“Friends” co-creator Marta Kauffman racked up another stop on her apology tour, saying in a soon-to-air interview that she regretted “misgendering” one of the characters on the show.
According to E! News, Kauffman explained in a BBC interview — scheduled to air July 11 — that her concern focused on Chandler Bing (played by actor Matthew Perry), one of the main six characters, who had a biological father who was a transgender woman (played by legendary actress Kathleen Turner). The character went by the stage name Helena Handbasket and headlined a drag burlesque show in Las Vegas.
Her regret, she said, was that throughout the run of the show whenever Helena was mentioned, she was routinely described as “Chandler’s father” and referred to with he/him pronouns. One episode was even titled “The One with Chandler’s Dad.”
“We kept referring to [Helena] as ‘Chandler’s father,’ even though Chandler’s father was trans,” she said, noting that “mother” might have been more appropriate given Helena’s gender identity.
“Pronouns were not yet something that I understood, so we didn’t refer to that character as ‘she.’ That was a mistake,” Kauffman explained.
Kauffman voiced similar regret in another recent interview over the lack of racial diversity on the show. She told the Los Angeles Times that she planned to make reparations, of sorts — donating $4 million to her alma mater Brandeis University’s African American Studies department to create an endowed professorship. Her hope is that it will help to make up for her failure to push for a more racially diverse cast.
“I’ve 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,” she said.
Fox News reported that Kauffman also took responsibility for what she said was her role in contributing to systemic racism in the entertainment industry, saying, “I was unaware of that, which makes me feel stupid. That was a very valid, extremely difficult criticism which still… I get emotional about.”
“If I knew then what I know now, there are certain things I would have changed. But I didn’t know them and I have since learned,” she added.