Why Sherri Shepherd Wasn’t Asked To Return To ‘Friends’ Despite a Memorable Role
Since the debut of Friends, despite the show’s impact on popular culture, the series has been accused of little inclusivity in terms of having actors of color on the show. With the exception of guest appearances, all main actors were not people of color. The show has even been accused of being a ripoff of the FOX sitcom, Living Single. Apparently, comedian turned co-host of The View, was not asked to return to the series after one guest appearance as a result of her complaining to the creators about the show’s lack of diversity.
Sherri Shepherd on ‘Friends’
Shepherd made her debut on Friends as a guest star in a 1998 episode titled The One With Pheobe’s Uterus. It was one of her first acting gigs. In the episode, Shepherd starred as Rhonda, a blunt tour guide at the museum where Ross works. She hilariously educates Joey, who is a new employee, on work cafeteria etiquette.
Her most famous line from the episode, “I shared my pudding with you, man,” became the episode’s most memorable scene.
“People ask me to repeat those lines when I’m shopping for toilet paper,” she told Yahoo during a 2019 sitdown interview. “I’m always meeting new fans who love my lines and recognize me from Friends. It’s amazing,” she continued.
Shepherd also opened up about her experience on the show, explaining the cast and crew, namely Jennifer Aniston, welcomed her with open arms.
“I remember Jennifer Aniston came and introduced herself, and I remember, because there weren’t many Black people on ‘Friends,’ and I remember I was doing my scene and the security guy (who was Black) was like, ‘Girrrl!,” Shepherd said, explaining the security guard gave her a thumbs up.
Jawn Murray says Sherri Shepherd was fired from ‘Friends’ after complaining about the show’s lack of diversity
Though fans loved Sheperd’s guest appearance, it would mark the actress’ first and last time on the show. Her close friend, journalist Jawn Murray, told ABC News that Shepherd sent the co-creator a note and complained about the show’s lack of diversity, which resulted in her not being asked to return.
“Sherri was one of the few black faces that was on Friends…and Sherri was on Friends at a time that you sent out postcards to let people know, ‘Hey, I’m going to be on TV,” he explained. “Well, she also sent that postcard to [Friends co-creator] Marta [Kauffman],” Murray continued, “and she got the postcard and [Shepherd] was never asked back on the show.”
The show latter added a few other Black guest stars who went on to have long careers. Shepherd told Yahoo that Gabrielle Union was inspired to audition for a spot on the show after seeing Sheperd’s performance. Aisha Tyler followed suit when she appeared in a number of episodes.
Union appeared in as Kristen Leigh in season 7, who had the attention of both Ross and Joey. Tyler would make history as the first person of color to have a recurring role on the show.
In the event that a reboot of the series, Sheperd is open to reviving her character.