You know they’ll be there for you. But did you know these secrets behind the scenes of your favorite TV Friends?
Grab a cup of Central Perk and throw on your Holiday Armadillo costume — it’s time for some Friends facts you know you need to know.
Its original title was pretty weird
Simple, inviting, to the point. Friends is the perfect title for the classic sitcom. But it took producers a few tries to nail it down. In fact, when creators Kevin Bright, Marta Kauffman, and David Crane originally pitched their seven-page treatment to NBC, it had this spooky title: Insomnia Cafe.
Once the show was greenlit and production started, other titles thrown around included Six of One, Once Upon a Time in the West Village, Across the Hall, These Friends of Mine, and Friends Like Us. Finally, in a surprisingly last minute move, producers and NBC agreed on Friends.
One cast member was originally offered another character
The six core cast members of Friends are inarguably perfect for their roles. Can you imagine anyone other than Jennifer Aniston playing the spoiled-yet-sympathetic Rachel Green? Well, the producers did.
They originally offered Rachel to Courteney Cox, who you may know as the type-A Monica Geller.
Cox, known then for her work in Family Ties and Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, turned down Rachel and asked if she could play Monica instead. The creators were initially hesitant, as they had conceived of Monica as a dark, angsty, even goth-leaning type — they used Janeane Garofalo as a reference.
Matthew Perry almost didn’t get Chandler
In television production, networks often produce a first episode of a potential series, called a pilot, to see if it’s worthwhile. A young actor named Matthew Perry filmed a Fox pilot called LAX 2194, about baggage handlers in the future.
And it nearly grounded his chance to play Chandler.
Producers wanted Perry for Chandler. But because of his potential commitments to LAX 2194, he couldn’t take it. However, that didn’t stop Perry’s interest in the role — he even coached other actors on their auditions.
Eventually, LAX 2194 was killed at Fox, leaving Perry the sarcastic role of a lifetime.
The cast’s level of friendship was crazy
It’s normally forbidden for actors to give each other performance notes on set. But on Friends, Cox pitched the idea of the six castmates noting each other constantly. The actors took it and ran with it, with the idea that they were always interested in making each other look better.
The cast also negotiated their contracts as a team, with no one earning more than the other. Studios usually prefer individual deals, but the cast knew they wanted to be on equal footing for the show’s run.
It’s not surprising to learn that they’re still best friends… no pun intended.
The show’s creation came from desperation
In 1993, Kauffman and Crane just had a CBS sitcom, Family Album, cancelled. That show was about a family moving across the country to reunite with extended family. And as they were mourning this loss, Kauffman and Crane started reminiscing about the loss of hope one has in their 20s.
After they graduated college, Kauffman and Crane moved to New York. What they lacked in money and job opportunities, they made up for in joy and friendships that became found families. These trips down memory lane are what sparked the two to create a new family album of Friends.
Two characters you wouldn’t expect were conceived as lovers
The will-they-won’t-they relationship between Aniston’s Rachel and David Schwimmer’s Ross is one of the central engines of Friends, with fans sure to debate whether they were on a break until the end of time.
And yet, that’s not who the creators first thought of pairing together.
Their original plan was to throw Monica and Joey at each other. Which is fundamentally insane.
But according to Kauffman, “they just seemed the most sexual of the characters.” We’re glad they came to their senses and focused on Ross/Rachel, and eventually Chandler/Monica.
One actor hated the script — and the creators hated him, too
“How you doin’?”
With three simple words, Matt LeBlanc gave us everything we needed to know about simple, womanizing actor Joey Tribbiani. He plays that character so well they gave him a two-season spinoff. But when he first auditioned, he hated the script. And the feeling was mutual.
LeBlanc was feeling the script so little, that he gave Joey his own spin, adding many now-trademark flavors. The creators didn’t like the new take, and didn’t want him. However, NBC loved him, and forced Kauffman, Crane, and Bright to cast him.
NBC was, of course, correct.
NBC was worried it was too “young”
Nowadays, there are more TV shows about young people hanging out in the big city than you can shake a remote at. But in 1994, the idea of a show about aimless twentysomethings was new and frightening to NBC. They had a lot of notes.
NBC thought a coffee shop was too hip. If they had their way, the gang would’ve hung out in a diner. The network also wanted an old, wise character to give the young folks advice. The creators tried a draft with “Pat the Cop.”
He was, wisely, cut.
The series finale was a nightmare to make
On May 6, 2004, Friends concluded its run with “The Last One,” a two-part episode that expertly revealed its characters’ final fates before one final heartwarming trip to Central Perk. And from writing to filming and everything in between, it was incredibly difficult to produce.
Writers watched many series finales for research, deciding The Mary Tyler Moore Show was their standard. They would go days without writing a single word, staring at their computers, unsure of what to do. And when scripts were finally complete, cast members couldn’t film without bursting into tears.
Producers spread a fake rumor about the series finale
At the time of its finale, Friends was the biggest TV show. Fans and entertainment journalists were clamoring for any intel they could find about the finale. To avoid any spoilers, the producers leaked some information of their own.
And it was a total lie.
In interviews, producers said they filmed multiple final scenes without an audience. In fact, both statements were untrue — They only filmed the ending eventually aired, and they did it in front of an audience. But it was a smart plan to ensure any leaks were viewed as not being definite.
They had how many wrap parties?!
Normally, after a project is done filming, the team throws a “wrap party,” where everyone celebrates the work they’ve done. In the case of the highly influential, mega-successful Friends, it was clear one wrap party would not suffice.
And in 2004, Hollywood’s hottest stars threw three dang parties for themselves.
One party was an intimate affair — a dinner at Aniston and then-husband Brad Pitt’s house. Another took place at a trendy bar in West Hollywood, where the cast regularly hung out. And the final party was at the Park Plaza Hotel, where the cast even reenacted parts of the pilot.
Jennifer Aniston and Courteney Cox have become family
Did you know the three women of Friends — Aniston, Cox, and Lisa Kudrow — still have a group text going? Doesn’t that just brighten your day? And when Cox’s daughter Coco was born, she and Aniston took their warm friendship one step further.
In an inspiring, heartwarming gesture, Cox made Aniston Coco’s godmother. Aniston was flabbergasted and humbled. And on Coco’s third birthday, she gave a lavish gift to express her gratitude: she redid Coco’s room with miniature versions of impeccable mid-century furniture, Cox’s favorite style.
“The Rachel” was an accident
If you were a woman getting your hair cut in the mid-90s, chances are that you considered “The Rachel.” It was a shaggy, layered look with a defined part, and it got on everyone’s head thanks to Aniston’s character.
But it all started with a crazy mistake.
Aniston’s hair stylist Chris McMillan, had taken “a bit of green” before their appointment. And the “very relaxed” McMillan accidentally buzzed Aniston’s hair with a razor. So, he improvised, and created one of the most iconic hairstyles ever. Aniston wound up hating how long it took to prepare, however.
David Schwimmer racked up some “firsts”
While Aniston has arguably had the most successful post-Friends career, she was not its first breakout star. Schwimmer, who gave Ross endearing dorkiness, got solo magazine cover shoots and movie roles before his castmates.
But he still maintained the “ensemble attitude,” not letting initial successes go to his head.
Schwimmer was also the first “friend” cast. Kauffman and Crane remembered him from an audition on a previous project, and wrote Ross for him from the beginning. Schwimmer, whose previous sitcom Monty just got abruptly cancelled, was hesitant to take the part. We bet he’s glad he did.
Critics really hated the pilot
On September 22, 1994, the pilot of Friends debuted in between Mad About You and Seinfeld. Television critics watched the new program… and they destroyed it.
The Houston Chronicle called the cast a “stiflingly dull social circle” whose intelligence was “short to the point of painful in brainpower.”
Critics routinely called it a ripoff of Seinfeld and Ellen, only much less funny than both. Some complained about the characters’ constant over-clever bantering, wondering where they got all this free time.
However, the Los Angeles Times called it “flat-out the best comedy series of the new season.”
Other famous people auditioned for the roles
The creators have said no one else could play the six Friends. But that didn’t stop them from trying.
Eric McCormack, who would later star in Will & Grace, auditioned for Ross. The King of Queens’ Leah Remini auditioned for Monica. And Bad Boys’ Tea Leoni read for Rachel.
Some actors who auditioned for main roles reappeared as guest stars. Jon Favreau auditioned for Chandler, later playing a scientist who dated Monica. Jane Lynch auditioned for Phoebe, playing a real estate agent in the final season. And after auditioning for Joey, Hank Azaria played Phoebe’s notable love interest David.
The producers fought with NBC over the pilot
In the very first episode, Monica sleeps with someone on their first date. NBC was worried this would make viewers find her morally unredemptive, and even polled the studio audience. Luckily, the audience said they still liked Monica — though the writers rewrote some scenes to make it better anyway.
The pilot was filmed May 4, 1994. A cut was delivered on May 10, just three days before NBC was announcing their schedule. And NBC demanded they edit it further by 9pm that day — producers finished the new cut by 1am.
Two days later, NBC announced Friends’ first full season.
Phoebe’s twin sister started on another show
Mad About You was one of the anchors of NBC’s 1990s Thursday night Must-See-TV lineup. Beyond Paul Reiser and Helen Hunt’s hilariously relatable relationship, one standout performer was an actor named Lisa Kudrow.
Kauffman, Crane, and Bright liked her work so much, they stole her character.
Kudrow played Ursula, a kooky server at a diner Reiser and Hunt visited. The Friends producers cast Kudrow as Phoebe based on this performance, and then incorporated Ursula into the universe of Friends as Phoebe’s twin sister.
Therefore — Mad About You and Friends are part of the NBCU.
Filming the opening credits was weirdly difficult
Be honest: Have you ever wanted to imitate the opening credits to Friends?
It seems so spontaneous and fun — a group of sillies in their Sunday best dancing and splashing around in a dang fountain to a catchy tune. But apparently, it was less enjoyable to make than it seems.
Four in the morning. That’s what time the shoot started. A delirious and exhausted Aniston didn’t even understand the concept. And even in beautiful Burbank, California, it was a particularly cold morning. By the end, the actors were soaked, freezing, and miserable.
Anything for a good title sequence!
The Rembrandts were coerced into making a full theme song
“Our record label said we had to finish the song and record it. There was no way to get out of it.”
That’s Phil Sōlem, lead singer of The Rembrandts, talking about “I’ll Be There For You,” the theme to Friends. Why is he so morose about the experience?
When Friends creators originally asked the Rembrandts to make a theme, the band quickly jammed out their Beatles-referencing tune. And when radios started playing amateurly edited “full versions,” the band was forced into making a completed track themselves. They threw it on an album after the track listing was completed.
Gunther became Gunther on accident
Early in the series run, producers were arranging background extras, actors who fill out a scene but aren’t the central focus, for a scene in Central Perk. They needed someone who could convincingly operate coffee shop machinery to be the “barista.”
Only one person raised their hand.
James Michael Tyler, a Mississippi-born actor with bleached blond hair, happened to know how to operate a cappuccino machine. From this simple piece of knowledge, the character of Gunther was born. And Tyler played Gunther in 148 episodes, developing a fan-favorite character who had an unrequited crush on Rachel.
One of the Friends is a heck of a director
Joey Tribbiani may be trying to make it as an actor. But Ross Geller found lots of success behind the camera.
He ain’t just an awesome comedy performer — David Schwimmer is also an incredible director. During his time on the show, Schwimmer directed 10 episodes of Friends.
In his post-Friends career, Schwimmer also directed two episodes of Joey, the Matt LeBlanc-starring spinoff. Beyond his TV comedy directing experience, Schwimmer’s also made several independent films, including black comedy Since You’ve Been Gone, inspiring romcom Run, Fatboy, Run, and grimy thriller Trust.
One of the Friends is a real rock and roller
When you watch the opening credits, you may notice one cast member playing “air instruments” more convincingly than the rest. That’s because Courteney Cox can play the drums for real. She even opened the 1995 MTV Movie Awards with a drum solo! But that ain’t her only rock cred.
Before landing Friends, Cox was in the Brian de Palma-directed video for Bruce Springsteen’s “Dancing in the Dark,” where Springsteen pulls her out of a crowd and dances with her. During Friends’ run, she was also in the moody Counting Crows clip for “A Long December.”
The show only had minor awards success
For a ratings juggernaut that aired for 10 years and changed television comedy, the Emmys did not give Friends a ton of love. Cox never even managed a nomination — the only main cast member to get iced out completely.
So what Emmys did Friends get?
Bruce Willis and Christina Applegate won Emmys for Friends. And if you’re thinking “those aren’t cast members of Friends,” you’re right! They won Outstanding Guest Star awards for their brief turns. Kudrow and Aniston were rewarded for their performances, and the show won Outstanding Comedy Series just once.
Friends has an interesting educational effect
Most folks watch TV sitcoms for comfort, entertainment, and escape. Some folks, however, watch it for homework.
Kaplan International English, a program that provides English-learning tools worldwide, reported that 26% of their students said Friends was the most effective show to help learn the language.
There are even some celebs who’ve credited the show in their efforts to learn English. RM, of K-Pop band BTS, called the show his “English teacher.” And pro baseball player Wilmer Flores, from Venezuela, credited the show so much, he changed his walk-up music to “I’ll Be There For You.”
There are a bunch of Central Perks worldwide
Wish you could visit a Central Perk in real life? Order a mocha from Gunther, sit on that orange couch, and chat the day away? If you live in Dubai, you totally can.
A perfect replica of the coffee shop exists — and Tyler himself has visited in character as Gunther.
Dubai ain’t the only lucky city. One smart, shrewd businessman registered the trademark “Central Perk” in 32 different countries, serving up 90s nostalgia worldwide. There are six in India and two in Pakistan — but the only officially sanctioned worldwide Central Perk is in Singapore.
A soap opera inspired Friends in a strange way
Did you know there’s an All My Children reference hidden in every single episode of Friends? On the surface, it may not seem like there’s a lot in common with a fun sitcom and a long-running, melodramatic soap opera.
In fact, their similarities are as surface-level as you can get.
Every character’s name on Friends has a direct All My Children analogue.
Joey comes from Joey Martin, Rachel Green comes from Janet Green, Chandler comes from the Chandler family, one of the Chandler family’s first names is Ross, Monica comes from Monique, and Phoebe comes from Phoebe Tyler Wallingford.
One notable actor stayed anonymous until 2016
Remember Ugly Naked Guy? He lived across the way from Monica’s apartment, entertaining the gang with his very nude antics, all visible from a window. While he was mostly an off-screen presence, he did appear on camera thrice, all the while remaining uncredited.
So who the heck was he?
Jon Haugen was working as an extra when he got the Friends opportunity. He showed up, disrobed, and performed with Schwimmer (who was very professional). When producers asked him to keep his identity a secret, he obliged until 2016.
If there’s ever a reunion, he’d love to play him again!
Jennifer Aniston was often late. The cast’s reaction was priceless
You may be a huge television star. You may be making one million dollars an episode. But you still gotta show up on time. So when Aniston’s tardiness became a regular issue, her castmates took a dramatic step.
They gave Aniston an “intervention.”
Schwimmer was the leader of the effort, but every cast member expressed their (loving, largely joking) concerns. Kudrow put it diplomatically: “You’ve had bad luck getting to work.” In Aniston’s defense, she felt pressured in having to come to work hair and makeup ready.
When Joey and Rachel got together, the cast revolted
In the final seasons of Friends, the writers tried something strange.
During the middle of Ross and Rachel’s ever-evolving love story, they pushed Joey and Rachel together. Joey fell more and more in love with her, with Rachel even accepting a mistaken proposal from him. The cast… had some thoughts.
“It felt wildly inappropriate.”
That was LeBlanc’s blunt reaction to the material, who led the cast in talking to the writers about it. “Everybody got super-defensive about the whole thing.” Luckily, the series ended with Ross and Rachel together forever.
Could we be any more relieved?
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