Friends creator Marta Kauffman admits misgendering Chandler’s trans parent was a ‘mistake’
Friends co-creator Marta Kauffman has said that misgendering Chandler’s transgender parent throughout the show was a “mistake”.
Chandler’s parent, played by Kathleen Turner, was introduced as a drag performer, but after the show finished airing in 2004 Kauffman confirmed she was a trans woman.
Known by the deadname Charles, or “Helena Handbasket” in her drag show Viva Las Gaygas, Chandler’s parent was the butt of numerous jokes in the show both towards her gender identity and sexuality.
During an interview on the BBC World Service, Kauffman, 65, who co-created the show with David Crane, said: “We kept referring to her as ‘Chandler’s father’, even though Chandler’s father was trans.
“Pronouns were not yet something that I understood. So we didn’t refer to that character as ‘she’. That was a mistake.”
Kauffman, who also co-created the Netflix show Grace and Frankie, added that she now expects her workplaces to be seen as a “safe place”, and has called out transphobia elsewhere.
“It’s very important to me that where we are is a safe place, a tolerant place, where there’s no yelling,” she said.
“I fired a guy on the spot for making a joke about a trans cameraperson. That just can’t happen.”
Kauffman has previously stated that she regrets the lack of diversity on the show, which first aired in 1994.
Speaking at the virtual 2020 ATX festival on a panel of female showrunners, she addressed what she wished she’d known at the start of her career.
“I just wish I knew then what I know now. I would’ve made very different decisions,” she said.
“I mean we’ve always encouraged people of diversity in our company, but I didn’t do enough and now all I can think about is what can I do? What can I do differently? How can I run my show in a new way?
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“And that’s something I not only wish I knew when I started showrunning, but I wish I knew all the way up through last year.”
Turner herself has also explained that she wouldn’t have played her Friends character if she was asked now, saying she doesn’t think she sitcom has “aged well”.
Turner, 68, told Watch What Happens Live in 2019: “Of course I wouldn’t do it now because there would be real people able to do it.”
She added in an interview with Gay Times in 2018: “I don’t think it’s aged well. It was a 30 minute sitcom. It became a phenomenon, but no one ever took it seriously as a social comment.
“How they approached with me with it was, ‘Would you like to be the first woman playing a man playing a woman?’ I said yes, because there weren’t many drag/trans people on television at the time.”