Friends: 15 Behind The Scenes Secrets
Friends is arguably one of the most popular sitcoms of all time. The NBC show lasted for 10 seasons from 1994 to 2004 and has since become a cultural phenomenon that is still talked about today! Friends had one of the best and most compatible ensemble casts with huge stars like Courteney Cox, Jennifer Aniston, Matthew Perry, Matt LeBlanc, Lisa Kudrow and David Schiwmmer, who were not only friends on-screen, but also really close off-screen. It’s been well over a decade since the show ended, but we miss it a lot! It’s one of those beloved series that fans love to rewatch and it continues to hold a solid fan base to this day. We’re feeling a bit nostalgic today, so here’s a look at 15 fun behind the scenes secrets!
15. Courteney Cox’s Motherly Role on Set
When Friends first started, none of the actors were as big as they are now. They were all still making a name for themselves in the business. The only one who had somewhat of a big name was Courteney Cox, which apparently made a lot of the other cast members nervous to meet her. The 30-year-old actress from Alabama came onto the set and played a very motherly role to the others. “She was actually the first person to speak up about us being a team. It was our second day of work, and we went outside on a break together. She said, ‘This is an ensemble show. I think we should really all try to help each other out.’ Everybody just jumped on that,” said Matthew Perry. “I had been on a show before where there wasn’t that much camaraderie, so I figured it was important to let them know I was just there to make the show better. I let them know this wasn’t a competition,” said Cox.
14. Lisa Kudrow Hated Playing the Guitar
Lisa Kudrow played the quirky, but lovable Phoebe. A big part of her character was playing the guitar, even if it was just a few chords. It turns out, Lisa Kudrow hated the fact that she had to learn guitar for her character and the reason Phoebe only knows a handful of chords is because Kudrow had trouble learning how to play! “I didn’t like the guitar. I wasn’t getting it. So I think I even asked, ‘What if she plays the bongos,'” joked Kudrow. They ended up bringing a guitar teacher in to have lessons, but it didn’t last long. Eventually they collectively decided Phoebe would only know a few chords and thankfully, learning the catchy tune “Smelly Cat” didn’t require too much musical talent!
13. Matthew Perry has Similar Qualities to Chandler
When it comes to Friends, executive producer Kevin Bright said each of the actors brought elements of themselves to their characters, but none of them were an exact replica. In fact, the one character who was most true to himself in real life was Gunther! Matthew Perry did also admit he was quite similar to Chandler. “These characters are slightly exaggerated, slightly more entertaining versions of ourselves. I know Chandler is similar to me. But if you watched my whole life for a week, there would be many more boring parts,” said Perry. The one Chandler trait that was derived directly from Perry was the way he talks. “He has this way of speaking, using questions like ‘Could this be any more this or that?’ So they wrote an entire episode about how everybody at his office makes fun of him because of the way he talks,” said Aniston.
12. Jennifer Aniston Almost Didn’t Return for Season 6
When Friends first started, Courteney Cox was the biggest star on the show, but by the last few seasons, Jennifer Aniston was the most famous cast member due to her work in films like The Good Girl and Bruce Almighty, not to mention she was married to one of Hollywood’s biggest (and hottest) A-list actors, Brad Pitt. When the series ended in 2004, a lot of people speculated it was because Aniston wanted to leave and focus on her film career, and in an interview with Matt Lauer, she admitted it took some convincing for her to come back for the tenth season. “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?'” she said. She did end up coming back for the final season.
11. Group Huddle Before Every Show
Before each and every show, all six cast members would get together for a group huddle and wish each other good luck. Not surprisingly, this turned into a very emotional ritual during the last few episodes, especially in the series finale. “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 us 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,” said Schwimmer.
10. Tom Selleck
Tom Selleck played the character of Richard Burke, one of Monica’s main love interests. He was originally only supposed to show up for one or two episodes, but he and Courteney Cox had such great chemistry they decided to keep him around! “With Courteney and Tom Selleck [in season two], if I’m not mistaken, there was no sense [at first] that was going to become a relationship with a capital ‘R.’ They went into that, and it was going to be one episode, two tops. And then they had such good chemistry, the producers and the writers at the time decided to explore it a little more,” said executive producer/writer, Scott Silveri. When he first walked on set in front of the live audience, they applauded so loudly he had to re-shoot some scenes without an audience watching!
9. Ross’s Character Was Written For David Schwimmer
Executive producer Kevin Bright said even though people like Eric McCormack from Will & Grace auditioned for the role of Ross two or three times, the character was written with David Schwimmer in mind — so he never had a chance! “We held auditions where we saw about 500 actors between New York and Los Angeles. David Schwimmer we worked with before, and the writers had him in mind for the part of Ross,” said Bright.
8. The Real Reason Behind Monica’s Giant Apartment
It’s explained on the show that Monica affords her apartment because it was her grandmothers’, but the real reason was because co-creators Marta Kauffman and David Crane, producer Kevin Bright and set designers, John Shaffner and Joe Stewart all drew on their own experience when designing her apartment. Shaffner and Stewart lived in an apartment together, so theirs was the biggest inspiration. “We’d all had similar New York experiences in the late ’70s…And we had lived in a sixth-floor walkup, so we knew you got a bigger apartment for less money if you’re willing to climb six flights of stairs,” said Shaffner. The apartment was decorated with a “thrifted inspiration” and rent controlled. There was also the obvious fact that the space had to be big enough for the actors to execute the script and for cameras to capture the whole scene.
7. Low Budget
When Friends first started out it was just an ordinary sitcom, with an ordinary sitcom budget. It didn’t become a huge money-making, cultural phenomenon until much later on in the series. So when the first season was being put together, set director Greg Grande had to get crafty. The iconic orange couch that the characters sat on everyday in the coffee house was actually just an old, tattered couch Grande found in the basement of the Warner Bros. prop house. And the episode “The One Where No One’s Ready” takes place entirely in Monica’s apartment with no guest stars or additional actors in order to save money on their season’s budget.
6. The One With the Lesbian Wedding
Friends isn’t the first show that comes to mind when it comes to breaking the boundaries of equality, but in season 2, the series received a lot of praise for dedicating an entire episode to a gay wedding. In the beginning, Friends caught a lot of flack for having “gay panic jokes” and an all white cast, but by season 2 they began stepping outside the boundaries. According to executive producer Marta Kauffman, NBC expected to get a lot of hate mail after they aired the episode, “The One with the Lesbian Wedding,” but instead they actually got a lot of compliments. NBC only received four complaints by telephone after that episode aired.
5. Jennifer Aniston was Scared of Matt LeBlanc Before She Met Him
On the first day of shooting the pilot episode of Friends, some of the cast members were nervous to meet Mat LeBlanc — which seems crazy now because he’s so lovable! At the time the 27-year-old was coming from Newton, Massachusetts, where he was raised by his father, who was a mechanic and his mother, who made circuit boards. They described his resume as that of a “Levi model.” Jennifer Aniston said she was “scared of that type of guy” because she assumed he’d be this macho, egotistical dude. “He thinks it’s very funny now. And actually, he can sit down and comfort me just like Courteney or Lisa could.”
4. First Cast to Negotiate as a Group
The cast of Friends were the first cast to negotiate as a group. In the first season they earned around $22,000 per episode, but in 1997, they collectively bargained for an equal $100,000 per episode and by the finale season they were each earning $1 million per episode! “I knew because we were all friends that when we started, each of us on the show had a different contract. So I knew I wasn’t the highest paid actor on the show, but I wasn’t the lowest. After the first season, I thought, ‘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.’ So I said to the group, ‘Here’s the deal. I’m being advised to ask for more money, but I think instead of that we should all go in together,'” said Schwimmer. According to NBC’s Head of Business Affairs, John Agoglia, David Schwimmer’s mother, a high-profile attorney, was the brains behind the negotiation.
3. Stressful Season Finale
The series finale of Friends was incredibly sad, not only for the viewers who were losing one of their favorite sitcoms, but also for the cast and crew who had worked on the show for the past decade! According to Matt LeBlanc, it was so stressful for him that he started smoking again! “I had quit smoking for four years, and in that final two weeks I started smoking again because we were so aware that our time together was coming to an end. ‘Yes, I’ll talk to you. Yes, I’ll always know you, but I won’t know you like this. I won’t see you every day, all day. Eat lunch together every day. To have this awesome, awesome experience every week. It’s coming to an end,'” said LeBlanc.
2. The Cast Hated the Joey-Rachel Romance
It’s nice to hear that the cast shared the same feels as the majority of Friends‘ viewers when it came to the subject of a romance between Joey and Rachel. Apparently, none of the cast members were supportive of it! In fact they tried to shut it down. “It felt widely 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,” said LeBlanc. Their complaints fell on deaf ears because the storyline went through, but thankfully didn’t last long. “When we had Joey fall for Rachel the actors freaked out. Matt kept saying, ‘It’s wrong. It’s like I want to be with my sister. We said, ‘Yes, it’s absolutely wrong. That’s why we have to do it,'” said show creator, David Crane.
1. Bruce Willis
Bruce Willis was one of the biggest stars to guest star on Friends, but he actually didn’t earn a dime for appearing on the show! When working on the film The Whole Nine Yards, he engaged in a bet with Matthew Perry about whether the film would reach the No. 1 spot at the box office during its opening weekend. Perry said it would, while Willis was more pessimistic. Sure enough, in February 2000, the film reached the number one spot. Willis was written into the Friends script as the dad of Ross’s girlfriend, and Rachel’s love interest. As payment for his loss, he donated his earnings to charity.