Night Live.
The multitalented 33-year-old producer, writer, and actress, joined the illustrious host of celebrities like Kristen Stewart, Alec Baldwin, Kim Kardashian, and Steve Martin, who have previously graced the SNL stage.
Amidst her moment in the spotlight, Brunson didn’t miss the opportunity to draw attention to her award-winning comedy, Abbott Elementary, a poignant exploration of the lives of teachers navigating the dynamics of a predominantly Black, state-funded elementary school situated in Philadelphia, contrasting that to the lack of diversity seen in Friends.
Check out what she had to say about Friends:
She told the audience: “I wanted to be on SNL back in the day but the audition process seemed long – so instead, I just created my own TV show, made sure it became really popular, won a bunch of Emmys, and then got asked to host. So much easier, so much easier.”
As the audience cheered, she continued: “It’s a network sitcom like, say, Friends. Except, instead of being about a group of friends, it’s about a group of teachers. Instead of New York, it’s in Philadelphia and instead of not having Black people, it does.”
Her playful yet impactful commentary was met with acclaim, highlighting the longstanding criticism of Friends for its portrayal, or lack thereof, of non-white and LGBTQIA+ characters.
This ongoing conversation had one of the creators of Friends, Marta Kauffman, expressing her embarrassment in 2022 over the lack of diversity, leading to her generous pledge of $4 million to Brandeis University. This contribution aimed to support the university’s African and African American studies department.
Kauffman said at the time: “I’ve learned a lot in the last 20 years,” adding: “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.”
She continued: “It took me a long time to begin to understand how I internalized systemic racism. 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.”
Her conscious endeavor and substantial donation were warmly received, sparking a wave of support and acknowledgment of the overdue nature of such initiatives. “I’ve gotten nothing but love. It’s been amazing,” Kauffman expressed, surprised by the extensive reach and supportive reactions her actions garnered.
Brunson’s noteworthy endeavor to bring diversity to the forefront and Kauffman’s reflective actions represent significant steps in fostering inclusive representation within the entertainment industry.
These reflective conversations and transformative actions underline the evolving narratives and the crucial importance of diverse storytelling in shaping a more inclusive and equitable landscape.