Having been around for over 25 years, you might think there’s nothing left to learn about Friends.
By now, we’ve heard “surprising facts” like Courteney Cox first auditioning for the role of Rachel, and the show originally being titled Six Of One and Friends Like Us countless times.
However, there’s still some lesser-known stories and anecdotes about the iconic show that even the most die hard fans probably don’t know.
In celebration of the main cast’s very special TV reunion, we’ve delved into the Friends vaults to uncover some of the more obscure facts about everyone’s favourite sitcom...
1. Phoebe almost had a very different ending
Phoebe may have married musician Mike when Friends concluded but things could have worked out very differently.
“They’re both amazing actors. I mean, both Paul and Hank are fantastic, and fantastic with her. We sort of went back and forth,” he told Radio Times.
“I don’t even remember all the pieces that led to where we landed. But yeah, it could have gone the other way. Phoebe would have been great with either one.”
2. Lisa Kudrow’s son thought Jennifer was his mum after set visits
Lisa said her son Julien would often mistake her co-star for his mother after growing attached to her behind the scenes of the hit sitcom.
During an appearance on Conan O’Brien’s US chat show, Lisa revealed: “He got a little confused. I know that he really was obsessed with Jen.
“He’d fly into her lap. Well, she’s a love bug, and that made sense. And I was always glad for anyone that Julien felt love for and felt from. But then at home, she’d be on TV, and he’d go, ‘Mommy!’”
3. Julia Roberts had an unusual request for Matthew Perry before signing up to a guest role
The Hollywood star made a guest appearance as a love interest for Chandler, in the 1996 Super Bowl episodes.
Matthew originally approached her personally for the role of Susie – an old school friend of his character’s – but she really made him graft before signing up.
Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter, Friends’ executive producer Kevin Bright revealed: “Do you know the story of how we got her? Matthew asked her to be on the show. She wrote back to him, ‘Write me a paper on quantum physics and I’ll do it’.
“My understanding is that Matthew went away and wrote a paper and faxed it to her the next day.”
4. Friends writers played a part in getting Matthew and Julia together
The pair enjoyed a short romance after her Friends appearance, and staff writer Alexa Junge said they were “all on Team Matthew trying to make it happen” for him.
“They may have met before the episode, but she was interested in him from afar because he’s so charming,” Alexa said. “There was a lot of flirting over faxing. She was giving him these questionnaires like, ‘Why should I go out with you?’ And everyone in the writers’ room helped him explain to her why.”
Jeff Astrof, who wrote half the episode, recalled Julia standing on the sidelines finding Matthew’s character hilarious.
“I’m like, ‘I wrote every one of those lines!’” Jeff joked. “I don’t know if she fell in love with Matthew on the spot but they soon started dating. I felt like Cyrano [de Bergerac]. Like, ‘Chandler is going to date Julia Roberts and I’m going to go home to my horrible girlfriend.’ That’s my memory of that episode.”
5. Louise Redknapp turned down the role of Emily
The former Eternal singer claims she turned down the role of Ross Geller’s second wife Emily so she could appear on Top Of The Pops.
“I didn’t have a lot of time and a lot of people were investing money into the album,” she said at a music event at the Clapham Grand in 2020.
“To be on Top Of The Pops with that single meant a lot to me. Back in the day Top Of The Pops was huge.”
6. The main cast had a “no hook up” rule
With the cast as close as they were, it would have been understandable if any of them had become more than Friends – just as some of their characters did.
However, the gang had a strict rule to stop any such situation happening.
In an interview with Access prior to the reunion, Matthew Perry said: “There was a rule that we had – it was really important to the six of us that we kept a friendship, that we were friends.
“If we were hooking up, or there was any strangeness going on, that could have messed with things,” he said, claiming that director Jim Burrows first introduced the rule.
He continued: “So we kept a friendship, and we did become really good friends. And we are really good friends to this day. And we kept that going, and I think that was very important.”
That said, life did nearly imitate art for David Schwimmer and Jennifer Aniston.
During the reunion, they admitted to “crushing hard” on each other after first meeting.
“The first season I had a major crush on Jen,” David revealed. “And I think we both, at some point, were crushing hard on each other but it was like two ships passing because one of us was always in a relationship and we never crossed that boundary. We respected that.”
Jennifer agreed and confirmed their first kiss came on screen when Ross and Rachel embraced in Central Perk during season two.
She said: “So we just channelled all of our adoration and love for each other into Ross and Rachel.”
7. There were fears Rachel’s “It is a big deal” put-down would not make it into the show
In the fourth series’ opening episode, Rachel is furious when she discovers Ross has not read her note properly, thus failing to accept accountability in his infamous “we were on a break” saga.
As she kicks him out of her bed and then out of her and Monica’s apartment, she yells: “It’s not that common, it doesn’t happen to every guy and it is a big deal!”
Executive producer Greg Malins revealed he wasn’t sure if the risqué joke would make it past the other writers, explaining: “It was the only time I’d ever written down my [joke] before I pitched. I remember thinking, ‘If I don’t pitch this exactly right, it’s not gonna get in.’”
8. Reese Witherspoon turned down a second guest appearance as Rachel’s sister
Prior to her rise to fame in the 2001 film Legally Blonde, Reese appeared in a two-part episode of the hit sitcom, playing Rachel’s sister, Jill.
While her and Jennifer Aniston have since been reunited on The Morning Show, they would have shared the screen again a lot sooner had Reese not turned down the chance to reprise her Friends role.
During a joint interview with the Associated Press, Jennifer said that Reese “blacked out with fear” of the live audience during her original stint, to which Reese said: “Did you know they asked me back? They asked me back and I said I couldn’t do it… I was too scared!”
“What a shame!” Jennifer replied. “You would have started to love it!”
A future storyline three years after Reese’s appearance saw the introduction of Rachel’s other sister, Amy, who was played by Christina Applegate.
9. Brad Pitt almost turned the show down due to the live audience
Brad Pitt famously made an appearance alongside his then wife Jennifer in the controversial series eight episode, The One With The Rumour.
His appearance was much anticipated by Friends fans at the time, particularly when it emerged that his character was no fan of Rachel Green.
However, the guest role almost never came to be, according to co-creator David Crane.
“I think [there was] a little bit [of hesitation],” he told HollywoodLife at the AT&T 5G Friends Fan Experience. “Only because he’d never done TV in front of an audience, and it’s a very specific skill set. I think it’s probably a little intimidating if you haven’t done it before.”
It all worked out in the end though, and Jennifer recently hailed her ex-husband’s guest stint as “wonderful” and among her favourites.
10. Freddie Prinze Jr wasn’t the first choice to play male nanny Sandy
Back in 2002, Freddie had the distinction of guest starring in the 200th episode of the sitcom, which saw him playing the nanny of Ross and Rachel’s daughter Emma (much to the annoyance of Ross).
“I wasn’t even supposed to be [Sandy], that was originally offered to Tom Hanks but he wasn’t gonna make it back from his film on time,” he recalled.
Following this he was offered the role at the very last minute, adding: “My agent called me and said, ‘Do you want to be on Friends?’ And I said, ‘Yeah, I’ll do an episode of Friends. That’ll be great.’ He said, ‘Yeah, it shoots tomorrow’ and I was like, ‘What?’ He said, ‘Yes, tomorrow so I’ll send you the script’.”
11. The famous Friends fountain had already featured elsewhere prior to the show’s debut
A year before the Friends were splashing about in the fountain to record the opening titles, the water feature appeared in the Bette Midler classic Hocus Pocus.
It is an installation in a Warner Brothers studio backlot in Burbank, California, where Friends filmed for all 10 seasons, and the recent reunion special was shot.
Fans often mistake Cherry Hill fountain in New York’s Central Park as the setting for the opening sequence.
But while Friends was indeed set in the Big Apple, the show was all filmed nearly 3000 miles away in Los Angeles, as were its opening titles.
12. The cast didn’t exactly enjoy filming those opening titles
Courteney Cox revealed that the cast were in the fountain for “hours and hours” filming the now iconic sequence, and it doesn’t sound like they enjoyed the experience a huge amount.
During an appearance on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, she said: “We were in that fountain for a long time, and I don’t know who, somebody thought that would just be really fun and let me tell you when it happens, it’s not fun to be dancing in a fountain for hours and hours.
“I remember Matthew Perry saying at one point, and we didn’t know each other that well at that point, but I remember — and this is so Matthew — but he was like, ‘Can’t remember a time that I wasn’t in this fountain’.
“Literally, we were just like, ‘Oh, my God. How much longer are we gonna pretend to love dancing in the water?’ It was fun, but not really.”
13. They didn’t really love the theme song all that much either
There isn’t a much more iconic TV theme than The Rembrandts’ I’ll Be There For You, but the cast were not all that keen on it.
Jennifer said during an appearance on The One in 2016: “No one was really a big fan of that theme song.
“I don’t mean to say that. We felt it was a little, I don’t know. Dancing in a fountain felt sort of odd, but we did it.”
14. Hocus Pocus isn’t the only film Friends has a connection with
Remember the season 10 episode where Monica and Chandler go to view the house they later move in to?
Well, what you might not have noticed is that the view out of the windows shows what can be seen from the Mcallister House in the beloved 1990 Christmas movie Home Alone.
22 Vision released a video documenting the connection, suggesting simply bosses reused stock footage from Home Alone for the view from Monica and Chandler’s new house.
15. Paul Rudd had a rather shaky first day on set
While Paul had worked with Jennifer Aniston on The Object Of My Affection prior to joining the cast of Friends as Mike, he had a rather awkward accident on set involving his co-star and a Segway.
In an interview on The Graham Norton Show, Paul admitted: “I was on the set for my first episode and Jennifer [Aniston] was on a Segway because she had broken her toe, and everyone was marvelling at it.
“Matt LeBlanc asked to have a go and immediately knew how to do it. I then asked to try it too. I spun round and rolled it right over Jennifer’s foot!”
He continued: “The producers’ look of panic was if to say, ‘Is it too late to fire him? Has his character been established yet?’ I felt awful. Such an inauspicious start.”
16. Lisa Kudrow struggled getting the character of Phoebe in the first three series
The actor had difficulty relating to Phoebe in the show’s early years, explaining she had to “work hard” at nailing the character.
Appearing in an episode of comedian Kevin Nealon’s YouTube series Hiking With Kevin, Lisa said: “I had played dumb girls [before Friends], sure. But it wasn’t really me.
“I feel like ‘shit, I tricked [the producers]’. At the audition, I was the only one who could cope with the audition process and that’s how I got it, I think. So I had to work hard at being Phoebe, you know.”
She went on to see that by her third year playing the character, she was “struggling so much”.
“Matt LeBlanc was like, ‘What’s going on with you?’ And I said, ‘I can’t, I don’t think I have it. I mean, I don’t know what I’m doing.’ And he went, ’You’re her, relax, you got it.
“‘You’ve been doing this fucking character for three years. You’re working too hard. That’s your problem. You don’t need to work this hard. Relax.’ And he was right.”
17. Lisa also originally had eyes on the part of Rachel
Lisa said she initially identified with the character who would go on to be played by Jennifer Aniston much more than the eccentric massage therapist she went on to bring to life.
During an appearance on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert, Lisa said: “When I first read the script, and I was going to be auditioning for Phoebe, I saw [the pages for] Rachel, and I just went, ‘...that could be hilarious, I can identify with that more.’
“But they said, ‘No, no. Phoebe.’”
Lisa still clearly has an affinity with Rachel, however, as she also revealed that she recently took an online quiz that suggested she was most like the character in real life.
She said: “I thought I was answering questions that would bring me to Phoebe – you know, ‘Favourite colour? Yellow!’ And it said Rachel!”
18. The Italian actor who played Paolo ad-libed all his lines
Cosimo Fusco revealed how he made up what he said in his native language during filming for the first season.
Paolo briefly dated Rachel until he made a pass at Phoebe during a massage.
He said the show’s producers asked him to improvise his lines, telling The Today Show: “I was a little bit skeptical because my English then wasn’t as good as it is now, let’s face it, but I was told not to speak any English: ‘Just say whatever you want in Italian.’”
19. Kathleen Turner didn’t warm to the main cast on set
The veteran star admitted she did not feel “welcomed” by the core six actors when she played Chandler’s father Charles Bing in season seven in the lead-up to Chandler’s marriage to Monica.
Kathleen told Vulture: “I remember I was wearing this difficult sequinned 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’.”
She continued: “The ‘Friends’ actors were such a clique - but I don’t think my experience with them was unique.
“I think it was simply that they were such a tight little group that nobody from the outside mattered.”
20. The Thanksgiving meat trifle scene was just as gross to film, but in a different way
Everyone is familiar with the season six scene in which Joey devours Rachel’s bizarre Thanksgiving meat trifle.
And while the trifle the actors ate was actually just whipped cream and bananas, filming the scene was nearly as disgusting as what was supposed to be in it.
Matt LeBlanc revealed that when it came to chowing down on the meaty treat, he inadvertently ended up eating David Schwimmer’s spittle as well.
“There was too much on his plate,” he recalled during an appearance on The Graham Norton Show. “So he starts to eat it all and he can’t finish it and he starts laughing, so we cut. As we’re cutting, he kind of spits it back on his plate. I’m sitting right next to him, and I’m looking the other way. I didn’t see him spit it back on his plate.
“I scrape some on my plate, and I go, ‘Here, let’s go again.’ And we go again. And I’m eating it and we finished the take. No one says anything to me.”
Matt added that he only found out the truth years later when watching a blooper reel.
21. Fisher Stevens didn’t make a great impression during his guest stint
The actor played a psychiatrist called Roger, who was a love interest of Phoebe’s in season one’s The One With The Boobies.
Fisher admitted he was “kind of an asshole” during filming as he was unhappy to learn the script had changed after already learning his lines.
Appearing on PeopleTV’s Couch Surfing, Fisher said: “At that moment in my career, I had never done a sitcom before,” he said. “I had never heard of Friends because it was just the beginning of the show and I didn’t watch TV at the time much.”
Of the script changes, he continued: “That’s what sitcoms did. And I didn’t know that. I was kind of an asshole, I have to admit. ‘What do you mean? So I have to relearn lines that you’ve written that are worse than what you’d originally written?’ Yeah, I was a dick.”
Fisher said he had “rarely seen” any of the Friends cast since, but said: “I’m sure if you asked them about me, they would go, ‘What a New York snob.’”
22. Matthew Perry was helping his actor friends audition for the role of Chandler before he tried out himself
Prior to trying out for Friends, Matthew Perry was actually giving other actors tips on how to nail their auditions as Chandler.
At the time, he was working on a “a terrible TV show about baggage handlers in the year 2197”, but after it didn’t go to a full series, he ended up auditioning himself.
During an appearance on The Graham Norton Show, he recalled: “I was off the market, so my friends were all auditioning for this show and there was this character named Chandler who was very similar to me. So I would help them with their auditions. So I finally went, ‘let me just do this for you and imitate what I’m doing.’
“Some of them got very far and almost got the job. Then finally someone saw the baggage handler show and decided it wasn’t going to get picked up and that led to me being on Friends.”
Jon Favreau and Jon Cryer are among the actors who are known to have tried out for the role of Chandler, with Jon later going on to guest star as Monica’s boyfriend Pete in season three.
23. Kathy Griffin and Jayne Lynch tried out for the role of Phoebe
In a 2012 interview with HuffPost, US comedian Kathy Griffin revealed that she and Glee star Jayne Lynch both auditioned for the role of Phoebe.
Mentioning the fact in passing, Kathy said: “I love me some Jane Lynch. I’ve known Jane since we were both auditioning – I think we were auditioning for Phoebe on Friends like all my other girlfriends did.”
Ellen DeGeneres also turned down an offer to play Phoebe.
24. While Hank Azaria went for the part of Joey
Hank ended up with a recurring guest role in Friends as Phoebe’s love interest David the scientist, but before the show launched, he auditioned twice for the role of Joey.
In a Reddit Q&A in 2013, he said: “I desperately wanted to be Joey on Friends and even auditioned twice for it after they had already rejected me once.”
25. The live audience would be removed to film the end of season cliffhangers
Throughout its 10-year run, Friends was filmed in front of a live audience at its Los Angeles studios – expect for, that is, the end of series cliffhangers, like in series four when Ross said Rachel’s name during his wedding to Emily.
“We couldn’t have an audience for that,” Jennifer said. “We always remove the audience for the cliffhangers because, obvious reasons, you don’t want to spoil it.”