On air for 10 seasons that spanned over 10 years, Friends is beloved for its mix of light-hearted humor, unique characters, A-list guest stars, and comforting settings. In the hustle and bustle of New York City, what space was cozier than Central Perk or Monica's apartment? Friends will live on forever in syndication, always ready for a marathon on a rainy afternoon, accompanied by a big cup of coffee, of course. Here are behind the scenes facts about Friends.
1. It Started With Only Four Friends
The show’s original concept looked a lot different than we know it today. When Friends was in the brainstorm stages, it would have focused on a group of only four friends, plus two more minor roles. Those two “lesser” friends were Phoebe and Chandler. Imagine if they’d gone through with that plan? An episode without Phoebe is like a day without sunshine! And that wasn’t the only thing they almost did to Phoebe…
2. Phoebe Was A Darker Character
Although she ultimately turned out as a bit of a hippie, the character of Phoebe was originally a lot darker. In one iteration of the show, Phoebe was actually a Goth girl at heart, which is a bit of a difference from the character we know and love now. Instead of “Smelly Cat,” would she have been performing covers of The Cure at Central Perk?
3. It Had A Completely Different Title
Producers first wanted to name the show Insomnia Cafe. Once NBC bought the pilot, they changed the title to Friends Like Us, but that one didn’t stick, either. They threw a few other names around, and when everyone shot the pilot, the title was Six Of One. By the time the show aired, they had landed on Friends. Sometimes simplicity is best.
4. The First Episode Started A Controversy
In the pilot episode, Monica forgets the name of the guy she sleeps with. This was almost a scandal. The producers were so worried that audiences would dislike her for this that they did a survey to see if they should change it. Test audiences didn’t judge her for it at all, and they kept the story the same. And so, the iconic pilot kicked off the Friends journey.
5. Jennifer Aniston Signed On Last
Sometimes it takes a long while to find the best person for the role. Though she eventually became the show’s biggest star, show-runners cast Jennifer Aniston last of all the six main cast members. And although it might look like they simply saved the best for last, the casting of Rachel was actually a complete disaster…
8. Courteney Cox Refused Her First Part
One of the reasons it took so long to cast Aniston as Rachel was because producers originally wanted Courteney Cox for the role. There was just one big problem. Cox didn’t want to play Rachel. Instead, she was more drawn to the role of Monica because she was “so strong,” and the show-runners had to cast around for Aniston late in the development. Then again, it’s no wonder Cox wanted Monica.
9. Courteney Cox Is Most Like Her Character
Of all the actors on Friends, Courteney Cox is probably most like her character. Like Monica, she’s a neat freak, and crew members on the show admit that Cox’s dressing room was always the cleanest at the end of the day. As for Cox herself, she claims that while she doesn’t walk around with a lint brush, she will keep an eye out for lint on other people. Handy!
6. Lisa Kudrow's Pregnancy Became Part Of The Plot
In one famous series plot, Phoebe acts as a surrogate for her brother’s triplets, and many pregnancy hijinks ensue. This was actually a “stranger than fiction” plot, as Kudrow was actually pregnant with her son, and the writers needed to find a way to fit it naturally into the show. But when it came to another cast member, this was an entirely different story.
7. Courteney Cox's Pregnancy Was Hidden
After years of trying—more on that later—Courteney Cox also got pregnant towards the end of the show with her daughter, but the writers didn’t write that into the show. Why? Because they’d already established that Monica and Chandler couldn’t have kids. Instead, they hid Courteney’s pregnancy with costumes, props, and camera angles.
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10. Lisa Kudrow Couldn't Learn Guitar
Lisa Kudrow actually hated playing the guitar. She was having a hard time learning to play and wanted to try the simpler bongos instead. Eventually, the show brought in a guitar teacher, but that didn’t last long. Once Kudrow knew a few chords, she declared that she was “done” and convinced the producers that Phoebe would only know a few chords anyway. Nicely done.
16. The Opening Credits Are A Lie
Fans of the show always want to seek out that iconic fountain in the opening credits of Friends, but super fans of the show might know that you’re never going to find it, at least not in New York. It may look like the Pulitzer Fountain in Central Park, but they actually shot that footage on the Warner Bros. lot. And there’s an even more surprising detail about that opening.
17. The Cast Didn't Understand The Opening
All the friends dancing around in the fountain in the opening credits has become the epitome of squad goals, but none of the actors thought it looked that good at the time. They thought it was really strange dancing in the pond, and the producers had to convince them to do it and to just follow instructions in order to get the perfect shot.
11. Some Big Names Tried Out For The Leads
The cast of the show could have been very, very different. Jane Lynch and Kathy Griffin both auditioned for the role of Phoebe, before losing out to Lisa Kudrow, but she’s not the only character swap. Jon Favreau and Jon Cryer actually both auditioned for the role of Chandler. We think whoever did the casting made the right choice.
12. Ross Had A Little-Known Pet
Friends fans with good memories will probably remember that in the early days of the show, Ross had a pet monkey named Marcel, which was actually played by two monkeys named “Monkey” and “Katie.” Eventually, though, it became too time-consuming to shoot the animals, and they decided to scrap it. But that’s not the only monkey horror story…
13. The Set Got Tense
David Schwimmer, who spent the most time with the monkeys as Ross, actually hated working with them—but not for the reason you might think. He just wished he could bond with them more. As he put it, “The trainers won’t let me bond with it. They’re really, really possessive. It’s like, ‘Land on your marks, do your job, don’t touch or bond with the monkey.’ It's a bummer.”
14. Courteney Cox Had An Early Claim To Fame
When the show aired, Courteney Cox was the most famous cast member, having appeared in several commercials and, perhaps most memorably, in Bruce Springsteen’s “Dancing in the Dark” music video. Fun fact: Carlton’s dance from The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air was the inspired by Courteney’s dancing in the music video. Iconic.
15. David Schwimmer Didn't Have To Audition
Executive producer Kevin Bright had worked with David Schwimmer before, since the actor had already tried out for a part in an earlier sitcom of his. So when screenwriters were working on Friends, they specifically had Schwimmer in mind for Ross. In fact, he didn’t even have to audition for the part, and became the first actor to come on board.
18. Courteney Cox Struggled In The Same Way As Monica
Much like Chandler and Monica on the series, Courteney Cox and her real-life husband David Arquette had a very difficult time getting pregnant. Unlike the show, though, Courteney and David were able to have eventually a child, while Chandler and Monica were unable to have a child together. But Cox's journey wasn’t without tragedies…
19. Cox Suffered In Silence On Set
During Courteney Cox’s difficult time getting pregnant, she suffered from a horrific miscarriage. But then it got even worse. As bad luck would have it, at the very same time Cox was going through a miscarriage, the character of Rachel was about to give birth. Cox said it was an extremely difficult period in her life going to set every day.
20. They All Kissed Each Other
When Friends first came out, some publications criticized it for promoting “promiscuity,” so it’s no surprise that almost all the main cast members have kissed each other at one point or another on the show, including in alternative “what if” episodes.
21. Their Names Have A Soapy Inspiration
Although Joey Tribbiani famously appeared on Days of Our Lives, the Friends creators were apparently bigger fans of another soap opera: All My Children. The names of all six friends were taken from characters on the long-running show, although there are some differences between them—Monique, for example, turned into Monica.
22. The Cast Went On An Anonymous Getaway
James Burrows, who had a stint as a director on the show in its early years, took the entire cast to Las Vegas before the show aired. His reason was ingenious. While there, he encouraged the cast to enjoy their last bit of anonymity, because he had a “good feeling” about the show. Can’t say he was wrong about that one.
23. Joey Tribbiani Died
As fans might remember, Joey’s time as Dr. Drake Ramoray on Days of Our Lives came to an end not long after it began, when his character fell into a coma that no neurosurgeon was skilled enough to get him out of—in fact, it’s said the only doctor smart enough would’ve been Dr. Drake himself. Of course, in true soap opera style, he came back to life in season 7…but what ultimately happened to the good doctor?
24. Joey Won A Prestigious Award
Joey’s character Dr. Drake made it all the way to the Friends spin-off Joey, but he met a surprising end. Joey revealed that Dr. Drake had been killed off yet again, but that this time there was at least something in it for Joey. After exiting the soap opera, Joey got an award for “Best Death Scene” out of his work. One for the trivia nights!
25. Phoebe Is Actually A Spin-Off Character
Many don’t know that Phoebe’s twin, Ursula Buffay, was created before Phoebe ever existed. Lisa Kudrow played Ursula as a recurring character on the show Mad About You two years before Friends debuted. When Kudrow got the part of Phoebe on Friends, the writers decided to put Ursula in the show as Phoebe’s twin as an inside joke. The rest is history.
26. A Famous Comedian Almost Played Phoebe
In another universe, a world-class comedian might have played Phoebe. Although Jane Lynch and Kathy Griffin both tried and failed to play our favorite klutz, producers really wanted Ellen DeGeneres for the part, until the comedian turned them down to focus on her own projects. Lisa Kudrow got the part instead, and Ellen is doing just fine.
27. Gunther Was Silent For Years
The famous manager of Central Perk coffee shop, Gunther, didn’t actually have a name on the show until the middle of the second season, despite appearing in the show regularly up until that point. He also didn't speak for 33 whole episodes. He finally said "Yeah" after all that time. Talk about gradual character development!
28. You Can Go To Central Perk
We hate to break it to you, but you can’t go to the real “Central Perk.” However, while there is no bona fide Central Perk coffee shop in New York City, there are still real-life recreations of the coffee shop to tide you over; one in Beijing and one in Liverpool. The Friends stars don’t hang out at either location, unfortunately.
29. Ross And Rachel Weren't Mean To Be
Although Ross and Rachel have become everyone’s OTP, that wasn’t always going to be the case. Instead, producers had a much different main romance in mind, and it’s pretty dang hard to believe: Joey and Monica. Yep, writers thought they landed a genius idea with that one, but fans quickly noticed David Schwimmer and Jennifer Aniston’s chemistry instead. Thank goodness for that.
30. There Was A Cast Battle Over Joey
Phoebe was a hot part that seemingly every actor in Hollywood wanted, but it turns out that many actors wanted a piece of Joey Tribbiani, too. Hank Azaria, who voices the character of Moe, among many others, from The Simpsons, auditioned twice for the role of Joey, before ultimately losing out on the part to Matt LeBlanc.
31. Central Perk Was Almost A Diner
As beloved as the café Central Perk is in our current pop culture landscape, the friends almost had a more downscale hangout spot. NBC originally thought Central Perk was too trendy a place for the Friends cast, and wanted them to hang out in a diner like Seinfeld. The show would go on to rival Seinfeld, so it’s a good thing they didn’t bite Seinfeld’s style.
32. One Of The Best Props Was A Total Accident
An unlucky accident turned into one of the most iconic props on the series. The frame around the peephole in Monica’s apartment originally had a mirror in it, but the production staff broke it during the early stages of filming. However, the producers suddenly liked the look of the empty frame and decided to keep it there.
33. An Iconic Character Has A Strange Backstory
There was a real actor behind the role of “Ugly Naked Guy,” and his story is fascinating. His real name wasn’t revealed until 2016, when a writer from the Huffington Post spent a year trying to find the man behind the bod, eventually discovering it to be actor Jon Haugen. Presumably, having your name appear next to the words “Ugly Naked Guy” wasn’t that appealing to Haugen, so he remained anonymous for years.
34. The Show Made A Heartwarming Tribute
Before the sixth season’s premiere, Courteney Cox married David Arquette and changed her name to Courteney Cox Arquette. The rest of the cast followed suit and added Arquette to the end of their name for the opening credits of season’s premiere episode. The show-runners also dedicated the episode to the newly married couple.
35. The Cast Hated Rachel And Joey
Infamously, fans hated it when Joey and Rachel got together—but not many people know that the cast hated it, too. They even tried to convince the producers not to do it. As Matt LeBlanc said in an interview, “It felt wildly inappropriate…Everybody got super-defensive about the whole thing.” That wasn’t the only time the cast members tried to meddle in their characters, either.
36. People Thought Chandler Was Gay
Lisa Kudrow originally thought Chandler’s character had an unknown side. She thought he was gay, and was very surprised to hear that he wasn’t at the first table read. It wasn’t just Kudrow who thought this about Chandler, either. Many fans speculated about his sexuality, and show creator David Crane had to clarify he wasn’t in a 1997 interview.
37. The Show Turned Down A Famous Celebrity Cameo
The show was so popular, it couldn’t even accommodate all the A-list stars who wanted make cameo appearances. One day, Justin Timberlake asked if he could pop in as a character on the show, and the producers had to turn him down because they couldn’t find the right part for the superstar. Better luck next time on that one, Justin.
38. Bruce Willis Guest-Starred After He Lost A Bet
When Matthew Perry was filming The Whole Nine Yards with Bruce Willis, he bet Willis that their movie would open at number one in the box office. For some reason, Bruce disagreed—and he paid the price. When the movie did indeed open at number one, Perry had Willis donate his earnings from his guest appearance on Friends to charity.
39. The Finale Destroyed The Set
In the series finale, the crew actually tore down the set of Central Perk so they could build the airport set where Ross and Rachel say goodbye. So in the final scene, when Rachel asks if they want to get one last coffee together and Chandler asks “Where?” it was actually sincere, since there really was nowhere for them to go.
40. Matt LeBlanc Took Up An Unhealthy Habit
Filming the finale of the show was emotional for everyone involved, and all the cast members freely admit to bawling their eyes out. Still, Matt LeBlanc may have had it worse than the rest of his co-workers. He was so stressed out about Friends coming to an end, he actually took up his bad smoking habit again to cope with it.
41. Joey And Phoebe Could Have Been Together All Along
Near the end of the show’s run, Matt LeBlanc and Lisa Kudrow decided to make up a surprising back-story for their characters and pitch it to the show-runners. They decided that Joey and Phoebe should have been casually hooking up this entire time, and they should reshoot all the iconic scenes and then show the characters coming out of broom closets. Sadly, the producers shut them down.
42. The Magna Doodle Has Its Own Conspiracy Theory
The Magna Doodle that was on the back of Joey and Chandler’s door was prominently featured every time a character came in, and always had a different doodle on it. Fans eventually became very interested in it, trying to decode the doodles for hidden meanings. The crew says, however, there were no hidden meanings at all—but then they would say that, right?
43. The Show Flubbed An Important Detail
Without some quick thinking, the show could have had a big “oops” moment. See, the numbers on Monica’s and Chandler’s apartments were originally 5 and 4, respectively. There was just one issue with this: The pair were supposed to live on a high floor. Accordingly, producers changed the apartments to 20 and 19, respectively.
44. Show Cliffhangers Got Special Treatment
An episode of Friends took roughly five hours to shoot, requiring multiple takes of each scene and 20 minutes to change sets. This was all done in front of a live audience as a way of testing the jokes before the show went to air. The only thing they didn’t shoot in front of a live audience were certain cliffhangers, so as not to spoil the story for fans watching.
45. The Crew Worked Long Hours
In season three, Phoebe makes a cardboard model house that ends up catching fire. Once more, movie magic became a difficult thing to capture: To ensure that the production team got the shot they needed for the scene, they made six identical model houses in just three days. That’s two houses per day, if you’re keeping count!
46. The Cast Worked Together To Get A Raise
When Friends began in 1994, the cast started off making $22,000 an episode. By the sixth season, everyone was earning a different amount per episode—until the cast took unprecedented action. They got together and demanded that everyone get an equal share. They were able to successfully ensure everyone got the same amount of money, eventually earning $1 million per episode in the final season.
47. The Crew Had A Pre-Show Ritual
Every cast has their own pre-show rituals, but the Friends crew have one heartwarming habit. Before each episode, they go into a big group hug together. They say it helps them feel the love and like the true group of friends they are, which only helped their incredible chemistry on the show in the long run. Awwww, how sweet.
48. Matthew Perry Is Like Chandler In One Way
Sometimes art imitates life. When Matthew Perry was cast as Chandler, he made one suggestion for the character from his own life that stuck. Perry decided that Chandler was going to be awkward around women and have a difficult time dating them, all because Perry himself felt awkward around women, too. The best acting is no acting.
49. Monica's Fridge Wasn't A Prop
The fridge in Monica’s apartment was an actual working fridge. In fact, cast and crew members used to put snacks in there for when the shoots went long.
50. The Orange Couch Was In An Unlikely Place
The familiar orange sofa that the gang always sits on while at Central Perk was actually a bargain basement find for Warner Bros.—meaning that they found the prop hidden away in a basement on their lot. Now that’s a deal.
51. The Show Made An Obvious Mistake
In a behind-the-scenes flub, Ross was 29 years old for three seasons on the show, even though the Christmas and Thanksgiving episodes aired in those three seasons to show the passage of time. What’s your secret, Ross?
52. Pat The Dog Was A Bizarre Gift
Joey and Chandler’s big white ceramic dog was actually Jennifer Aniston’s before the series took it over. A friend gave her the dog as a good luck present when the show started. Yes, that’s one strange good luck present, but it worked out for everyone.
53. Two Cast Members Have A Weird Age Difference
Courteney Cox, who played Monica, is actually older than David Schwimmer, who played Ross, despite the fact that Monica is Ross’s younger sister on the show. That’s Hollywood for you.
54. The Hours Were Grueling
Filming Friends was no joke, and a lot of work. Sometimes, filming would got as late as 1:00 or 2:00 in the morning, which could be particularly hard on a live studio audience. For this reason, on particularly long nights, the producers would sometimes switch out the audience for a brand-new, "fresh" one, just to make sure the jokes were landing.
55. There Is A Reunion In The Works
Fans of the show have been very vocal in their desire to see a reunion episode, but for a long time, all they got were rumors and disappointments. This recently changed. In 2019, HBO announced that the whole cast would be returning for a reunion in an upcoming episode on the streaming service, tentatively titled The One Where They Got Back Together.
56. Jennifer Aniston Almost Quit
Near the end of the show, Jennifer Aniston was likely the most famous cast member. But few people know she almost walked away from it all. Near the final season, Aniston said she was dealing with a couple of “issues” and didn’t know how much more of Rachel she could take. As a result, she nearly left the show just before it ended, but eventually agreed to be a part of it.
57. Jennifer Aniston Had One Big Flaw
Nobody’s perfect, but some cast members had more difficulty on set than the others. For one, Jennifer Aniston had a very serious tardiness problem—to the point where the cast eventually had an intervention to confront her about it, led by David Schwimmer. Imagine getting paid $1 million to do anything and being late? Sigh.
58. One Scene Was Difficult To Film
One of the hardest scenes to film in the entire show was also one of the simplest. In the episode where Rachel hears Ben's first words, the show-runners told the young actor playing Ross’s son to remain silent throughout the scene. Unfortunately, the kid kept actually saying "dada" anyway. Overachievers, don’t you hate them?
59. Ben Was In Love With Rachel
Cole Sprouse, the Riverdale star who once placed Ross’s young son Ben on the show, said he had an enormous crush on Jennifer Aniston while filming, and that it actually affected his work. As he said, “I was so in love with her...I was speechless—I’d get all bubbly and forget my lines and completely blank…It was so difficult.”
60. Matthew Perry Struggled On Set
Matthew Perry became one of the most popular cast members as Chandler Bing, but the actor was hiding a dark secret. During his time on the show, Perry became very addicted to substances. Although he claims he never used while he was on set, he would frequently arrive to work hungover. As a result, he had to go to rehab twice during the show’s run.