People have long had a hankering for a Friends reunion. And while the six stars of the show have always maintained their love of the sitcom, they’ve politely and firmly stated that it’s pretty much never going to happen. Because, really, why mess with a good thing? And what a good thing it was. While we’ve often heard from the series’ six stars, there are dozens of other actors who took part in the iconic series who haven’t spoken about their respective runs — until now.
The Guardian caught up with some actors who played former Friends favourites, and Oh. My. God. Could this be a bigger treat? They may not have skyrocketed to fame like the main cast, but what they do have in common with Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc, Matthew Perry and David Schwimmer is their roles on Friends are what they’re most recognized for.
The actors spill on what the show was like before it really hit it big and what the stars were truly like behind the scenes.
How it all began(?)
Mitchell Whitfield (Dr. Barry Farber): “It sounds a little egomaniacal to say that I’m the reason the show exists. But when you look at the pilot, with Rachel dumping me at the altar and coming in to meet everybody, that moment was the impetus for the show.”
He was clearly joking, but perhaps also a tad bitter; Whitfield tested for the role of Ross and got to the very end, but at the last minute they brought in one more guy to read. That guy? Schwimmer. But hey, Rachel’s orthodontist ex-fiance is nothing to sneeze at.
Two people stood out from the get-go
Christina Pickles (Judy Geller): “I knew Jennifer Aniston would be a huge success from the moment I saw her in rehearsals. But I didn’t know that the show would be. I’ve done so many pilots I thought were good that didn’t work, and so many that I thought were bad that did work. I just knew I was witnessing a really special actor at work.”
Vincent Ventresca (Fun Bobby): “I was starstruck by David Schwimmer. Of course, the girls were incredible and you sort of fell in love with them. But David was the one I desperately wanted to like me; and he was the one most not interested in meeting anyone.”
They were like family from the start
Larry Hankin (Mr. Heckles): “I was there before it all started. I got there early and was watching rehearsals, and the show hadn’t been on the air yet, but I remember thinking: ‘These young actors are really talented.'”
Cosimo Fusco (Paolo): “They were all very normal. All of them had a great human side. They were very humble — and really trained. They’d spent years trying to get the right jobs.”
Whitfield: “There was this excitement. There was no ego on set. People had a sense of how good the project was.”
Jane Sibbett (Carol Willick): “I was on the lot this one time. I’d just had lunch. And I came around the corner, and I see Jen, Lisa and Courteney. It had just rained, which is a rarity in L.A., right? And they’re splashing in this puddle outside the sound stage. I was so struck by it because there was no one else around, and they were just falling around laughing with one another. That was the lightning in the bottle because they captured that joy of being friends, and that playfulness, and it was magic. The love this group had for one other was extraordinary.”
That love and support continued, through thick and thin
Mike Hagerty (Mr. Treeger): “As a group, they decided it was time to get more of a share of the profits. It was quite a risk. They were putting it all on the line.”
Marlo Thomas (Sandra Green): It’s unusual to do contracts together, and I think they set a standard for a lot of other shows to follow. When the network is negotiating against you, one at a time, things can become adversarial. But they all realized, to their benefit, that it took every single one of them to make the show that good.”
They still get recognized for their Friends‘ characters
Paget Brewster (Kathy): “People in their 20s recognize my voice. They turn around in supermarkets and say: ‘You’re Kathy!'”
Fusco: “I can work in the most exquisite film, but the minute people find out I was Paolo, they’re like: ‘Oh my God!'”
Elliott Gould (Jack Geller): “I met Taylor Swift, and she said: ‘I know you! I’m a Friends freak! You’re Mr. Geller.'”
Friends‘ popularity remains, despite getting many things wrong
Alexandra Holden (Elizabeth Stevens): “I got called in to do a ‘chemistry read’ with David Schwimmer. It was terrifying because the producers told me to come in looking ‘as hot as possible.’ I didn’t know what to do with that information. It sent me into a tailspin. I stayed up all night trying to figure out what to wear … Now that I’m older, I wouldn’t be happy getting that message.”
Aisha Tyler (Dr. Charlie Wheeler): “My character wasn’t written on the page to be a woman of colour, and I auditioned against a lot of other women of different ethnic backgrounds, so I like to think they picked me because I was the right person for the role. But I knew it was something new for the show, and it was really important because, the fact of the matter was, it was a show set in Manhattan that was almost entirely Caucasian. It was an unrealistic representation of what the real world looked like.”
It comes down to the money
Ventresca: “Every time I get a cheque [for residuals, from reruns of the show] I think to myself: “Wow, they [the main cast members] must be really rich.” I get about $2,000 a year in residuals, and I only did two episodes.”