Aisha Tyler Reveals Fans Just Call Her the ‘Black Girl’ from ‘Friends’ 20 Years After Guest Role

"To this day, people come up to me and go, 'Charlie, Charlie,' or they just go, 'Black girl from "Friends,"'" Tyler said.
David Schwimmer and Aisha Tyler in "Friends"
David Schwimmer and Aisha Tyler in "Friends"

Aisha Tyler is looking back on her “Friends” stint 20 years later.

The “Last Thing He Told Me” actress revealed that following her 2003 appearance on the hit sitcom as Charlie Wheeler, Ross’ (David Schwimmer) love interest, she is still identified as the singular recurring Black character on the series.

“To this day, people come up to me and go, ‘Charlie, Charlie,’ or they just go, ‘Black girl from “Friends,”‘” Tyler told Entertainment Tonight.

The series has come under fire in recent years for its lack of diversity, with co-creator Marta Kauffman pledging a $4 million donation to her alma mater Brandeis University to establish a fund to support scholars studying Africa and the African diaspora.

Kauffman, who created the series with David Crane, revealed that she originally thought the criticism over a lack of representation was “difficult and frustrating,” but the events of 2020, namely the murder of George Floyd by the Minneapolis police force, shed new light on her understanding of the series.

“Friends” ran from 1994 to 2004 and starred Schwimmer, Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matthew Perry, and Matt LeBlanc as the core friend group. Kauffman added, “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.”

Breakout cast member Aniston recently shared that the modern generation finds the series “offensive” through a modern lens.

Guest star Tyler remembered how the cast was “incredibly kind, incredibly welcoming” when she joined, citing how co-stars and series leads Schwimmer, Jennifer Aniston, Lisa Kudrow, Courteney Cox, Matthew Perry, and Matt LeBlanc welcomed her with open arms.

“We walked out, and we did a curtain call [where] everybody [does a] bow to the audience at the end of the show. As we’re backstage, Matthew Perry just leans in and goes, ‘Get ready for your life to change,'” Tyler recalled. “It was a really sweet, kind thing to say to someone who’s just petrified and just trying not to pee on herself a little bit from fear…My knees were knocking. I was shocked you couldn’t hear my teeth chattering the entire time I was on set.”

Tyler added that the series was “was the biggest show on television when I got that job.”

“Sometimes you don’t really know what a job is going to do, how it’s going to change your life. You don’t know if it’s going to be a hit,” Tyler said. “You don’t even know if it’s going to be good. You’re just there to do your best work. But I knew when I got ‘Friends’ that it was a big deal.”

She added, “The show had a tempo. It had a way of kind of turning things on their head and emphasizing words in different ways [than] you would in normal conversation…They just had a way with wordplay and a way with them with delivering lines. It just felt unique to the show.”

Tyler told InStyle in 2022 that there wasn’t any discussion over the fact that her character Charlie and Ross were part of an interracial relationship.

“There was no commentary on the show about my character being Black, and I think they had just written this character as this kind of love triangle between Ross and Joey,” Tyler said. “They happened to hire a Black woman, which — I don’t know that I’m advocating for colorblind casting any more than I’m advocating for people doing a better job at making shows diverse.”

Actor Schwimmer said in 2020 that he pushed for character Ross to date women of color.

“I was well aware of the lack of diversity and I campaigned for years to have Ross date women of color,” Schwimmer told The Guardian. “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.”

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