On Friday, July 16, Shepherd spoke about her experience being a guest on the show. She told People magazine, “I had a wonderful time on ‘Friends.’ I really did. They were so really, really wonderful.”
But one thing that didn’t quite sit right with her about the show was the lack of diversity. She said what made it confusing was that the show was “set in New York.” She further explained, “I’ve lived in New York for nine years and I always saw diversity. All the time. When you walk down the street, you got to be in a bubble not to see how inclusive New York City is. It is one of the most inclusive, diverse cities I’ve ever been to.”
The former “The View” host added, “that was a little bit hard to see a show where nobody looked like me.”
In a 1998 “Friends” episode, Shepherd played a museum tour guide named Rhonda. In the particular episode, Joey Tribbiani, a main character, meets Rhonda after getting a job as a tour guide at the same museum where his friend Ross works as a paleontologist. However, a division is created between the paleontologists, who wore white coats, and the tour guides, who wore blue blazers, because of their job status.
Later in the episode, Ross advised his colleagues to “shed these coats that separate us, [so] we [can] get to know the people underneath.” He then proceeded to throw off his coat, and share an embarrassing fact about himself, which prompted his other colleagues to do it. A few people went and when it was Rhonda’s turn she threw off her blazer and said, “I’m Rhonda and these aren’t real,” referring to her breasts.
The line was a memorable hit, and Shepherd told People, “The crowd went crazy. It was one of their top 10 favorites for a long time.” The 54-year-old explained that the executive producers told her she did such a great job and that she would be invited back, but that she never was. To this day, she said, “if I ever do run into [the producers], I’ll tell them what a great time I had, and ask, ‘Did I offend anybody?’ Because I would have loved to have come back. It was a great experience.”
Last year, pop culture commentator Jawn Murray explained — with the permission of Shepherd, his friend — the reason she believes she did not get a callback. When she was on the show she sent out what was supposed to be a funny postcard to her friends, letting them know she would be on TV. On the postcard, she wrote, “ ‘Friends’ get a little colour.” But she accidentally also sent the postcard to “Friends” co-creator Marta Kauffman.
Although she might have felt a way at the time, today Kauffman seems remorseful about not having more people of color included on her shows in the early days. Last year, in an interview with Deadline, she said, “I wish I knew then what I knew today, I would have made very different decisions. We’ve always encouraged people of diversity in our company, but I didn’t do enough. 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? That’s something I wish I knew when I started showrunning but all the way up through last year.”