Former Friends star Jane Sibbett has defended the show's handling of same-sex relationships, insisting the beloved sitcom was "never poking fun at being gay".
Sibbett, who played Ross (David Schwimmer)'s lesbian ex-wife Carol at regular intervals over the course of Friends' 10-year run, reflected on the relationship between Carol and her new wife Susan (Jessica Hecht).
While Friends was among first mainstream sitcoms to broadcast a same-sex wedding when it aired Carol and Susan's nuptials in 1996, many of the jokes involving the characters centred on their sexuality, or others' surprise at it.
"We were never poking fun at being gay,” Sibbett, 56, told Today. “We were poking fun at a person who didn't get it, who was uncomfortable with the concept of us being together.
Jane Sibbett (right) as Carol and Jessica Hecht as Susan in 'Friends'
"And that was the great beauty; the great truth in that the joke's on the people that don't get it, that this is all about love.”
Hecht, 53, said she beleived the show was "ahead of its time" for its protrayal of two women who were completely at ease with their sexuality and relationship
"[Susuan] never went through a phase where she couldn't stand up for her own identity,” she said.
"I think that was a joy, of playing an iconic gay character, because there was no artifice... I think she was self-realized in a way that not a lot of people are.”
She added: "I always loved Susan's line when Ross is looking at the bookshelves and he says, ‘Wow, you got a lot of books about lesbians.’ And I think Susan says, ‘Well, they make you read a lot of books. Otherwise, they don't let you do it.’”
"I do feel like we were successful at not over-characterising it as anything but a loving relationship.
"It was just these two women who were in love, who had a balance between the two of them and were so devoted to each other. And I think that was ahead of its time.”