Friends is no doubt one of the most popular TV shows to ever grace TV screens. In fact, you would have to be living under a rock for the last 20 years to not know about it. It is a show that is beloved by viewers and despite being 12 years since its final episode aired, its re-runs are still featured prominently on TV. No matter how much time passes the show remains popular with audiences. It is one of those shows that people are willing to watch over and over and somehow never get tired of it.
A large part of the show's immortality is down to its stellar cast. Yes, there’s no denying that the creators of Friends got it very right with the casting of Monica, Chandler, Rachel, Joey, Phoebe and Ross. It was as if these actors were made to play these parts, and they brought their significant characters to life in a way that had never been seen before, and possibly never will be seen again.
An interesting point though, and what this article will explore, is just what exactly these actors were up to before being catapulted into the spotlight. This is one cast that didn’t have it handed to them when it came to breaking into the entertainment industry. This article will show you just how each of these six stars had to take on their fair share of mundane jobs before getting to carry out their dream job.
15 Clinical Researcher - Lisa Kudrow
Lisa Kudrow’s character Phoebe, was no doubt the most eccentric or even wackiest of the Friends group. However, you may not have realized that before she was a comedy actress, Kudrow had a much more serious job conducting clinical research. After Kudrow graduated from Vassar college with a Bachelor of Science in Biology, she went on to conduct clinical research for headaches alongside her father. In fact, Kudrow was dead set on following in her dad’s footsteps and wanted a full career dedicated to this headache research; the star succeeded in this goal and went on to work on said research for eight years. The actress is not often given enough credit for this scientific contribution, considering the fact she was awarded a research credit for “the comparative likelihood of left-handed individuals developing cluster headaches.” A woman of many talents it would appear.
14 Comedian - Lisa Kudrow
After her studies and eight years dedicated to the life of science, Kudrow went on to make a giant leap into a completely different field. That’s right, the star made her debut in the entertainment world through her works as a comedian. It just so happened that Kudrow’s brother was the childhood friend of comedian Jon Lovitz; the comedian went on to encourage Kudrow to try and make a break into the world of showbiz. Eventually, the actress was initiated into the famous Los Angeles Improv comedy troupe The Groundlings. It was here that Kudrow began to discover her love of comedy and acting and where she first began to develop those skills which eventually led her to be cast in Friends. This was not the only Improv group that helped the star hone these particular skills as she also worked with groups such as Unexpected Company, alongside Conan O’ Brien and the Transformers Comedy Group. Kudrow definitely defied the norms when she made this jump from the world of science to the world of comedy.
13 Carpenter - Matt LeBlanc
Long before his days of seeking out stardom as an actor, Matt LeBlanc had the more simplistic life goal of becoming a successful carpenter. We all know that when Joey took on the task of fixing something in Friends, it usually led to more trouble than it was worth; the incident with the hole in Monica’s bedroom springs to mind. However, his character’s lack of these types of skills couldn’t have been further from the real life Matt LeBlanc. The actor studied carpentry in his technical vocational high school; this along with the star’s family history had him set for a life in the trade. The actor once stated: “I wanted to be a carpenter. Everyone did carpentry, plumbing, roofing in my family. The mentality was, if it was broke, you fixed it.” Although LeBlanc did take on a couple of small carpentry jobs he soon realized that perhaps it wasn’t the right fit for him after all. When he was 19 LeBlanc moved to New York to get closer to his goal of being an actor and the rest, as they say, is history.
12 Heinz Commercial - Matt LeBlanc
Somewhere between Matt LeBlanc’s carpentry days and being catapulted to stardom for his role as Joey Tribbiani on Friends, the star took on some more minor acting roles. Yes, some may have recognized LeBlanc as the guy from the Heinz Commercial when he first popped up on screen as Joey. Due to the relatively successful nature of the commercial, LeBlanc may not have been an entirely new face to some individuals. The ketchup ad was released in 1987, which seemed to be something of a golden year for LeBlanc’s commercial appearances. The same year the star appeared in a number of other commercials including one for Cherry 7UP, KFC, Coca Cola and separate from the food and drink theme, a Levi’s commercial.
11 Bon Jovi Video - Matt LeBlanc
Apart from starring in food commercials, Matt LeBlanc also had some early acting experience by starring in a number of music videos for popular music artists of the time. The most famous of these videos was probably Bon Jovi’s “Miracle” released in 1990. This video sees LeBlanc pop up on screen numerous times throughout the song's duration. No doubt, this was a big acting success for LeBlanc at the time. This was not the only music video the actor appeared in; he can be also found in the video for Alanis Morissette’s single “Walk Away” released in 1991. Finally, the same year he made his Friends debut, LeBlanc made a brief appearance in the music video for “Into the Great Wide Open” by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. LeBlanc proved that all these small roles and parts can definitely lead to something bigger.
10 Theatre Company Director - David Schwimmer
It appears as if David Schwimmer’s interests always lay in the area of performing and acting, as before he was a big name in Hollywood himself, the star actually ran his very own theatre company. In fact, Schwimmer studied Theatre and Speech in Chicago’s Northwestern University. Yes, it appears as the star once sought to be a stage actor before he turned his attention to making it on the big screen. During his time at Northwestern, the actor established the non-profit Lookingglass Theatre Company along with a number of his classmates. As we all know, Schwimmer eventually moved on from the company and began staring in TV roles. Before being cast as Ross in Friends, the actor took on many small roles including parts in The Wonder Years and NYPD Blue. Interestingly, the Lookingglass Theatre Company is still active and working on projects today. There's no doubt members regularly discuss Schwimmer's input in the group's foundation and take great inspiration from the success the actor went on to have.
9 Tennis Player - Matthew Perry
Long before his days of acting, Matthew Perry’s days were consumed by tennis. Yes, that’s correct, when Perry was in high school he was one the highest ranked junior tennis players in Canada, and at one point even considered going pro. However, as the star got older he began to lose interest in the game as the competition became overwhelming. Speaking about the matter, Perry himself once stated: “Giving up tennis wasn’t really a decision I had to make. I was a very good tennis player in Ottawa, Canada—nationally ranked when I was, like, 13. Then I moved to Los Angeles when I was 15, and everyone in L.A. just killed me. … It was insane. I realized I wouldn’t be playing tennis for a living, so I went for acting.” Thankfully for Perry, this move towards an acting career payed off greatly as we all know he went on to reach stardom for his portrayal of Chandler Bing on Friends.
8 Pacific Bell Commercial - Matthew Perry
Like many others, Matthew Perry had to break his way into the entertainment industry slowly through small roles including commercial appearances. The most well know of these commercials is probably the phone company Pacific Bell’s 1987 commercial. Keep in mind this was a still a number of years before Friends would air, so Perry had to do what he could to get himself noticed and obviously spent a large amount of time taking on these types on acting parts. Perry can be seen chatting on the phone throughout the advert which is promoting the importance of Pacific Bell’s new call waiting feature. Okay, keep in mind it was the 80s.
7 Waitress - Jennifer Aniston
Just like her character Rachel on Friends, Jennifer Aniston also worked as a waitress in New York, before making her big break. Although Rachel may have been a waitress in the gang’s coffee shop of choice, Central Perk, in real life Aniston worked serving tables in Jackson Hole Burgers located on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. This is probably the least surprising job on the list as it’s not that uncommon for young actresses to work in this business while pursuing their acting dreams. Speaking about her former-job at the burger restaurant, Aniston once stated: “I worked at a restaurant called Jackson Hole, on 85th and Columbus, burger joint. The best burgers by the way. I worked there for about two and half years, and they were so good to me.” Aniston also spoke about how her boss would often let her quit for weeks at a time to work on small plays she may have gotten a part in, but would always keep the job for the actress to return to once the play had ended.
6 Telemarketer - Jennifer Aniston
Telemarketers are not the most well liked of people. So, you may find it ironic that one of America’s most loved celebrities once worked as one. Okay, granted it may have been for a very short time but Aniston did once attempt to carry out this job while focusing on her acting career. As we just learned, the star lasted over two years as a waitress but unfortunately, she could only make it two weeks as a telemarketer. It’s hard to blame Aniston for this as it’s probably not the most enjoyable of jobs. The actress once spoke about her time in the job by saying: “I moved to L.A. and was telemarketing next to a Taco Bell.” This was clearly not the L.A dream the actress had in mind.
5 Bike Messenger - Jennifer Aniston
Jennifer Aniston certainly seemed to have her fair share of jobs before being cast as Rachel Green. Not only was she serving burgers and making calls, but the actress also worked as a bike messenger for a time. This means that Aniston could be found cycling around on a bike while delivering messages and packages to people. It’s clear Aniston didn’t get an easy start in the acting world and had to put in her fair share of years working other jobs in order to get where she wanted to be. The star was only 19 when she had this particular job and once described it as the hardest one that she ever had. The actress also told a story about one particular occasion when she crashed into an open door while delivering a package; Aniston put her struggle with this job down to being very uncoordinated and klutzy.
4 Nutri-System Rep on Howard Stern - Jennifer Aniston
A final job Jennifer Aniston had before shooting to fame was in 1989 when she worked as a Nutri-System Spokesperson on the Howard Stern Show. When thought about, it is probably safe to assume that this was down to trying to get herself noticed by someone in the industry. Especially considering the actress appeared as one of the Nutri-system success stories, claiming that the product helped her to lose 15lbs in less than 6 weeks. Stern could be seen flirting with Aniston on the show, telling her that she was “very lovely.” Aniston went on to tell him how she was a big fan of the show. It’s most likely Aniston made the appearance on the show to gain some TV time and to add it to her resume.
3 Concert Booking Agent - Courteney Cox
Courteney Cox was always aware that she wanted a job in the entertainment industry. However, when one is trying to break into this industry, it is not always the most straight forward or easiest thing to do. For this reason, Cox went about it in a rather unique way by getting herself a job as a concert booking agent. Back in the 80s, near to 10 years before Friends would air, Cox succeeded in getting a job with Frontier Booking International, a concert booking agency that was situated in New York and run by Ian Copeland. Copeland was in fact a relative of the actress and the brother of none other than Stewart Copeland from The Police.
2 Tampax Commercial - Courteney Cox
Every actor has at least one embarrassing job from their past as they are often forced to take on appearances in embarrassing commercials, just to have some experience to add to their resume. Yes, Courteney Cox is no exception to this rule as the actress once starred in a Tampax commercial. The advertisement which aired in the 80s depicts the actress talking to the screen while holding a Tampax box while she’s getting ready for dance class. Along with this Cox had the rather strange honor of being the first person to ever say the word ‘period’ on National TV. Before this the subject was approached rather delicately as if it were some sort of forbidden word. Who would have ever guessed Courteney Cox was the one to revolutionize this.
1 Springsteen Video - Courteney Cox
More evidence of Courteney Cox’s past work can be found on YouTube in the form of a Bruce Springsteen music video. The year before her commercial appearance, Cox made an appearance in Springsteen’s music video for "Dancing in the Dark." This is arguably the most renowned pre-Friends job that any of the cast had. Although Cox acts as more of a model, rather than an actress in the video, it was still great experience that no doubt helped her in eventually winning the part of Monica Geller. In the music video, Cox can be seen gazing up at Springsteen from the crowd before he pulls her up on stage to dance with him. The pair then go into a side-stepped dance that resulted in many individuals taking notice of Cox at the time.