It’s no exaggeration to say that Friends changed TV forever. As far as situation comedy goes, at least, Friends was the Big Bang, the event that set in motion all that has come after it. Even now, as the show makes its mark in the streaming era, Friends is proving to be an enduringly popular sensation.
Here are 30 things you never knew about this classic sitcom.
30. Joey was originally supposed to be smart
During the making of any long-running sitcom, there comes a point where the cast know how their characters would react in any given situation, perhaps even better than the writers themselves.
Friends ran for a decade, and while by the end the cast knew their roles inside out, they also influenced key character decisions early on.
For example, Chandler being awkward with women and terrible at flirting was never a part of his character description prior to Matthew Perry’s casting.
Instead, it was something that Matthew Perry added himself, thanks to his own difficulty with impressing girls.
Not only that, but Joey was originally supposed to be a fairly intelligent character; it was only Matt LeBlanc’s somewhat dopey performance that made the character dumber in subsequent seasons.
29. Jennifer Aniston and Matt LeBlanc wanted the Rachel and Joey romance cut
The will-they won’t-they of Ross and Rachel is the most consistent plot thread in Friends, spanning from the very first episode right up until the end of the show.
Given its slow burn nature and the fact that Friends was always supposed to end when the final season did, you’d think that the writers and producers would have known how to pace it properly.
With that said, by the time the end of the series was appearing on the horizon, the writers had run out of things for Ross and Rachel to do.
However, season nine was far too soon for them to start to get together again for the last time – which is how the Joey and Rachel romance subplot came about.
If you remember thinking that the plot thread came out of nowhere and made no sense, you’d be right, because even actors Matt LeBlanc and Jennifer Aniston were confused by the detour their characters took in the penultimate season. They went so far as to complain to the writers directly, but it made no difference.
28. Real-life pregnancies caused a lot of continuity problems
Friends ran for ten years straight, which is a long time for any actor to refrain from making some serious life changes.
Therefore, it’s not surprising that multiple cast members got pregnant during the show’s run, even if each pregnancy was dealt with very differently.
When Lisa Kudrow realised she was pregnant, she immediately informed the writers so that they could work around it.
They came up with the plotline of Phoebe being the surrogate mother for her brother’s triplets, which actually somewhat backfired, as Kudrow’s belly never grew big enough to convincingly house three children. Instead, they had to pad Kudrow anyway, just as if her pregnancy was entirely faked.
By contrast, when Courteney Cox got pregnant the show had already established that Monica couldn’t have children, leading to Cox wearing lots of oversized clothes towards the end of the show to hide her bump.
27. Only two of the friends have never kissed
To the casual fan, it might seem as though the pairings in Friends are pretty solid. Ross and Rachel are meant to be, Chandler and Monica are happily married, Phoebe is with Mike and Joey is perpetually dating around.
The Friends’ romantic entanglements are actually a lot more complicated than that, though, especially if you take into account all of the alternate universe what-if moments, as well as hook-ups that happen off-screen.
The only two Friends characters to have never locked lips are Monica and Phoebe, with everyone else in the main six having shared at least a peck.
You might have forgotten that Ross kisses Phoebe in season three’s The One with the Flashback, which is set 12 months before the show starts, just after Ross discovers Carol’s attraction to women.
Ross also kissed Joey to help him out with an acting job that involved him kissing another guy, while Phoebe kissed Joey while pretending to be her twin sister Ursula.
26. Jennifer Aniston almost didn’t return for season ten
Like many sitcoms, Friends drew its plot points from the changing lives of its characters, meaning the show just wouldn’t be the same if one of the main six cast members left.
The show would have been uniquely disastrous, however, had Ross or Rachel not been present for their planned final reunion in season ten.
It sounds absurd that either Jennifer Aniston or David Schwimmer would have ducked out of the show before the end, but Aniston really did almost not renew her contract.
The reason was simple: more than any other actor involved in Friends, Aniston had become a superstar across the years the show had been running.
By the time filming for the last season rolled around, Aniston was so busy with film commitments, ad campaigns and other jobs that she almost didn’t return. The season had to be reduced from 24 episodes to 18, just to accommodate her.
25. James Michael Tyler worked as a barista in real-life for the first couple of seasons
Beloved by fans, Central Perk’s Gunther wasn’t originally supposed to be anything other than a background extra.
James Michael Tyler’s barista didn’t even get a name until a couple of seasons into Friends, and by the last season he still hadn’t received a surname.
Due to the fact that he was only an extra, Tyler actually had a lot in common with his character, given that he was also a barista.
When he wasn’t pretending to make coffee, serve doughnuts and wipe down surfaces at Central Perk, Tyler was doing it in real-life at another coffee shop, in order to supplement his earnings from the show.
Part of the money he was earning had to be put aside for hair care for one thing, as the naturally brunette actor had to bleach his hair every couple of weeks for years, in order to maintain Gunther’s signature blonde fuzz.
Happily for Tyler, he was soon making enough money from Friends to quit his daytime barista job.
24. The cast was totally broke at first
Joey spends a good deal of Friends as a struggling actor, one who has to be helped out with his rent payments and who can hardly afford luxuries like going out for meals.
This might seem extreme, but it was actually pretty close to reality for most of the cast, who were relative unknowns before they started working on the show.
In fact, by the time Matt LeBlanc was locked in to play the part of Joey, he reportedly only had 11 dollars in his pocket.
In a shockingly similar move to what his character probably would have done in the same situation, he used his first Friends paycheck to buy himself a hot dinner.
Meanwhile, Courteney Cox made a pragmatic decision, spending her first paycheck on a car to help her get to set and back.
23. Matthew Perry went to rehab between seasons
Over the course of the ten years that Friends ran for, the cast became so tight-knit that they were good friends both on and off-screen.
This meant they were comfortable sharing even the difficult aspects of their lives, which is how Matthew Perry was able to feel comfortable disclosing the troubles he went through off-set.
Twice during the show’s run, Perry found himself staying up drinking all night, and showing up to the Friends set the next day hungover.
Though Perry was adamant he never turned up to work under the influence, his ability to do his job suffered, and drastic action had to be taken.
Perry was sent to a rehabilitation centre twice for his alcohol addiction, and only the second time did it stick and turn into a full and long-lasting recovery.
22. Baby Ben’s scenes were the hardest to film
One of the oldest showbiz proverbs out there is “never work with children or animals”. Friends did both.
The show’s many scenes featuring ducks, chickens, cats and monkeys were hard enough to deal with, but surprisingly not the hardest moments to film.
Instead, that honour went to Ben, and the infant actor that played him, Michael Gunderson. For the show’s first two seasons, baby Ben was required to laugh, frown and cry on command – all things that it is difficult to force a baby to do.
Specifically, the episode where Ben refuses to call Ross “dada”, The One Where Old Yeller Dies, proved infamously difficult, as the adorably obliging baby just kept saying “dada” when prompted.
Thankfully, as Ben aged in the narrative the children playing him did too, eventually putting an end to most of the difficulty involved in shooting his scenes.
21. Ursula Buffay had her own TV show before Phoebe
For the uninformed, it might be surprising to learn that Ursula Buffay actually existed before Phoebe did. As played by Lisa Kudrow, Ursula was a recurring character on Mad About You, which debuted two years earlier than Friends.
The writers of Friends thought it would be a sweet idea to bring the two universes together, and so the idea of Phoebe’s far less peace-and-love identical twin sister was born.
In a cool twist, we actually get a glimpse of what Ursula’s future looks like, since the last episode of Mad About You was set 22 years into that show’s future.
In the finale, it’s revealed that Ursula actually became the Governor of New York, apparently not letting her former career in adult movies stop her from achieving her dreams.
Mad About You has no answers for what Phoebe would have been doing 22 years after Friends ended, but chances are it’s something with far fewer responsibilities than a career in politics.
20. The show was originally called Insomnia Cafe
Before showrunners David Crane and Marta Kauffman landed on the simple, iconic ‘Friends’, they went through a number of working titles for the show.
The show was originally pitched as Insomnia Cafe, after the coffee shop Crane and Kauffman’s characters would frequently hang out in
NBC bought the show, but the title was changed to Six of One, then Friends Like Us, and finally just Friends.
Nowadays it’s hard to imagine the show having any other name at all – even though when you think about it, Friends is a pretty vague and forgettable title.
Still, the punchy one-word name did its job in setting Friends apart from every other sitcom airing at the time, which no doubt helped to ensure its success.
19. Tea Leoni and Courteney Cox were offered the part of Rachel first
Despite being arguably the most famous name to come out of the entire Friends ensemble, Jennifer Aniston wasn’t actually the first choice to play Rachel.
In fact, Tea Leoni was the first one to be offered the part, but she turned it down in order to star in the ABC sitcom The Naked Truth.
After Leoni passed, Courteney Cox was then offered the role, but she chose to play Monica instead. Only then was Aniston cast as Rachel.
Little did she know, Aniston’s choice to play the ditzy socialite turned hardworking fashion mogul would cement her as a style icon and household name.
She even convinced thousands of women to copy Rachel’s signature choppy bob haircut, even though the style was something she secretly couldn’t stand.
18. The show never once actually shot in New York
Apart from the exterior shots that act as transitions between scenes, none of Friends’ ‘New York’ scenes were ever actually shot in the city.
The characters’ apartments, their places of work, their signature hang out spots and even the streets they walked on to get between them – all of them were actually shot inside a soundstage in LA.
Even the opening credits sequence, apparently shot ‘outdoors’ in a New York fountain, was actually filmed in a Warner Bros studio lot.
The same fountain was even featured in numerous other productions, such as Disney’s Halloweentown franchise.
There is some confusion around the fact that the Cherry Hill Fountain in Central Park does look similar to the one in the show, which has led to several tourists mistakenly taking photos in front of it under the assumption that it must be the same one.
17. The show originally featured an older character named Pat the Cop
Remember Pat the Cop, Friends’ father figure who was always around to offer sage advice to the younger characters on the show?
Don’t worry, you haven’t just forgotten the guy: Pat the Cop was a character who was originally written into the show and then written out before the pilot was filmed.
Pat was included in the original pilot script, as an older counterbalance to the show’s six twentysomethings, at the behest of NBC.
However, it soon became clear that the show’s target demographic would not respond well to an authority figure constantly telling the young characters how to live.
Not only that, but we do see a fair amount of Ross’, Rachel’s and even Chandler’s parents throughout the show’s run, who all function in much the same way as Pat would have.
16. Vince Vaughn nearly played Joey
Before the casting team landed on Matt LeBlanc, then-newcomer Vince Vaughn was considered to play Joey Tribbiani.
Ultimately, though Vaughn was “handsome and tall” and a “good actor,” Le Blanc was seen as the better fit.
Vaughn wasn’t the only famous face who missed out on Friends either, as Will & Grace’s Eric McCormack also tried out for Ross.
In addition, Jon Favreau – who would later go on to play Monica’s boyfriend Pete Becker – reportedly auditioned to play Chandler, but was turned down.
Other, less famous actors also auditioned repeatedly, with Hank Azaria auditioning to play almost every principal male character, before being cast as Phoebe’s first love interest, David the scientist.
15. REM’s Michael Stipe was asked to write the original theme
Before The Rembrandts’ now-iconic I’ll Be There for You was chosen as the Friends theme, another, more familiar tune was considered.
At first, REM’s Michael Stipe was asked to write the theme, but he – along with alternative rock musician Natalie Merchant – turned the offer down.
Perhaps as a kind of tribute, REM’s Shiny Happy People plays in the background near the beginning of the pilot episode.
The choice to move away from REM was probably a good one, given the American rock band’s propensity for writing sad and/or gloomy tracks.
Not only that, but the switch to I’ll Be There for You resulted in the iconic Friends claps, which are an essential part of the viewing experience even years later.
14. Bruce Willis only did the show because he lost a bet with Matthew Perry
Bruce Willis, the action movie star who appeared on Friends for several episodes as Rachel’s partner Paul, didn’t cameo for love of the show.
Rather, Willis lost a bet with Matthew Perry, his co-star in the comedy The Whole Nine Yards, over how successful that movie would be.
Willis would guest star in Friends for three episodes, donating his entire fee to charity each time, as the overbearing father of Ross’ love interest Elizabeth.
Despite only appearing in the show for a short time, Paul’s stern persona but handsome looks made him a favourite of fans, who apparently couldn’t detect Willis’ ambivalence towards the part.
Willis wasn’t the only big name from cinema to occasionally appear in Friends; Susan Sarandon and Winona Ryder also had similar short arcs.
13. Joey and Monica were supposed to be the show’s love interests
For ten seasons, Friends centred on the turbulent love affair of Ross and Rachel plus, to a lesser extent, the slow burn domestic bliss of Chandler and Monica.
Originally, however, it was Monica and Joey who were supposed to be the show’s two love interests.
According to Friends lore, Joey was changed from a pursuer of Monica to a friend because Matt LeBlanc and the female cast members found Joey’s behaviour creepy.
Originally though, the writers thought that Joey and Monica were the most suited pair, since they were the most apologetic when it came to following and attaining their romantic desires.
The idea that Joey would casually hook up with Phoebe from time to time was also floated early on, but it was eventually decided that this wouldn’t gel with the mostly family-friendly tone of the show.
12. The cast eventually made $1 million per episode
After the pilot tested well and the first season went to order, Friends’ six principal cast members were hired at a modest $22,000 per episode.
After the show proved an astronomical success, however, the cast went on to secure bigger and bigger paychecks.
By season 4, Aniston, Cox and co were making $100,000 per episode but, by the final season, this had increased to $1 million per episode.
Given that season ten was comprised of 18 episodes, this amounted to a serious amount of money for a smaller than usual amount of work, but it was a fitting reward for the actors who had been working on the show for over a decade.
Until recently, the highest-paid sitcom actor was Jim Parsons, who was consistently paid the most thanks to his award-winning work on The Big Bang Theory.
11. The One Where No One’s Ready was set entirely in Monica’s apartment to save money
Season three’s The One Where No One’s Ready, a ‘bottle episode’ which is set entirely in Monica and Rachel’s apartment, is one of Friends’ all-time classic episodes.
However, this innovative set-up came about out of necessity, not because the creative team behind the show wanted a creative challenge.
Executive producer Kevin S Bright dreamt the episode up because he needed to cut costs. He decided to save money by writing an episode without guest actors and minimal set work.
However, it tested super well with audiences, and quickly became a fan favourite thanks to its excellent pacing and steadily increasing chaos and tension.
Other favourite episodes include season three’s The One with the Football, which sees Ross and Chandler get in a fight with some rival sports players.
Season four’s The One Where Chandler Crosses the Line is also a fan favourite, probably because of Ross’ horrible keyboard skills being deployed to excellent comedic effect.
10. No one in the cast liked the opening credits
The Friends opening credits will go down in television history as one of the most iconic openings to a TV show ever.
Most people, including many who have never seen the show, can picture the cast dancing in front of the fountain, opening their umbrellas and cramming together on the sofa.
However, if you think about it for more than a second, the actual contents of the opening sequence really doesn’t make much sense.
Why would the gang be splashing around together in a fountain in the middle of the night, and why would there be a sofa?
If you’ve ever thought the sequence was more than a little weird, then you’re not the only one, as several members of the core cast have expressed their confusion as well.
Jennifer Aniston once discussed the opening in an interview, saying: “We felt it was a little…I don’t know…dancing in a pond? A fountain felt sort of odd….. We did it because we were told to.”
9. Phoebe was originally supposed to be a goth
There’s no denying that when it comes to the Friends gang, Phoebe is definitely the unconventional one.
Phoebe has the most outlandish fashion sense, the quirkiest sense of humour and the oddest beliefs, all of which is part of what makes her so charming.
Even right at the beginning of pre-production, when the show had a different name and premise, Phoebe was intended to be the unconventional wildcard.
However, rather than being a happy-go-lucky hippie with a mischievous streak, Phoebe was originally envisioned as a goth.
The goth slant intended for the character was part of the reason why Janeane Garofalo, who auditioned for the part, eventually decided to turn it down.
Talking about the evolution of the character in an interview, Garofalo said: “Long ago before Friends was Friends, when it was in its infancy, it was a show called Friends Like Us, and I was being considered for a role, like a goth girl, which I think morphed into Phoebe.”
8. Courteney Cox and Jennifer Aniston behaved just like their characters on-set
It’s not uncommon for actors to take on roles that are nothing like themselves, or to gravitate towards parts that are the exact opposite of how they are in real life.
With that said, many actors also find themselves drawn to parts that are similar to them in some way.
Both Jennifer Aniston and Courteney Cox have been said to be similar to their characters on Friends, and were especially in their time on the set.
For example, Courteney Cox was known to keep her dressing room fastidiously clean, more so than anybody else in the cast.
Just as Cox embodied the neatness-obsessed Monica, Aniston had some of Rachel’s scatter-brained approach to life too.
In fact, at one point an intervention was even held on Aniston’s behalf, in order to encourage her to show up to set on time. Whoops.
7. Janice’s appearances were always kept secret from the audience
Friends was filmed in front of a live studio audience, which means that the events of each episode were known ahead of time by those few lucky people.
There were exceptions to this rule, however, with shock moments such as cliffhangers always being filmed without an audience in order to preserve the surprise.
Not only that, but the crew would take special precautions whenever one character in particular was set to make an appearance.
In order to make her entrance as impactful as possible, Maggie Wheeler, the actress playing Janice, would be hidden on-set until the moment of her arrival in a scene.
That meant going so far as to hang black silk around the edges of the set, and encouraging her to stay out of sight wherever possible.
The efforts paid off, as you’ll notice that the crowd always cheer wildly at the appearance of Chandler’s famous ex-girlfriend.
6. The women of Friends now have their own group chat
There are plenty of stories of actors working together on a show, only for them to reveal that they did not get on at all behind the scenes.
As much as we want to believe that all our favourite fictional girl gangs are besties in real-life, it’s often more accurate to say that they haven’t stayed friends at all.
Thankfully, that doesn’t seem to be the case with the women of friends, who apparently are all in a group text chat together.
As if that wasn’t relatable enough, Courteney Cox has even admitted that she sometimes gets intimidated when it comes to posting memes for the group.
What do the actresses of Friends talk about in their group chat? Well, apparently the answer is often Friends.
In particular, whether the three of them should push for a Golden Girls-esque series following Monica, Phoebe and Rachel as three old ladies living out their days together.
5. Matt LeBlanc and Lisa Kudrow pitched the idea that Joey and Phoebe were in a casual relationship the whole time
The relationships of Friends evolve constantly throughout the seasons (we’ve already discussed the fact that everyone kissed at some point during the show’s run).
However, one relationship that never played out properly on-screen was the one between Phoebe and Joey.
As surprising as it may sound in retrospect, both Matt LeBlanc and Lisa Kudrow were on board with the idea of Joey and Phoebe being together in secret.
Specifically, their own personal theory was that the two had been in a casual relationship, and had been sleeping together without any of their friends knowing for most of the show’s run.
LeBlanc and Kudrow even went so far as to pitch this development to the show’s executives, who sadly passed on the idea.
Elaborating on how the reveal would have gone down, LeBlanc said: “we actually pitched the idea that Joey and Phoebe had been having casual sex the entire time. We’d go back and shoot all the historical scenes and just before a moment that everyone recognises, there’s Joey and Phoebe coming out of a broom closet together.”
4. Cole Sprouse had a huge crush on Jennifer Aniston
Given that Friends revolved around the shifting relationships between the core cast, it’s actually amazing that none of the actors fell for each other over the course of the show.
With that said, just because none of the main gang were harbouring crushes, it doesn’t mean no one working on the show was suffering feelings.
In fact, the actor who has been the most forthcoming about his crush is Cole Sprouse, who played Ross’ eldest child, Ben.
Sprouse readily admitted after his time on the show was done that he was madly in love with Jennifer Aniston the entire time.
Sprouse even admitted that this hindered his ability to work, saying: “I was infatuated.”
Sprouse went on: “I was speechless – I’d get all bubbly and forget my lines and completely blank… It was so difficult.”
3. The identity of ‘Ugly Naked Guy’ was kept a secret until 2016
One of Friends’ longest-running jokes was that of Ugly Naked Guy, a slovenly man who lives opposite Monica’s flat.
The whole gang continually gawk at him and express disgust at his behaviour, which mostly involves hanging around his flat naked with the curtains open.
Eventually, Ross joins in on Ugly Naked Guy’s naked party, and even moves into his flat when Ugly Naked Guy leaves.
However, until the episode where Ross makes a point of talking to him, we never actually see Ugly Naked Guy on screen.
Not only that, but even once we had seen Ugly Naked Guy in person, the actor who played him was kept totally secret.
It was only in 2016 that the name of the actor was revealed to be Jon Haugen, who called the job “the best gig of his life”.
2. The One with the Halloween Party is Lisa Kudrow’s favourite episode
There are so many episodes of Friends that it’s no surprise everyone has their own particular favourite, and for all manner of different reasons.
Some are hilarious, some are filled with angst and arguments, some are super romantic – and some manage to be all three!
The cast have their own favourite episodes, too, even if their reasons are not always immediately obvious from watching the episodes in question.
For example, Lisa Kudrow’s favourite episode of all time is The One with the Halloween Party, which aired 1st November, 2001.
Kudrow explained in an interview that it was her favourite because it was the first episode the cast shot after 9/11.
The episode had an impact on both the cast and the audience, with Kudrow saying: “That whole week, while driving in L.A., people would pull up and give me a very sad look and a quiet ‘thank you’ for making them laugh.”
1. Paul Rudd got the role of Mike because the casting director thought he was “dreamy”
Throughout the show’s run, there were a few actors who never even had to audition in order to appear on Friends.
David Schwimmer, for example, had a part in Friends written for him specifically and was offered the Ross role without him ever having to step foot in an audition room.
In contrast, Paul Rudd did have to audition to play Mike, Phoebe’s last and most serious love interest on the show.
However, Rudd breezed the first audition with his winning looks and personality, and was offered the part immediately after that.
When Rudd was granted the part, it was revealed that the casting director he had auditioned in front of had simply written “dreamy” in her notes, and nothing else! Not a bad review!