It was September 22, 1994 when ‘Friends’ first aired, and perhaps less than a handful of people in the world could predict the gargantuan impact that the show would have 25 years later. Now, on the occasion of its silver anniversary — and as it continues to be watched and re-watched around the world — we delve into the weirdest and most fascinating trivia behind the beloved sitcom and its grossly unrealistic depictions of apartment sizes in New York.
Before it was called ‘Friends’, it was supposed to be named Insomnia Cafe, Six of One or Friends Like Us.
The ‘Friends’ theme song, credited to The Rembrandts, was co-written by showrunners David Crane and Marta Kauffman specifically for the series. It was under one minute long, but due to its popularity, radio jockeys would loop the track and play it on the radio — so, the band’s label pushed them re-record it as an official pop single.
While Ross and Rachel became the romantic cornerstone of the series, the initial power couple was meant to be Joey and Monica — but Crane decided that it was “not the right energy.”
Ross’s character was developed with David Schwimmer in mind and he got the part with no audition. Erick McCormack (‘Will & Grace’) had famously — and repeatedly — auditioned for the role, but when he told ‘Will & Grace’ and ‘Friends’ director Jimmy Burrows about it, Burrows replied: “Oh, honey, you’re wasting your time. They wrote the part for him.”
Jane Krakowski is inimitable as the self-obsessed socialite Jacqueline White in ‘Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt’, but long ago, she went up for the role of Rachel and “didn’t go very far” in her audition process.
It’s hard to think of anyone other than Matt LeBlanc saying, ‘How you doin’?’ But both Vince Vaughn and Hank Azaria auditioned for Joey. In fact, it’s the only role Azaria has ever auditioned for twice. He ended up having a stint on the show as David the Scientist Guy, Phoebe’s Minsk-based love interest.
Crane and Kauffman had originally written the character of Monica with stand-up comic Janeane Garofalo in mind. The early treatment was reportedly more ‘goth’.
Courteney Cox was offered the role of Rachel but rejected it, wanting to play Monica instead. “For some reason, I thought I related more to Monica,” she later explained, saying she was both neat and competitive in real life.
Leah Remini almost auditioned for Monica but was sent away, according to her biography. “We walked out of the building … and then we saw Courteney Cox walking toward us, then past us and right into the building. [Expletive]! We both knew it right away: she had the part of Monica.” Remini guest starred later on.
Kathy Griffin and Jane Lynch auditioned for the role of Phoebe. Lynch is best known for her portrayal of Sue Sylvester on ‘Glee’ (2009-2015), for which she won an Emmy and Golden Globe.
Monica’s apartment number — and Chandler and Joey’s — changed in the show. Monica’s went from 5 to 20, while Chandler and Joey’s went from 4 to 19. This was after the writers realised that units 4 and 5 couldn’t realistically be on a higher floor of an apartment building in New York.
Oh! My! God! Janice’s iconic surprise entrances on the series were kept tightly under wraps over the years. “It was sort of a rock star moment,” said actress Maggie Wheeler, whose character was never meant to be recurring. “They would keep me hidden — I could barely come down to get a doughnut.”
The series’ famed opening sequence was not shot in New York, but on a Warner Brothers lot.
By the last two seasons of ‘Friends’, the cast was earning $1 million (Dh3.7 million) per episode. Equally interesting was the fact that they were the first television cast to negotiate as a group — all six primary actors demanded to be paid equally, or they would all walk out. (In season one, the cast members were paid $22,500 per episode.)
Remember the storyline where Phoebe became a surrogate for her brother? Well, that was written in after Lisa Kudrow became pregnant in real life. Interestingly, Cox became pregnant with her daughter Coco in the final season, but the showrunners had to hide Cox’s pregnancy as Monica and Chandler could not conceive a child biologically.
In the season six premiere of ‘Friends’, ‘The One After Vegas’, everyone’s last name in the title credits was changed to Arquette. This was to mark the occasion of David Arquette and Cox tying the knot in 1999. A dedication read: “For Courteney and David, who did get married.” The pair divorced in 2013.
Bruce Willis appeared on ‘Friends’ (as the prickly father of Ross’ college-aged love interest) after he lost a bet to Matthew Perry while filming ‘The Whole Nine Yards.’ Willis donated his pay cheque to charity.
Anniston had doubts about shooting a final season of ‘Friends’. “I wanted it to end when people still loved us and we were on a high. And then I also felt like how much more of Rachel do I have in me? How many more stories are there to tell for all of us before we’re just now pathetic?” The actress added: “But now, of course, I don’t want it to end at all.”
‘Riverdale’s’ Cole Sprouse — who portrayed Ross’ illusive son Ben — had a difficult time working with one of his ‘Friends’ co-stars. “I had a really, really hard time working with [Jennifer] Aniston because I was so in love with her. I was infatuated. I was speechless — I’d get all bubbly and forget my lines and completely blank.”
At first, ‘Friends’ was only supposed to have four main characters — Ross, Rachel, Monica and Joey — with Phoebe and Chandler playing supporting roles. Could there be anything more tragic?
The big white ceramic puppy (Pat the Dog) that Chandler and Joey glide in with when they win their apartment back from Rachel and Monica? That actually belonged to Aniston in real life — it was gifted to her prior to the series for good luck.
Perry’s father, John Bennett Perry, made a cameo in one ultra-awkward scene in the show. In season four, episode 18 (‘The One With Rachel’s New Dress’), Rachel is lounging in a negligee in her new beau Joshua’s house when his parents come home; Joshua’s dad was played by Perry’s father.
The cast wasn’t okay with the romantic Joey-Rachel storyline — particularly LeBlanc, who found it ‘incestuous’. “He was very firmly against it, saying that he’s Ross’ friend, and that the type of friend that Joey is would never go and take someone else’s girlfriend,” said executive producer Kevin S Bright.
Cox was never nominated for an Emmy and was hurt the year both Aniston and Kudrow received a nod, excluding her. “I had a hard time not taking it personally when it was both Lisa and Jennifer at the same time. One guy, one girl, whatever. But both girls and not me? It hurt. I’m very sensitive, though,” admitted Cox.
At one point toward the end of the series, LeBlanc and Kudrow pitched the idea that their characters could have been secretly hooking up the whole 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. But they were like, ‘Nah,’” said LeBlanc.