No matter how many times you watch the series, there are certain things that you can only learn about from going behind the scenes. But instead of you having to sift through old interviews and bonus footage, we’ve gone ahead and done it for you!
There is little argument that Friends is not one of the most successful sitcoms of all time, and while it has not been on the air since 2004, that definitely doesn’t mean you would be alone if you still watch it on a regular basis. But do you know the story behind Matthew Perry‘s drug addiction that caused him to forget 3 seasons? Or that the show used body doubles that were sometimes caught on camera? We have quotes from both actors and the big shots behind the scenes to help give further insight on everything ranging from why these actors got cast, to what some of the original ideas for the show were, and what their thoughts were on some of the bigger storylines like the Joey/Rachel love arc. We even have the unaired footage that they cut for 9/11 and the details behind that situation.
You wouldn’t be alone (or judged!) if you spend more time with these Friends than your real friends, but if that’s the case then you better make sure you know all the details from behind the show!
21. They Wrote Jokes On The Spot
If you ever had the good fortune to sit in for a taping of FRIENDS, then you probably know it took around 6 hours to complete an episode. This was roughly twice as long as the typical sitcom due to the writers constantly adjusting the script. When talking about the experience of making a scene, Matt Le Blanc said
“On show night we’ll do a first pass of a scene, and if something doesn’t pop really great, they’ll all huddle together and they really rack their brains and take as much time as it takes to come up with something that scores better or that makes more sense or that’s clearer or drives the story better. You know what I mean? They’re tireless. And they’re great. And they’re passionate about what they do, and it makes our jobs, the actors’, incredibly easier.”
One of the main examples of a joke being added to the script was Rachel’s clever response “No Uterus. No Opinion.” after Ross said, “That’s no big deal. Most people don’t even feel them.” in regards to her false labor pains.
20. Matt Le Blanc Had $11 When He Was Cast
When it comes to stories about someone’s life turning around when all things seemed hopeless, perhaps you can think back to Matt Le Blanc, who prior to landing the gig on Friends only had $11 to his name.
When talking about that time in his life, Le Blanc said “When it came my way, was my fourth TV series – and the other three had failed. I had exactly $11 in my pocket the day I was hired. I had to go back and read for the part of Joey a total of six times. It was far from certain I would get the role.”
19. Matthew Perry Doesn’t Remember Filming 3 Seasons
If you watch the series it can be alarming to see the physical transformation that Matthew Perry goes through. The change in appearance was far from intentional, as Perry was battling severe addiction for 3 years of filming. When talking about his addiction in 2016, Perry admitted that he doesn’t remember filming anything from seasons 3 to 6.
Perry also opened up about his addiction back in 2013, saying, “I had a big problem with alcohol and pills and I couldn’t stop. Eventually, things got so bad that I couldn’t hide it, and then everybody knew….I’m a pretty private person, but I was on a TV show that 30 million people were watching, so people knew. It was so public what was happening to me.”
Perry has attended rehab twice and eventually turned his former mansion into Perry House, a sober living home. As a result of his efforts, Perry has received numerous accolades, including a Champion of Recovery award from the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy.
18. Matt LeBlanc Thought The Script Sucked
While you may love the character of Joey, he definitely would not have been the same if not for the brilliant job of Matt LeBlanc. So much so that when LeBlanc first auditioned for the character, it made the creators realize that they needed to make serious adjustments. “When we wrote it, I don’t think we realized that Joey was dim, and that was going to be a major source of comedy,” said producer David Crane.
Co-creator Marta Kauffman also commended LeBlanc for the amount of heart that he brought to the character. They also must have enjoyed his honesty, as Le Blanc admitted in his audition that he thought the script sucked!
17. They Almost Put Monica and Chandler Together Sooner
One of the best features of Friends was watching the relationship between Chandler and Monica develop. The two interacted heavily in a season 2 episode where she is working out with him, but they decided to prolong the decision to get them together. One person involved with the studio said, “I just feel like at this point it would feel a little desperate. We had gotten excited about the stories we could tell, but once she said that, we were all shamed and ran away. It became clear it was too early to explore something like that […] There was a little bit of relationship ennui among us writers. We’d already done a lot of drama between Ross and Rachel. And nobody wanted it to become the ‘Get Together and Break-Up’ show.”
At least you can imagine it became a lot easier to plan out future seasons when they knew that those two were going to end up together. Especially when you consider that not only do they end up together, but they’re never apart once getting together.
16. Every Janice Appearance Was A Huge Surprise
When it comes to a list of secrets behind the set of Friends, how do we not include one of the biggest secrets that the show had to hide – which was every time Janice appeared in the series! Maggie Wheeler certainly made the most of her opportunity and when she was interviewed back in 2016, Wheeler admitted that anytime she was on the show great lengths went into making sure the audience didn’t see her.
Wheeler said, “I could barely come down to get a doughnut. I had to stay in my dressing room until the last moment and then they’d secretly move me from behind the set to the right spot and they’d keep a black screen so the audience couldn’t see me until I made my first entrance. I will never have anything like that again. It was incredible.”
One place that you really would have been surprised to see Janice is on the failed spinoff Joey. Wheeler opened up about the potential job, saying “I would have loved to make a little pop-up appearance on Joey. That would have been great fun. I did mention it, I suggested it. But it never happened! It was a missed opportunity, I think.”
15. Joey Really Hurt His Shoulder And Phoebe Was Pregnant (So Was Monica)
There is a great opening to an episode (The One With the Jam) in which Joey takes a tumble off the bed and hurts his shoulder which we then see in a sling. Sadly for Le Blanc, it was a real life injury that he sustained filming the scene! When talking about the experience Le Blanc said,
“I remember, as Joey jumping on the bed. Yeah, but get this… the audience was full of Diet Coke contest winners flown in from all over the country, and I did two scenes, popped my shoulder, and they had to cancel it. So they all got flown home and then flown back for another week. So it cost Coca-Cola a lot more than they anticipated. What are you going to do?”
It is clear that Friends didn’t struggle to go with the flow as when Lisa Kudrow announced she was pregnant with her future son Julian, they wrote the pregnancy into the show. Courteney Cox wasn’t quite as lucky as her real life pregnancy was hidden from the cameras during the final season. Considering she was in a storyline that was centered around how she can’t get pregnant, you can understand why a real life baby bump would have altered that!
14. The Influence Of Seinfeld
If you’re a huge fan of Friends, hopefully you are also able to find some appreciation for one of the other best sitcoms of all time, Seinfeld. But even if you hate Seinfeld, you have to give it some props because in the weeks after NBC first picked up the show, it was Seinfeld that helped pave the way.
David Crane, Marta Kauffman, and Kevin Bright (three of the executive producers) spent time going over unproduced Seinfeld episodes to help get their voice. Perhaps they also just wanted the opportunity to look over unproduced Seinfeld stuff!!
The trio also aspired to hire a younger writing staff, saying “When you’re 40, you can’t do it anymore. The networks and studios are looking for young people coming in out of college.”
13. How Much They Got Paid, And Why
One of the biggest talking points in the history of Friends was the infamous contract negotiation that occurred prior to the third season of the series. Prior to that the cast had all earned $22,500 an episode and in season 2, had salaries that ranging from $20,000-$40,000 per episode.
Dissatisfied with how money was being distributed, the Friends cast became the first ever to negotiate for equal salaries. On top of rising salaries the cast also all receive syndication royalties that started in 2000. This is definitely rare for a network to grant to their stars, as while they were great actors, they had no stake in the ownership of the show.
If you want to point to one cast member to give credit for the idea of the same contract, Lisa Kudrow seems to be the mastermind behind the decision, including one agent saying “Lisa thought that by waiting till the 11th hour, the network would be panicked, and it would help them get leverage.”
David Schwimmer was also influential in the decision, saying in a past interview, “I’m being advised to go in for more money. But for me, it goes against everything I truly believe in, in terms of ensemble… I think instead [of me taking more money] we should all go in together.”
It definitely paid off and in season 3 (per episode) the cast earned $75,000, $85,000 in season 4, $100,000 in season 5, $125,000 in season 6, $750,000 in seasons 7 and 8, and $1 million in seasons 9 and 10.
12. The Cast Hated Joey/Rachel Too
Don’t worry buddy, you aren’t the only one out there that hated the pairing of Joey and Rachel for part of the series. David Crane spoke out about the situation saying that Matt LeBlanc would constantly say it was like being with his sister. LeBlanc himself opened up about the storyline saying, “It felt wildly inappropriate. I was like, “That’s Rachel. She’s supposed to be with Ross.” Everybody got super-defensive about the whole thing. We went to David and Marta as a group and said, ‘We’re really concerned about this. It doesn’t feel right. We have a problem with it.'”
11. Joey Was Going To Hook Up With Monica
There are definitely going to be a lot of crazy ideas that get thrown on the board when a series is first starting to get its legs. One thing that you are probably ecstatic did not make the final drawing board was the idea to plan a huge love story between Joey and Monica. The reasoning being that both of these characters were expected to be the most sexualized, and while that may be true for Joey, they probably didn’t know Monica was going to fall for Chandler! When speaking to the development of Monica’s character, show creator David Kauffman said, “It wasn’t until we did the first Thanksgiving episode that we realized how much fun Monica’s neuroses are.”
10. The Unaired Content Because Of 9/11
It is impossible to watch Friends and not become aware that the show was airing during the terrorist attacks on 9/11, and given that the show is set in New York, you can understand why people were wondering if the show was going to address it.
Kevin Bright was asked about their decision to not overtly mention it, saying “We’re a comedy show, and there is nothing funny about September 11. Dramas are much better equipped to handle that subject matter. We tried to subtly acknowledge in the show that it did happen — an American flag hanging in the coffee shop, etc. But it’s just not something that is funny. We thought about doing something momentarily, and decided it was best to stay away from. When people come to a show to laugh and enjoy themselves, the last thing they need is September 11. It was in enough places.”
However just because they don’t mention it, doesn’t mean it didn’t impact the show. There was a storyline from the episode The One Where Rachel Tells that was set to air 2 weeks after 9/11.
In the episode, Chandler is seen joking with airport security including the line (after seeing a joke prohibiting joking about bombs), “You don’t have to worry about me. I take my bombs very seriously.”
9. Aniston Was The Last To Agree To Season 10
When it comes to comparing Seinfeld and Friends, one thing that Friends has to its credit (depending on if you thought it was any good) is the fact that they put out a 10th season. But if this just happens to be one of your favorite seasons, you may be shocked to hear that it almost didn’t happen.
“It took us a while to get onboard with the idea of season 10. We had to really sort of examine what stories we have left to tell that would justify coming back. I’m glad we did, because I really liked this season a lot. But you don’t want to overstay your welcome,” said David Crane (one of the show creators).
Crane and Marta Kauffman have also both said that even if there was a consensus from the cast to do an 11th season, that they would not have signed on. Jennifer Aniston also had similar concerns and was one of the last members to agree on season 10, saying in a past interview “I had a couple issues that I was dealing with, I wanted it to end when people still loved us and we were on a high. And then I was also feeling like, ‘How much more of Rachel do I have in me?'”
8. They Never Shot In New York
Wait, what? Oh, the magic of television! Almost the entirety of the series was shot in Burbank, California on Stage 24 (which was fittingly later named The Friends Stage). This includes the season 5 finale which looks to be set in Las Vegas.
One of the only opportunities for the cast to do some shooting outside of California came in the 4th season when they shot on location in London. When asked about it, Kevin Bright (one of the creators) mentioned that it was due to the large fanbase they had in the UK.
Bright also went on to defend the decision to shoot in front of a live audience in California saying, “We find that taking the show out of the studio makes it less funny, even when we shoot on the lot outside. The live audience is such an integral part of the show.”
7. Carol Changed After Anita Barone Demanded More Episodes
When you look back at the long history of Friends it can be easy to forget that not only did Ross get divorced three times, but he had two different actresses play his wife Carol! Anita Barone stepped into the role for the first ever appearance of Carol in The One with the Sonogram at the End, but she grew dissatisfied with the fact that Carol would not be a super re-occurring character. As you may know, the character was then recast for Jane Sibbett.
To Barone’s credit, she did then go on to have an 18 episode stint on The Jeff Foxworthy Show. Sibbett in contrast only appeared in 15 episodes of the entire series. Though there is something to be said about being able to say you were a supporting character in arguably the best sitcom of all time…in contrast to THE JEFF FOXWORTHY SHOW.
6. Jennifer Aniston Hated “The Rachel” Haircut
One of the biggest signs of how popular Friends got was the growing trend in the ’90s of people trying to pull off the signature Rachel hairstyle. Yet one person who absolutely could not stand it was the person who made it famous! In 2011 when talking to Allure magazine, Aniston literally called it the ugliest haircut she had ever seen.
Perhaps she just got annoyed with all the upkeep, because she has also admitted that, “Looking back — honestly, even during that time — I couldn’t do it on my own. I needed [my hairstylist] Chris [McMillan] attached to my hip. Left to my own devices, I am not skilled with a hairbrush and blow dryer.”
5. What The Original Pitch Was
When you sit there and think of the amazing impact that Friends has had on the world, you may also find yourself wondering how the show was first originally pitched. Especially now that you know all the crazy changes like the Joey/Monica love story!
When Matt Lauer sat down for an interview with David Crane and Marta Kauffman, he included what was the first ever pitch that Crane/Kauffman used:
“It’s about sex, love, relationships, careers, a time in your life when everything’s possible. And it’s about friendship because when you’re single and in the city, your friends are your family.”
4. Chandler’s Sexual Orientation
While it might be hard for you to picture Chandler without Monica standing by his side, we all know that his best buddy is definitely Joey. A friendship that was so close it led to many people speculating that Chandler was gay, including Loren Javier who was the director of information for GLAAD who in 1996 said, “Sure, there are all the little clues, the little in-jokes about his sexuality. And since the coming-out process is often a long one, it wouldn’t be insane for Chandler to realize he’s gay. Many gay people see Friends [which recently showcased the lesbian commitment ceremony of Ross’ ex-wife] as the kind of show something like that could happen on.”
Despite some fans hoping for some Joey/Chan love, one of the cocreators and executive producers David Crane opened up about the subject in 1997 saying, “No, Chandler isn’t gay. Nor will he be gay. It’s not as if he has a choice. He either is or he isn’t. And he happens not to be.”
Lisa Kudrow has also come out in the past and said that after reading the pilot she thought Chandler was gay. Perhaps there was more to her little song “When I first met Chandler, I thought he was gay. But here I am singing, on his wedding day.”
3. What They Did Before Every Show
Perhaps the cast of Friends were also huge football fans because before every show they would get together in a huddle and help motivate one another to go on and have a great show. While this is a great gesture for the 6 of them, it was reported that it left some stars like Tom Selleck feeling left out.
This was such a special moment, that when David Schwimmer was asked what was the most emotional moment of the series finale, he responded
“I started to lose it in this ritual that we had before the show, which is just a group hug, kind of get in a little circle, right before we come out. And that was the moment I was dreading for a long time because I knew that moment of just looking at everyone in their eyes, and saying ‘Have a good show,’ and knowing that was the last time we were going to be able to be in our little circle.”
2. Who Was Almost Cast
Craig Bierko was very nearly cast as Chandler but elected to pass on the script, NBC’s Executive VP of Prime-Time Programming talked about it saying, “We kind of talked Craig Bierko out of being in Friends. Ultimately, he made his own decision, sort of. He took another pilot where he could be the lead and the only star.” As a fun twist, Bierko was coached for his audition by Matthew Perry.
Nancy McKeon who was best known for her role in Facts of Life was also nearly cast as Monica. When they were originally were looking to cast Monica they were hoping for someone with a darker and snarkier tone, but Cox helped infuse many different personality traits to the character.
Did you also grow up loving The Lost Boys? Then you may have been stoked to have seen Jami Gertz in the role of Rachel. In fact, NBC offered the part to her without approval from producers but thankfully she turned it down.
Jane Lynch and Kathy Griffin were also both called in to read for Phoebe. Jon Cryer was also considered for the role of Chandler, but at least he found success with Two and a Half Men. You may also find it interesting to note that David Schwimmer was the only cast member who did not audition, as the role was written with him specifically in mind. When Schwimmer showed signs of potentially not working on the show, Eric McCormack who later found success on Will and Grace was brought in to read for the part.
1. They Use Body Doubles
Wait…what? I guess it should be common knowledge that television shows often use body doubles for certain scenes, but I can’t be the only one shocked by the above photos! The one on the left was taken from the Season 9 episode The One with the Mugging and appears to be a replacement for Rachel.
The one on the right was a replacement for Monica in the season 8 episode The One with Rachel’s Date.
Looks like that group of friends may be a little bit bigger than we anticipated! Although we have to give credit to the guys who never have had their doubles caught on screen. Guess that group of friends is a little bit bigger than they let on!