It’s one of the best TV shows to come out of the ’90s. Friends inspired all of us to move into the big city and experience the trials and tribulations of young adulthood with a close group of pals. Monica, Phoebe, Rachel, Joey, Ross, and Chandler all had and continue to have a special place in our hearts.
You’ve probably seen many repeats of the show, but you’re probably not as familiar with what went on behind the scenes. From hands-on directing to off-set relationships, we’ve collected the best insider photos from the Friends set life to show you what it was really like.
Lisa Sued for Breach of Contract
It looks like Phoebe and Rachel did share a close bond off-set too. A young Lisa Kudrow and Jennifer Anniston look fresh-faced and youthful as they sit backstage at the Warner Bros. Studio in Burbank, California. We can see give-aways in the room they’re in that tell us it’s definitely the ’90s. Yes, that is a lava lamp on that side table there. We don’t know about you, but memories are flooding back to us from our teenage lava lamp days…
Lisa Kudrow was actually in a spot of drama back in the day. She was sued by her ex-manager, Scott Howard, for breach of contract as she didn’t continue to pay him 10% of her Friends salary once they parted ways. He asserted that he was entitled to it since he was there from the beginning. In the end, he won the case and took home a whopping $1.6 million.
Would Other Actors Have Succumbed to Giggles?
With Joey, Ross, and Phoebe quietly cracking up, we can just imagine one of them yelling, “don’t you start!” Forget about having to act in front of hundreds of people in a live studio audience, we think that the biggest challenge might have been acting opposite such funny co-stars. Perhaps other actors who auditioned for the roles would have been more professional on the set!
Other famous actors actually tried their luck in getting the coveted roles. Eric McCormack auditioned for the role of Ross but eventually starred as Will in Will & Grace. Similarly, Jon Favreau wanted to play the role of Chandler and to be honest, we think he could have done a pretty good job.
You might not have realized that David Schwimmer directed a few of your favorite Friends episodes. From “The One with Ross’s Library Book” that saw him playing a leading role to “The One with Phoebe’s Birthday Dinner” that centered more around others, he was actively directing throughout the years.
He went on to focus more on his directing in later years. Here he is motioning towards the set for the episode “The One on the Last Night” whereby Chandler and Monica decide to move in together and need to find ways to ease the transition for everyone else. David certainly looks in his element here.
Rachel’s Mom’s Soft Spot for Ross
Who can forget the colorful character of Rachel’s mom, Sandra Green? Portrayed by actress Marlon Thomas, Sandra is the personality that Rachel would have been had she married Barry. She is naive, self-interested, and vain, not needing to work due to her doctor husband, Rachel’s dad.
Marlon has good memories of acting alongside the cast: “What was fun about Friends was that they were all just all so cute to me.” She continues, “I mean, the first day I got there, David Schwimmer opened the door and he said, ‘Ladies first, ladies first,’ from my ‘Free to Be’ album, which was so cute.” It’s nice to know that the cast treated their special guests with the utmost respect.
Monica and Richard Almost Didn’t Happen
Monica’s on-again-off-again relationship with her father’s friend Richard, the eye doctor, proved to be more taxing than she had anticipated. While it was exciting for us to see the portrayal of such an intense relationship with a man twice your age, it almost wasn’t the case at all.
Actually, Monica was meant to have an on-again-off-again relationship with Joey, initially. We can hardly imagine how Friends would have turned out had they stuck with that plot. They knew they wanted that format somewhere among the six of them so they made Ross and Rachel love interests instead. Apparently, they just thought that Monica and Joey were the most lustful of the characters, so they would naturally gravitate towards each other.
Emma’s Birthday Party Almost Wasn’t a Reality
When baby girl Emma was celebrating her first birthday (or rather, Rachel and Ross threw her a party she’d never remember), we saw everyone from the main cast come together bit by bit as they tried to balance their other wants and desires of the day. We also get an appearance from the Geller parents this episode. But this whole final season almost didn’t happen.
We can see that they dressed up Joey and Rachel’s apartment with birthday decorations; balloons, signs, and presents litter the living room/kitchen. But Jennifer Aniston almost didn’t come back for it. She admitted: “I had a couple issues that I was dealing with. I wanted it to end when people still loved us and we were on a high. And then I was also feeling like, ‘How much more of Rachel do I have in me?’”
The Cast Didn’t Like the Episode With the Cat
You can tell this is a behind-the-scenes shot from early in the series because of the appearance of Barry Farber, Rachel’s ex-fiance, in the top left-hand corner. But there’s another tell, too – if you look more carefully in the foreground, Chandler has that floppy-mop hairstyle we only get in the early days. The episode where Phoebe thinks her mom reincarnates into cat was from early on, and none of the cast were for it.
Apparently, one of the writers, Marta Kauffman, had the idea after her own mother’s passing. But the actors didn’t really feel comfortable with such a goofy storyline. And it wasn’t the only plot point that the cast didn’t like. They also didn’t want to see Joey and Rachel getting together as they did later in the season.
LGBTQ Representation From Season One
As dated as we might find a lot of the things in Friends by today’s standards, they did have LGBTQ representation on the show from the start of the first season. Ross’s first wife Susan ended up dating and eventually marrying her friend Carol, which Ross eventually learned to come to terms with.
We didn’t really get to know the couple, especially Carol, well enough on the show. But we’re quite sure we’re not alone in saying we wish we could have gotten to know them and her more. It would have been interesting to have their perspective on being a lesbian in New York City during the ’90s.
Chandler’s Character Was Inspired by Mathew Perry
American/Canadian actor Matthew Perry did a fantastic job playing the role of Chandler Bing, the goofy guy who ends up marrying his best friend’s sister, Monica. We’re all familiar with Chandler’s nuances; from his third nipple to the unusual whipping sound he makes, he’s a real memorable TV character.
As it turns out, Mathew Perry actually inspired the character of Chandler, to begin with. The producers said that the actor had relayed stories of his awkwardness with women to them, and they just had to include it on the show. Similarly, his emphasis on the word “be” was actually something Mathew did in real life.
Courtney Cox Auditioned for Rachel
Considering the fact that we know Rachel has a difficult relationship with both of her sisters, doesn’t this look a bit like they flew in a therapist to help them work out their problems? Here she is, arm in arm with her baby sis Amy, who came to her in her moment of need. It almost wasn’t Jennifer who played her at all, though.
Courtney Cox was initially given the role of Rachel, but she asked if she could switch over and play Monica instead. The producers were hesitant to let her switch over as they pictured the character as a bit of a goth. But in the end, everything worked out for the best.
Now That We’ve Got You on the Sofa…
This will likely be an image that both looks incredibly familiar to you and incredibly unfamiliar, too. All of the Friends cast except for Lisa Kudrow are present on their infamous couch in the Central Perk cafe, this time with a little company. Do you spot a particular TV chat show host anywhere in the photo?
Yep, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno host, Jay Leno, is sat with them in their famous cafe hangout! He was interviewing the cast on the actual set – something which wasn’t too uncommon for them. As we can see from the hairstyles, it was for one of the later seasons.
The Real Love Story of the Show
The relationship between Joey and Phoebe was one of our all-time favorite TV friendships that have ever been. From Joey’s protectiveness over his friend’s feelings to Phoebe’s insistence that they’ll be partners in the future, few relationships were as uncomplicated and truly loving as that of Phoebe and Joey’s.
And it wasn’t all for show – they were solid friends off of the set, too. Lisa Kudrow once revealed the helpful advice that Matt had given her during season three of filming. She was nervous about her ability to play the part, to which Matt told her, “You’re her. Relax. You got it. You’ve been doing this character for three years. You’re working too hard. That’s your problem. You don’t need to work as hard. Relax.” And according to Lisa, it really helped.
So They Really Were Outdoors?
For many people, the episode where they all play rugby outside is their favorite. We’re not sure why – maybe it’s because we see them in a different, more active setting. Maybe it’s because the sport brings out their most natural, instinctive characters.
In this shot, we get a great behind-the-scenes look at the cast members and the filming crew in the great outdoors. Here we can see all the elements of the episode that are familiar to us; Chandler chatting up the friendly dog-walker, Ross and Monica in a heated conversation, and Phoebe in her “THAT GIRL” T-shirt.
The Guest Star We Wanted to See More Of
Acting legend Julia Roberts appears in one famous episode, where she plays the role of Susie, the woman who went to grade school with Chandler. They meet each other in adulthood when she is working as a makeup artist on a set that Chandler finds himself on, and a romance appears to bloom.
Of course, we find out later in the episode that she was simply giving him payback for the time he lifted her skirt up in the fourth grade. She never forgot the name they would call her, “Susie underpants,” and if you remember the episode well enough you’ll know that she definitely got her revenge.
Jennifer Wasn’t a Fan of That Haircut
It was such a great story arc when we found out Ross and Rachel were going to have a baby together. We’re sure many of you were hoping that because of the pregnancy, they would get back together. Before that could happen, however, the two chose to co-parent as friends and had to learn how to navigate that reality.
In this photo, Rachel has that signature sleek long hair she sported in the later seasons. Her famous bob, “the Rachel” from the earlier seasons was iconic in the ’90s, but she wasn’t really a fan of it. She admitted finding the haircut “cringey,” and thought “that was the ugliest haircut I’ve ever seen.”
Who wasn’t happy for Joey when he got an acting part on the soap opera Days of Our Lives? He played Dr. Drake Ramoray, a neurosurgeon who worked in a fictional hospital. He plays a character far different from his real personality, having to pretend to be intelligent and capable of medical miracles.
The actor actually wasn’t liked at all for the character of Joey – we can’t imagine anyone else in the role. NBC loved his audition, however, and forced the producers to hire him in the role. Apparently, Matt also hated the script when he first read the pilot. So the feeling was mutual.
The Geller Family Resemblance
We’ve never seen all the Geller’s in such high definition… Take a look at Ross, Monica, Jack, and Judy in their apartment that used to belong to Grandma Geller. Arguably, this family is the most integral one in the show.
Looking at them like this, we can see that they were well cast not only for their acting ability that we see on the show. David Schwimmer does have a lot of resemblance to Elliott Gould, and Courtney Cox has similar features to Christina Pickles.
The Bachelor Pad
Referred to by the cast as the second set, Joey and Chandler’s apartment was just across the hall from Monica and Rachel’s, and was generally less stylized and a bit smaller. It underwent a few transformations during its time on the show but more or less maintained its rough-around-the-edges aesthetic.
We can see a couple of microphones hovering over them in this scene where all of the main cast are present. It’s easy to forget that that is the reality during every single moment of the show – the actors always have filming equipment hanging right over their heads.
David Schwimmer definitely looks like he gets stuck in when it’s his term to direct an episode. Here he is overlooking one of the writers who is holding their script for the day. He was clearly on good terms with the show-makers, as the role of Ross Geller was actually created with him in mind.
He’s talked about the perils of his occupation: “As an actor, the way I was trained, my job was to observe life and to observe other people, so I used to walk around with my head up, really engaged and watching people. The effect of celebrity was the absolute opposite: It made me want to hide under a baseball cap and not be seen.” He continues, “And I realized after a while that I was no longer watching people; I was trying to hide.”
“Stupid Coffee House With Your Stupid Big Cups”
Who could forget those iconic oversized Central Perk coffee cups we saw throughout the years. They came in an assortment of colors, and once were harshly critiqued by Phoebe’s psychologist date, Roger. Even to this day, we still remember the tirade of verbal abuse he unleashed on the unconventional mugs.
He says: “Actually it’s, it’s quite, y’know, typical behavior when you have this kind of dysfunctional group dynamic. Y’know, this kind of co-dependent, emotionally stunted, sitting in your stupid coffee house with your stupid big cups.” …We’ll leave it there, but if you’re a true fan of the show, you’ll know what he compares them too.
Chandler’s Evolving Style and Difficult Period
Take a look a Matthew Perry in his Chandler Bing get-up, looking as youthful as ever. He famously had weight fluctuations throughout the seasons due to personal reasons, but we think that whatever his weight category, he looked absolutely great. Nonetheless, Mathew was in fact struggling with addictions.
When Friends first started he was especially lean. But it wasn’t just his body that went through changes – he went through a fair few hairstyle transformations, too. But nothing is as impactful as the personal transformations he underwent. Luckily, the actor managed to rid himself of his debilitating addictions and since spent time helping others with theirs.
The Apartment That Housed Everyone at Some Point
Probably the most instantly recognizable TV show apartment, it was the two-bedroom home that was handed down to Monica from her Grandmother. With those iconic purple walls and the eclectic interior design, it was always going to stand out amongst other TV homes.
The production designer John Schaffner revealed the process of choosing that shade of lilac for the walls. “Everybody was really anxious about it until I painted the little model purple,” he explained, adding that, “Color is really important in terms of establishing the show identity. When you switched to Friends, you saw that it was purple and you stayed tuned.”
Four of the six in the group went to the same high school as each other in Long Island. And Ross and Chandler we best friends even in high school, having gone through those awkward teenage years together. Who remembers the pact they both made to each other about a girl they liked at school?
In the image above, they’re meant to be dressed and styled how they looked immediately after they left high school and were going to college. They’ve lost some of their crazy hair-dos and replaced them with… a lot of hair gel. Check out the oversized suits that make them look like David Bowie and Mick Jagger in “Dancing in the Street.”
The Fountain Scene Took Place in Los Angeles
Every single episode of Friends throughout the 10 seasons opens with the credits song and sequence, where the six of them dance around a fountain in the ’90s. It’s just as iconic as the minute-long song that fans some love, and some love to hate.
Apparently, it’s not what they had intended for the opening credits whatsoever. They had actually intended to film on top of a building rooftop in LA where the cast would frolic around and pretend to have fun. But the weather was so bad and the rooftop so expensive, they settled on dancing around a 1930s water fountain.