March 14, 2001 -- Friends is diverging from its lily-white palette to feature its first African-American guest star in this week's episode.
Actress Gabrielle Union, seen on TV on the short-lived CBS medical drama City of Angels and on the big screen as one of the cheerleaders in Bring It On, will be caught romantically between Joey (Matt LeBlanc) and Ross (David Schwimmer).
"I'm this random girl that they both find attractive, and I date both of them — unbeknownst to the other," Union told TV Guide.
Although it's only a one-time guest shot, Union says her appearance is still praiseworthy. "Their color-blind casting shows me that they are attempting to make an effort towards diversity," she said.
While Friends is one of the top-rated shows among white audiences, its lack of racial diversity up to this point led black viewers to rank it, along with CBS's Everybody Loves Raymond, at No. 65 in a recent survey conducted by TN Media, according to the New York Post.
The NAACP has criticized the networks for their dearth of black faces in prime-time.
Over on CBS, Survivor: The Australian Outback, which has been whomping Friends in the ratings, still has the edge over the NBC sitcom. The reality show boasts two black contestants: Nick and Alicia.
The Survivor-Friends battle is off this week and next as Survivor moves to Wednesdays to avoid the NCAA basketball playoffs.