All-star script readings have become all the rage during a time when actors can’t create new content in which they, you know, share the same space. Round up a bevy of name performers (do a reunion, if you can!), have them all read a TV episode or a movie script live, and…well, it’s not the same as a typical sitcom or movie, but it’s something. But this one is next level: As per The Hollywood Reporter, Gabrielle Union is organizing an all-black cast to read a classic episode of Friends.
The episode in question? “The One Where No One’s Ready,” one of the most theatrical of Friends episodes, set entirely in Monica and Rachel’s apartment and featuring the entire sextet together at the same time for the entire time, and mostly in real time. (And they’re not even hanging in Central Perk.) A Season 3 favorite, it finds everyone supposed to be heading to a function at Ross’ museum, only for, well, no one (but Ross) to be ready to go.
Union herself will not be playing one of the main roles, handing the role of Ross and Rachel to real-life marrieds Ryan Bathe and Sterling K. Brown. Meanwhile, Kendrick Sampson (How to Get Away with Murder) will read for Joey, Jeremy Pope (Ryan Murphy’s Hollywood) for Chandler, Uzo Aduba (Orange is the New Black) for Phoebe, and Aisha Hinds (9-1-1) for Monica. The production team will include such luminaries as Cynthia Erivo, Tessa ThompsonKerry Washington, Rashida Jones, Issa Rae, and Ava DuVernay.
An all-black Friends is a smart move, especially as the show has been criticized, then and moreso now, for painting an unrealistically over-white depiction of New York City. Among its critics? Former Phoebe Lisa Kudrow, who said a potential reboot would be much more diverse. Meanwhile, David Schwimmer, the erstwhile Ross, has said that he pushed the production to include supporting players of color, including multiple girlfriends (who weren’t his on-and-off, Rachel, that is).
As with many cast readings, the Friends one will encourage donations to a charity, in this case Michelle Obama’s When We All Vote initiative. A date for the live reading has yet to be announced, but perhaps it will arrive before HBO Max’s delayed official Friends reunion.