Actress Francia Raisa, who donated a kidney to her singer-actress friend Selena Gomez in 2017, is responding to the makers of Peacock's "Saved by the Bell" reboot after they apologized for their sitcom finding humor in the transplant necessitated by Gomez's longtime lupus.
"We apologize. It was never our intention to make light of Selena’s health," said Peacock, Universal Television and the executive producers in a joint statement over the weekend, following social-media ire when one of the 10 episodes released Wednesday contained dialogue and graffiti making light of Gomez's illness. "We have been in touch with her team and will be making a donation to her charity, The Selena Gomez Fund for Lupus Research at USC [University of Southern California]," the statement said.
"Appreciate the apology but let's not forget about the donors that potentially felt offended and dismissed from the spray paint written on the wall," "Grown-ish" star Raisa, 32, tweeted Saturday. "As a kidney donor I want to show love and let other donors know that you are not alone. You are seen. You are appreciated. You are so brave and your selfless act is very much appreciated and valued!"
The sixth episode of the reboot, "Teen-Line," involves Bayside High administration banning cellphones in the school. With the students unable to readily check pop-culture facts, arguments ensue spotlighting the nature of rumormongering. "Now I know for a fact that Selena Gomez's kidney donor was Justin Bieber's mom," insists a teen played by Alyssa Jirrels. "God, I wish that I had my phone so that I can prove it."
"Prove what? That you're an idiot?" responds another student, played by Mariah Iman Wilson. "It was Demi Lovato's kidney. They're best friends — like you and I were!"
Compounding the issue was background graffiti in a locker room: "Does Selena Comes [sic] even have kidneys?"
While the episode is credited to writers Erin Fischer and Shantira Jackson, most sitcom scripts are rewritten by a team that generally includes story editors, producers and executive producers, making it difficult to specify the scene's author. Additionally, the graffiti might have been asked for in the script or have been the brainchild of the show's production-design staff.
While Gomez, 28, has not responded publicly, fans were vociferous on Twitter. One called the humor "disgusting. Selena almost lost her life, jokes about her kidney transplant is NOT FUNNY. Respect Selena Gomez" — that phrase peppering many of the responses. "[T]his is so disgusting and unnecessary. selena doesn't deserve this," read another person's tweet.
Some praised Raisa for speaking up. "[Y]ou literally saved a life donating your kidney to selena and for them to make fun of it like that it's really low, disgusting and disrespectful, i'm glad u are making your voice heard," one commenter tweeted. Another wrote, "You and other donors have saved people's lives and that act doesn't deserve to be diminished or made light of at all."
In an Instagram post on Sept. 14, 2017, pop star Gomez had revealed that her recent absence from social media was because "I found out I needed to get a kidney transplant due to my Lupus and was recovering." She went to say, "[T]here aren't words to describe how I can possibly thank my beautiful friend Francia Raisa. She gave me the ultimate gift and sacrifice by donating her kidney to me. I am incredibly blessed. I love you so much sis." Gomez had gone public with her lupus diagnosis two years earlier.