It’s safe to say that there are many out there who believe that Friends is not the ideal depiction of New York City, a city known as a multicultural melting pot. Many of that can be traced back to the writers room. If a writers room isn’t inclusive, chances are that can bleed on screen. And judging by the predominantly white cast of Friends, the racial makeup of the behind the scenes players wasn’t inclusive, as Amaani Lyle can attest. Lyle’s experience, although documented in Bustle in 2018, was brought to the forefront again by a tweet from BuzzFeed’s Tomi Obaro.
Hey guys remember the one about the only black woman in the writers room on Friends who had to listen as the writers told graphic jokes about joey raping rachel and when she sued for sexual harassment she was blackballed from the industry https://t.co/TEKlHdh6zn
— Tomi Obaro (@TomiObaro) August 21, 2019
In 1999, Lyle was hired as a writer’s assistant on the sixth season of Friends. However, Lyle’s experience quickly turned sour when her supervisors–Adam Chase, Gregory Malins and Andrew Reich–frequently made racist and graphic sexual comments that left her uncomfortable.
As alleged in court documents, Lyle recounts instances in which the trio would go into lurid detail about their sex lives. According to the Bustle article, Lyle recounts how her experience seemed less like a writers room and more like being in a “junior high school locker room.” She also revealed that Chase, Malins and Reich regularly talked about drastically changing one of the show’s beloved characters, Joey Tribbiani, and making him a serial rapist.
According to court documents, Lyle also claimed her three supervisors often told racist jokes, referred to Black people as “homies” and often mocked what they referred to as “ghetto black talk.” Considering that she was the only Black writer in the writers room, Lyle suggested that a Black character be incorporated into the Friends cast. Although her supervisors were seemingly open to the idea, there was apparently no follow-through. Despite her experience, Lyle kept her feelings on the writers room to herself.
Lyle fired in October of 1999, as noted in court documents, for typing too slow. However, Lyle expressed that she believes her termination was due to expressing her opinion on the lack of diversity in Friends.
“At the time, you just did what you had to do, to stay relevant, stay in the room, stay employed,” she says. “It was sort of a shut-up-and-color thing.”
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