Friends Exposed: 30 Shocking Moments of Personal Struggles and Turmoil Behind the Laughter
By Jack Ripley | October 30, 2023
The cast hated the Joey/Rachel romance.
Welcome to our exploration of the fascinating behind-the-scenes drama of the beloved 1990s TV show Friends. While we laughed along with Ross, Rachel, Joey, Monica, Chandler, and Phoebe, there was a lot of happening behind the scenes that viewers never saw. From personal struggles and intense pressure to addiction and potential cast changes, there was plenty of drama taking place among the cast and crew.
In this gallery, we'll dive deep into some of the most intriguing and eye-opening stories from behind the camera, including Matthew Perry's battle with addiction, David Schwimmer's struggle with depression during the height of the show's fame, and Jennifer Aniston's desire to leave the hit series. We'll examine the challenges they faced and the ways in which they impacted the show's production and overall legacy.
So, whether you're a die-hard Friends fan or simply interested in the behind-the-scenes workings of a hit TV show, we invite you to join us on this journey into the drama and intrigue of Friends. Keep reading to uncover the secrets that only those on set knew and gain a deeper understanding of the people behind the characters we all know and love.
One of the more polarizing storylines from Friends is the Rachel and Joey romance in season 10. Audiences weren't into it, and surprisingly neither was the cast. LeBlanc said of the odd pairing:
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.'
Jennifer Aniston was almost replaced as Rachel.
When we think of Friends, it's hard not to picture Jennifer Aniston as the iconic Rachel Green. But did you know that the beloved character almost had a different face? In a shocking revelation, Aniston shared that the show's producers were considering replacing her before the first episode even aired:
Friends came when I was off doing Muddling Through. So there was a period where I had to stand out of the photographs for the group shots, and I had phone calls from girlfriends saying, ‘I’m auditioning for your part in Friends.’
Could you even imagine anyone else playing the fashion-savvy waitress turned Ralph Lauren executive? It's no secret that Aniston's portrayal of Rachel stole our hearts and made us all want "The Rachel" haircut. It's hard to fathom how the show would have turned out without her. Thankfully, the producers saw Aniston's undeniable talent and kept her on board. Friends wouldn't have been the same without her. Aniston continued:
They just took the chance that Muddling Through would fail after the two episodes they picked it up for. And so I just started doing this back-and-forth from Sony to Warner Bros. for two weeks.
David Schwimmer turned into a recluse amid his Friends fame
Even the biggest stars can struggle with the effects of fame, as David Schwimmer knows all too well. The actor, best known for his role as Ross Geller on Friends, recently opened up about the challenges of becoming an instant celebrity in 1994.
In a candid 2016 appearance on The Hollywood Reporter's podcast, Awards Chatter, Schwimmer revealed that the sudden fame "messed with [his] relationship to other people in a way that took years" to adjust to. As a trained observer of human behavior, Schwimmer found it difficult to go unnoticed in public and felt like he couldn't "observe life and other people" the way he used to. It's no wonder he sometimes felt like hiding under a baseball cap!
But Schwimmer didn't let the challenges of fame hold him back. Instead, he found a "tricky" balance by varying his roles outside of Friends and focusing on developing his skills as a director and founder/producer of the Chicago-based Lookingglass Theatre Company. It's clear that Schwimmer's talents extend far beyond acting, and we can't wait to see what he does next.
Lisa Kudrow Hated Working With The Duck
This is something that we'll see time and time again with the cast of Friends - these people couldn't stand working with animals. As cute as the chick and the were on the series, they weren't great scene partners. Kudrow has said that aside from not really liking birds all that much in the first place, she was legitimately afraid of the duck. As much of a bummer as it is that she had to work with the bird, it shows exactly how professional she was that you'd never know when you're watching reruns.
Jennifer Anniston Didn't Invite Half The Cast To Her Wedding To Justin Theroux
Jennifer Aniston's whirlwind wedding to Justin Theroux was the talk of the town, but fans were surprised to hear that some notable guests were missing from the guest list this time around. In a shocking revelation just days after the nuptials hit the headlines, it was reported that half of the Friends cast was not in attendance.
According to reports, Matt LeBlanc, Matthew Perry, and David Schwimmer did not make it to the wedding, leaving many fans wondering why. Was there bad blood between the former co-stars? Or were they simply unable to attend due to scheduling conflicts? Whatever the reason, it was clear that this was one wedding that would go down in history as a star-studded event - with or without the Friends cast. LeBlanc told ET:
The girls were there. You've got to have the girls there.
Courteney Cox Made Everyone Nervous
Before the cast got to know one another they were terrified of working with Courteney Cox. Not only was she the star of the "Dancing in the Dark" video, but she had been a regular on numerous TV shows in the late '80s while everyone else was - at best - jobbing it out in movies like Leprechaun. Matthew Perry says that Cox dispelled any sense of a hierarchy early on in the show's run:
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.'
Andre Agassi Was Green With Envy When Brooke Shields Appeared On The Show
Former tennis champion Andre Agassi was reportedly so incensed by a scene being filmed for the television show Friends that he smashed his collection of prized tennis trophies with a hammer. The scene in question featured Agassi's then-girlfriend Brooke Shields, who was playing a fan of the character Joey. During the scene, Shields had to lick actor Matt LeBlanc's fingers, a moment that Agassi later described as "definitely over" the line in his memoir. Agassi wrote, "I don’t pretend to know where the line is, but hand licking is definitely over it."
Matt LeBlanc Was So Distraught With The End Of Friends That He Picked Up An Old Habit
It turns out that in real life, Matt LeBlanc was actually a smoker. But what made him pick up the habit again after four years of quitting? The impending end of Friends, of course.
In an emotional interview, LeBlanc revealed that the final days of filming prompted him to start smoking again. "We were so aware that our time together was coming to an end," he said. It's no wonder the cast became like family after working together for ten seasons. The thought of saying goodbye to such a monumental chapter of their lives was undoubtedly overwhelming. We're just glad LeBlanc was able to channel his emotions into his performance as the lovable Joey. After all, he's the one who gave us some of the most memorable quotes and catchphrases in television history.
NBC Was Ready For The Hate To Flow After Their Lesbian Wedding
As one of the most popular TV shows of all time, Friends was a trailblazer when it came to showcasing equality on screen. But when the episode featuring a lesbian wedding aired in 1996, NBC braced itself for a backlash of hate mail. Surprisingly, the network only received four complaints - all via telephone.
Despite the low number of complaints, the episode still attracted controversy across the United States. Two network affiliates, KJAC-TV in Port Arthur, Texas and WLIO in Lima, Ohio, even refused to air the episode, citing objectionable content. The decision drew little press attention, likely due to the small size of the markets in question. Gay and lesbian groups, including GLAAD, decried the censorship of the episode, highlighting the importance of representation on television.
In the end, Friends paved the way for many more TV shows to feature LGBTQ+ characters and storylines, and the impact of that wedding episode can still be felt today.
Phoebe and Chandler were meant to be supporting characters.
It's hard to imagine Friends without the six roommates, lovers, and buddies popping in and out of each other's lives in every episode but before the show was in production two of the most beloved characters - Chandler and Phoebe - were only going to be recurring guests. Marta Kauffman stated:
When we first pitched the show, although we always said it was an ensemble show, we kind of thought of Phoebe and Chandler as a little more secondary, that they’ll provide humor when we need it.
Salary Negotiations Were Not Smooth
If there's one thing we know about the Friends cast, it's that they were a tight-knit group both on and off-screen. So it's no surprise that they banded together to negotiate their salaries as a unit. And boy, did it pay off! The cast became the first in television history to score a jaw-dropping $1 million per episode.
But it wasn't always smooth sailing during those negotiations. The network execs weren't always thrilled with the cast's demands, causing some tension behind the scenes. And it seems even one of the show's creators, Marta Kauffman, had some choice words about the hefty paychecks. She called the salaries of the six friends "ridiculous." But we can't blame the cast for cashing in on their immense popularity and talent. After all, they gave us ten seasons of laughter and tears that will live on forever.
Jennifer Aniston Almost Broke Off The Friendship In the Final Season
It's no secret that Jennifer Aniston skyrocketed to fame during her time on Friends. By the time the show came to an end, she was arguably the most famous of the six friends. But did you know that she had some hesitations about returning for the final season?
In a candid 2004 interview, Aniston admitted that she wasn't sure if she still had enough "Rachel" in her to pull off another season. It's understandable, considering the character had been a part of her life for over a decade. But luckily for us, Aniston ultimately decided to stay on board. However, her busy schedule did require some adjustments. The episode order was cut from 24 to 18 to accommodate her commitments. It just goes to show that even the biggest stars can have their doubts, but Aniston proved time and time again that she was more than up to the challenge.
Matthew Perry Really Needed The Laughs
It's well known that Matthew Perry was not well during his run on Friends. Aside from his struggle with drugs and alcohol he was also addicted to getting laughs. He admitted:
I felt like I was going to die if they didn’t laugh, and it’s not healthy, for sure, but I would sometimes say a line and they wouldn’t laugh and I would sweat and go into convulsions if I didn’t get the laugh I was supposed to get... I felt like that every single night.
Matthew Perry Dealt With Major Addiction Issues During The Peak Of The Series
Actor Matthew Perry has been open about his struggles with addiction, which caused significant challenges for him during his time filming the television series Friends. Perry has revealed that his substance abuse issues were so severe that he has no recollection of filming three seasons of the show. Although he claims he never used drugs while on set, Perry admitted to showing up to work hungover on multiple occasions.
In his autobiography, actor Matthew Perry has revealed the extent of his addiction struggles, which led to him taking up to 55 Vicodin pills per day. Perry resorted to various tactics to obtain the pills, including faking migraines or other ailments and undergoing MRIs with different doctors. Additionally, he would attend open houses on Sundays and search the medicine cabinets of different homes for any pills he could find. Perry writes that viewers “can track the trajectory” of his addiction by watching Chandler's fluctuating weight:
When I’m carrying weight, it’s alcohol; when I’m skinny, it’s pills. When I have a goatee, it’s lots of pills.
Everyone Was Afraid Of Matt LeBlanc
Before the cast of Friends were, well, friends they were just actors who were cast together in a television program. Co-star Jennifer Aniston says that she and the rest of the cast were nervous about the casting of Matt LeBlanc because of his background as a hot to trot model for LEvi's. She says:
I was scared of that type of guy. He thinks it's very funny now. And actually, he can sit down and comfort me just like Courteney or Lisa could.
Cox Had a Creative Way of Getting Her Lines Right
Acting in a sitcom is harder work than it looks. Actors are essentially filming an episode a week (sometimes less) in front of live studio audience, they have to memorize a script and then memorize the changes that come in. Matt LeBlanc revealed in the HBO Max reunion of the Friends cast that Cox stopped bothering with memorizing her lines, but she did it in a way that the audience couldn't notice. When he entered the apartment set he asked, "Does Courteney still have her lines written on the table?”
Kathleen Turner did not have a good time behind the scenes on Friends
It's hard not to recognize the unmistakable voice of Kathleen Turner, best known for her iconic role as the sultry Jessica Rabbit. So when she joined Friends in 2001 as Chandler's transgender parent, fans were excited to see her on the small screen. But little did she know, her time on set would be anything but smooth sailing.
Turner recently shared that she was shocked by how the six core cast members supposedly treated her. Her main gripe seemed to center around a chair and a pair of grueling high heels. It's not clear what exactly happened, but it's clear that Turner was not pleased with her treatment on set. Despite this, her portrayal of Chandler's remains a memorable part of the show's later seasons. She told Vulture:
I remember I was wearing this difficult sequined gown — and my high heels were absolutely killing me. I found it odd that none of the actors thought to offer me a seat. Finally it was one of the older crew members that said, 'Get Miss Turner a chair.' The Friends actors were such a clique — but I don't think my experience with them was unique.
Lisa Kudrow Thought She Would Be Fired
When we think of Friends, we can't help but picture Lisa Kudrow as the quirky and lovable Phoebe Buffay. It's hard to imagine anyone else playing the role, but it turns out Kudrow herself had doubts about her ability to pull it off.
In a recent interview with The Mirror, Kudrow revealed that she was originally cast as Roz Doyle on Frasier, but was fired by director James Burrows during pilot rehearsals. She was replaced by Peri Gilpin. So when Kudrow was cast as Phoebe on Friends and realized Burrows was directing again, she understandably became nervous.
Kudrow even admitted to fearing she would be fired from Friends before she got past her first week on set. She told Vanity Fair:
I was terrified that first week. It was Jimmy ... again. He would say, 'Why are they friends with her?' Meaning me. 'We have to figure that out. She doesn't fit,' and I was like, 'Oh my God, here we go again.' I thought, this is the run-through where Marta and David are going to say, 'This character doesn't work. We have to reconceive it. She's just not part of the group.'
Matt LeBlanc Reeeeeaaaally Needed The Job
Before landing the role of Joey on Friends, Matt LeBlanc had been struggling to make it as an actor for years. In fact, he only had $11.00 to his name when he started the show. But little did he know, Friends would become the saving grace of his career.
Interestingly enough, the role of a broke actor seemed to fit LeBlanc like a glove. While the producers had initially considered David Schwimmer for the role, they also had Courtney Cox in mind for the part of Rachel. However, Cox had her sights set on playing Monica. Despite having some recognition thanks to a music video she had done with Bruce Springsteen, the producers were drawn to LeBlanc's undeniable talent.
Courteney Cox struggled with fertility issues in real life.
During the run of Friends Courteney Cox struggled with similar fertility issues to her character Monica Geller. Not only did she have trouble conceiving, but she fought through several miscarriages. Cox said of this deeply sad time in her life:
I remember one time I just had a miscarriage and Rachel was giving birth. It was like that same time... Oh my God, it was terrible having to be funny.
The Writers Worked Ridiculous Hours
It's not easy writing a sitcom, and it's practically Sisyphean to write twenty-something episodes of wall to wall comedy bangers for a decade. According to producer David Crane in the book Top of the Rock: Inside the Rise and Fall of Must See TV:
Our hours were crazy. There were so many mornings when we were all finishing the rewrites. We’d get notes from the studio and the network. But it was our notes that killed us. We knew we had to listen to the audience. Their silence tells you a lot. Laughing in good and bad ways. Laughing at setups instead of jokes.
Paul Rudd Ran Over Jennifer Aniston With A Segway Scooter
For casual Friends fans, it's easy to forget that the charming and seemingly ageless Paul Rudd once guest-starred as Phoebe's husband Mike Hannigan from 2002 to 2004. While it was great to see Phoebe finally find love, Rudd's short-lived role on the show almost didn't happen.
In fact, the actor's first day on set turned out to be a disaster. In an appearance on The Graham Norton Show, Rudd revealed that he made a crucial mistake that nearly got him fired. During his first day of filming, Jennifer Aniston had broken her toe and was riding around on a Segway. The cast was in awe of the scooter, with Matt LeBlanc even giving it a try. But when Rudd took a turn on the Segway, disaster struck. He crashed into the set's infamous water fountain, sending it flying across the stage. Needless to say, Rudd was mortified and thought he'd be given the boot before even filming more than one episode. But lucky for us, he was able to laugh it off and continue his hilarious portrayal of Mike.
When it was Rudd's turn to get on the scooter things somehow got even worse. Rudd remembers:
I spun 'round and rolled it right over Jennifer's foot! The producers' look of panic was as if to say, 'Is it too late to fire him? Has his character been established yet?' I felt awful. Such an inauspicious start.
Jennifer Aniston had an awkward Friends story arc with her ex
When it comes to Jennifer Aniston's love life, her marriage to Brad Pitt tends to overshadow any other relationships she had while on Friends. But let's not forget about her brief romance with Tate Donovan, who also happened to have a six-episode arc on the show.
Aniston and Donovan first met in 1995 through mutual friends and by 1997, they were serious enough for Donovan to tell People that he "definitely" wanted to get married. He even gave Aniston a puppy named Enzo. However, by the time Donovan joined Friends for his arc in 1998, the couple was working through a breakup. And it seems playing Aniston's love interest on screen only made things more difficult for Donovan. He later admitted to US Weekly that he was "sort of dying inside" while portraying Joshua, Rachel's hunky personal shopping client at Bloomingdale's. It's clear that their real-life relationship had an impact on Donovan's experience on the show, but we have to give him credit for delivering a memorable performance nonetheless. He told the magazine:
It was just six episodes. I mean, only because we were breaking up. We were like, 'Hey, can we not keep doing this? 'Cause this is really painful and tough.' The people that know that we dated think that we met on Friends. But in fact we had dated for two years before then, and it was over by the time we were on Friends together.
Schwimmer vs. Marcel
Despite the fact that David Schwimmer is a major animal fan, he really couldn't stand working with the monkey who played Marcel. He explained:
We would all have choreographed bits timed out, and it would get messed up because the monkey didn’t do its job right, so we’d have to reset. When the monkey was resting, it would sit on my shoulder and the trainer would come up and give the monkey live grubs to eat, so the monkey would be sitting on my shoulder, take some grubs, break them in half. It was time for Marcel to [leave].
The Story Behind Joey’s Sling
In the episode “The One Where No One’s Ready,” Joey has his arm in a sling for much of the action, and it's explained away that he hurt his arm while jumping on the bed. It turns out that the sling was a necessity because LeBlanc actually landed wrong during a scene where he and Perry were fighting over a chair in Monica and Rachel’s apartment.
Co-star Lisa Kudrow blames the accident on the stars skipping a their pre-show ritual of the huddle.
Ross & Rachel Almost Didn’t Get Back Together
The major Ross and Rachel reunion near the end of the series wasn't always what was going to happen. Friends producer David Crane shared:
There was some discussion in the writers’ room about ‘Do we really want Ross and Rachel to get together?' And we discussed perhaps ambivalent endings, where it seemed like down the road — and we went, ‘No, this is Friends. People have been waiting 10 years to see this couple get together. We’ve gotta give them what they want. We just have to find a way to do it so the journey is unexpected.'
Matt LeBlanc Struggled To Cope With Fame
The pressures of fame can take a toll on even the most carefree of actors, as Matt LeBlanc knows all too well. The actor, who portrayed the lovable Joey Tribbiani on Friends, recently opened up about the dark times that followed the show's incredible success.
In a revealing interview with the Mirror, LeBlanc admitted that he felt completely burned out and could "barely leave the house" due to the overwhelming attention. "It was a very dark time," he said. "I almost had a nervous breakdown." But instead of succumbing to the pressures of Hollywood, LeBlanc retreated to his Californian cattle ranch and focused on being a good father to his daughter, Marina.
Marina was diagnosed with cortical dysplasia, a condition that affects the brain, bones, and motor skills, at just 11 months old. LeBlanc reportedly spent his years out of the limelight almost entirely with her, and the bond they formed was the best thing in his life. Thankfully, Marina "outgrew" the condition by the time she was 11 years old and is now perfectly healthy. It's clear that LeBlanc's priorities shifted during this time, and his dedication to his daughter is truly admirable.
Lisa Kudrow was sued by her ex-manager
Lisa Kudrow, who played the quirky Phoebe Buffay on Friends, found herself in a legal battle with her former manager, Scott Howard, in 2008. The dispute centered around residuals from the show, which Howard claimed he was owed a 5 percent cut of. The case dragged on for years, and in 2014, a Los Angeles Superior Court jury found Kudrow in breach of contract and ordered her to pay $1.6 million to Howard.
But then things took a bizarre turn. The jury foreman, Steve de Bode, wrote a letter to Kudrow's lawyer apologizing for the verdict. He praised Kudrow for her bravery and determination in facing public scrutiny and media attention, and stated that he did not believe the majority decision was correct. This prompted Kudrow to demand a new trial, but as of now, none has taken place.
It's clear that the legal battle took a toll on Kudrow and her reputation, despite the jury foreman's apology. But as always, Kudrow has remained a consummate professional and continued to captivate audiences with her talent and charm.
Lisa Kudrow opened up about her struggles with body issues during Friends
While speaking with Marc Maron for his podcast in April 2021, Lisa Kudrow told the host about her struggles with body issues when she was on the set of Friends:
You see yourself on TV, and it's that, 'Oh my god, I'm just a mountain of a girl,' and I'm already bigger than [co-stars Courteney Cox and Jennifer Aniston]. Taller, bigger. My bones feel bigger, I just felt like this mountain of a woman next to them... Unfortunately for a woman, if you're underweight, you look good... When I was too thin, I was sick all the time, a cold, sinus infection, some kind of flu — I was always sick.
Chandler Bing Is Based On Matthew Perry
While the character of Chandler wasn't dreamt up for Matthew Perry, once he was cast the writers began to tailor the character to his mannerisms. Perry says that the character is a "slightly exaggerated, slightly more entertaining" version of himself. The most well remembered trait that Chandler brings to the table - asking annoying questions as a way to make a statement - actually does come from Perry. Jennifer Aniston said:
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.