An all-Black cast put its own stamp on hit sitcom "Friends" Tuesday, as Sterling K. Brown, Uzo Aduba, Gabrielle Union & Co. performed a "Zoom Where It Happens" table read as part of an effort to get people to vote in the coming election.
Many fans, both of the hit sitcom and the actors in the updated edition, were excited about the table read after Ryan Michelle Bathe, in a post to Instagram Monday, revealed the project with a video showing the original "Friends" morphing into the updated cast.
In a follow-up post promoting the event, which encouraged viewers to visit voting advocacy organization When We All Vote, Bathe shared an image that listed the new cast's roles: Bathe as Rachel, Brown as Ross, Aduba as Phoebe, Aisha Hinds as Monica and Jeremy Pope as Chandler. Kendrick Sampson played Joey and Union hosted and narrated.
Before they even started performing the episode Tuesday, Cynthia Erivo flat-out dazzled with a sweet, soulful, more melodic version of the famous "Friends" theme, "I'll Be There for You."
The actors, all in separate Zoom boxes save for real-life spouses Brown and Bathe, who fittingly played lovebirds Ross and Rachel, then teamed up for the Season 3 episode "The One Where No One’s Ready."
In the episode, anxious Ross urges his dawdling friends to get dressed to attend a formal event where he's giving a speech. Unfortunately but not surprisingly, they're not in a hurry.
Chandler and Joey fight over who gets to sit in a chair, Rachel can't decide what to wear and Monica is fretting about her relationship with boyfriend Richard. Phoebe, the only one besides Ross who is ready, has her dress stained when Joey flings hummus at Chandler and misses.
The socially distanced, pandemic-era performance lacked the staging of the original and there were some dialogue glitches, as when Brown and Pope had a mix-up and Brown later said, "Hold on. I’ll say that line, because I'm Ross." But, the cast was having fun and clearly had chemistry, which is what you want in your friends.
The all-Black cast contrasted with the original all-white ensemble on a show that has been criticized for its lack of racial diversity, especially for a group of people living in New York. There were vernacular twists in the episode, directed by Salli Richardson-Whitfield, and also some delightful, updated wordplay.
In the original episode, Ross, arranging transportation, sarcastically says, "Oh, great. It's starting to rain. That will make it easier to get a cab." Brown's Ross, however, points out a racial dynamic that makes the situation even more difficult: "It’s starting to rain. That will make it easy for a Black man to get a cab."
In the original, Chandler, in dress shirt and bow tie, orders Joey to get changed: "In the words of A.A. Milne, get out of my chair, dillhole!" The Zoom table read substituted an Oscar-winning contemporary writer and referenced his film: "So, in the words of Jordan Peele, Get Out!"
After the table read ended, Union urged viewers to register to vote, make a plan to vote and to consult When We All Vote, a nonpartisan nonprofit that aims to increase election participation. She asked the actors about their voting plans.
"The minute that my ballot gets here in California, I'm going to fill it out and then I'm going to drive to my polling place and drop it in," Bathe said. "And I have signed up to be a poll worker. I'm so excited.
"She's working the poll, y'all," Brown joked.
"It's a side hustle," said Bathe, to which Brown responded: "That's my girl."
Aduba said she plans to vote in person, standing socially distanced in line and waiting as long as it takes, while Sampson is going to put on a mask and march with others to the polls to vote.
Hinds brought it back to the table read. "This episode is called 'The One Where No One's Ready.' I have not been more ready to vote," she said. "I will be voting super-duper early. I checked my status today at WhenWeAllVote.org. I'm still registered, so I can't wait."
Earlier this month, "The Golden Girls" got its own re-imagining with an all-Black cast that included Tracee Ellis Ross, Regina King, Sanaa Lathan and Alfre Woodard.
That episode was directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood and hosted by Lena Waithe.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 'Friends': Gabrielle Union hosts Zoom table read with all-Black cast