Friends star, Aisha Tyler, who played Dr Charlie Wheeler has addressed criticism over the lack of diversity in the sitcom.
Aisha played the love interest to Joey and Ross and became a much loved and memorable character. She explained that her character’s ethnicity wasn’t stated in the script — “People of colour were always aware of it [lack of diversity]…
Even at the time, people were constantly pointing out that Friends wasn’t as diverse as the Manhattan of the real world.”
She continued, “My character wasn’t written on the page to be a woman of colour, and I auditioned against a lot of other women of different ethnic backgrounds, so I like to think they picked me because I was the right person for the role… but I knew it was something new for the show, and it was really important because, the fact of the matter was, it was a show set in Manhattan that was almost entirely Caucasian.
It was an unrealistic representation of what the real world looked like.”
Cosimo Fusco, who played Paolo, an Italian man in the series who was Rachel’s fling, explained that during a massage scene, he “touches Pheobe’s a**” which he believes was “disrespectful” because it offensively stereotyped all Italian men as sleazy.
He explained, “There was one scene where I was getting a massage, and I had to be this greasy guy who was touching Phoebe’s a**… I had a problem with how it portrayed me as if guys from Italy are like that. What they wanted me to do was quite disrespectful. But I remember we were able to find a compromise, so I felt comfortable.”
On the topic of the majority-white cast, he stated, “Today, one of the six would have to be black, of course.”
In recent months, fans of the sitcom have started questioning some of the diversity issues and flaws in the show, with one avid viewer saying, “times have changed but even back when the show was being made the casting manager clearly had a preference,”.