If you’re a Friends fan, you probably think that you know everything about the show. We’re not judging your knowledge. We’re sure that you know enough to win any Friends-themed game show. We’re sure that you can probably say what Jennifer Aniston was wearing in episode two of season four and you can probably quote entire episodes from memory.
Even those with impressive knowledge of the TV show, might not be aware of everything that went on behind the scenes. There are some things that happened off-camera during the show’s impressive run that people have no idea about. There are revelations that we found out later. Plus, there are things that have been subtly hinted at that you might have missed. To help everyone boost their Friends knowledge, here are 16 behind-the-scenes secrets from Friends.
1. The show had multiple names.
You might have thought that the creators of the show decided on the name Friends because it was simple and straightforward. However, Marta Kauffman and David Crane actually began developing the show under the title Insomnia Cafe, and that’s what they pitched it to producers as. It was then renamed to Six of One, Across the Hall and Friends Like Us. That eventually lead it to simply being called Friends. Can you imagine if the sitcom had actually been called Insomnia Cafe?
2…And multiple casting options.
Shows often go through a lot of changes when they’re in the development stage — and that includes casting changes. When it came to coming up with the final Friends cast, it’s hard to believe that there were other options besides the original six. Producers thought that Courteney Cox would make a great Rachel Green, but she actually wanted to play Monica Geller. Both Kathy Griffin and Jane Lynch auditioned for the role of Phoebe Buffay while Jon Cryer auditioned to play Chandler Bing. Eric McCormack also auditioned to play Ross Geller. Of course we all know how this ends: Courtney is cast as Monica, Jennifer Aniston is cast as Rachel and Lisa Kudrow was cast as Phoebe. For the males, Matthew Perry got the role of Chandler, David Schwimmer got to be Ross and Matt LeBlanc got to be Joey Tribbiani.
3. There were originally supposed to be four main characters.
That’s right. Two of your favorite characters weren’t going to be major players on the show. When Friends was being developed (and going through multiple name and casting changes), the story focused on Rachel, Ross, Monica, and Joey. Phoebe and Chandler would have still been involved, but they were only meant to be supporting characters to the main four. Hands up if you’re glad that changed so all six could get equal billing?
4. Ross’s character was written for David Schwimmer.
Some of the characters took longer to cast than others, but the role of Ross on Friends wasn’t a difficult one. David was actually the first person cast on the show. It has been reported that one of the Friends executive producers had worked with him before so the writers worked on developing the character of Ross to match David. You don’t need us to tell you that they did a great job.
5. There were salary negotiation struggles.
Everyone remembers the heavily talked about fact how the Friends cast were banking a cool $1 million per episode during the show’s final season. That was $22 million for the season, people. If you’re wondering how the cast managed that, it wasn’t just because of the generosity of the studio executives. The cast cleverly negotiated as a group, and they were one of the first to do so. Of course, they were some struggles along the way. In the second season, it was reported that each person had a different salary, and they refused to work until everyone was paid the same amount. It’s a lesson other casts should remember in an effort to close the pay gap.
6. Matt LeBlanc’s shoulder injury was written into the show.
Remember that episode where poor Joey had to wear a sling? You know, the one in season three where he had trouble eating? If you need some refreshing, the episode was called “The One Where No One Is Ready” and it was about Joey and Chandler fighting over that big, comfy chair. The actors were filming a scene where they both run to the chair when Matt stumbled going around the coffee table. He used his arm to break his fall. When he got up, he then fell into the “door” to Monica’s apartment which is actually a fake. It turned out Matt had dislocated his shoulder and had to seek medical attention. The sling he had to wear from the injury was written into the episode. On top of all that, the live studio audience thought that it was all meant to happen.
7. The opening credits were still shot at the Warner Bros studio.
Even people who didn’t watch Friends will probably know that the show wasn’t actually filmed in New York City. (Show us an apartment that big anywhere in NYC.) Friends was actually filmed in a studio lot in Burbank, California — and so was the opening credits. Some people/New York tour guides think the fountain scene was shot in Central Park, but it wasn’t. It was still filmed in California.
8. Cliffhangers were not filmed in front of a live audience.
You might have thought at one point that Friends used a really good laugh track. They didn’t. The show was usually filmed in front of a live studio audience of approximately 300 people. However, in episodes where there were cliffhangers, they obviously got rid of the audience. Friends was shot before the days of Twitter, but you can still imagine what would have happened if 300 people had seen what happened in a cliffhanger episode to one of the hottest shows on TV.
9. The fridges in the show actually worked.
One of the things that can be a bit upsetting for fans is when they find out that most of the parts of TV show sets are fake. It’s hard to think that a show that’s supposed to be shot in a cozy detached house is nothing but fake walls and doors that don’t even open. The Friends apartments may not have actually existed in NYC, but the fridge in Monica’s “apartment” actually worked. We’ll let you imagine the things that actors and characters would put it in.
10. Monica and Joey were originally supposed to be the main couple.
We know this one might be potentially upsetting to a lot of fans, but it’s true. Monica and Joey were actually supposed to be the main couple on the show. It’s hard to imagine that happening now, but during the development stages of the show, these two were supposed to be the duo the show was centered around. After some casting and writing updates, that idea was soon forgotten.
11. The cast was against the Rachel and Joey union.
… As were we. You might even still be upset at the thought of Joey and Rachel hooking up. If you were shocked about it when you first saw the episode, you definitely weren’t the only one. Even the Friends cast was upset. In fact, the group went to the director to discuss their concerns after getting the script. They said that the couple didn’t feel right together. Still, it happened.
12. The apartments switched numbers throughout the seasons.
If you’re an eagle-eyed TV fan, you might have noticed how the apartments on Friends switched numbers. Really. During the first few seasons of the show, Monica’s apartment had a 5 on it while Chandler’s had a 4. It’s reported that producers came to the conclusion that it didn’t make any sense because both apartments were supposed to be at the top of the building. Therefore, Monica’s became number 20 and Chandler’s turned into number 19.
13. Lisa Kudrow was scared of the duck.
Who could forget the adorable duck (and chick) on Friends? They were staples on the show during their limited appearances. However, it seemed that Lisa didn’t enjoy the animals as much as the rest of us. At the time, it was reported that Lisa was actually scared of birds and therefore, terrified of having to film with the duck. You can’t see it in the episode, can you? That is good acting.
14. Matthew Perry struggled with addiction during production.
There are some funny and entertaining secrets from behind the scenes of Friends. Unfortunately, there are also some sad facts, too. One of them being that Matthew struggled with addiction while filming the show. The actor went to rehab a few times during the show’s 10-year run including stints in 1997 and 2001. In later interviews, the actor revealed he never used substances on set, but he did sometimes film when he was hungover.
15. The cast went to Las Vegas together before the show aired.
Clearly the director of Friends had an inkling that the show was going to change the actors’ lives in a big way. Before the pilot episode of season one premiered, he encouraged the cast when they were in Las Vegas to enjoy their time and anonymity. It was sage advice. Plus, things went full circle with later episodes of Friends being set in Las Vegas.
16. Bruce Willis donated his salary from the show to support a good cause.
It was always a delight to see what actors were going to surprise us with cameos on Friends. One fantastic surprise was when Bruce Willis showed up. He played Paul Stevens, the father of Ross’s then-girlfriend Elizabeth and Rachel’s love interest. There’s a rumor/urban legend that Bruce appeared on the show after losing a bet to Matthew while they were filming The Whole Nine Yards together. That’s still up for debate, but what actually happened was that he donated his salary from the cameo role to charities to support AIDS research.
17. Jennifer hated “the Rachel” haircut.
You might want to sit down for this one, but it’s true. “The Rachel” haircut that everyone and their mother wanted — and got — was actually hated by its original wearer. Apparently Jennifer thought that the haircut was awful. She told Glamour, “I was not a fan of ‘The Rachel.’ That was kind of cringe-y for me.” Why? Jen apparently had difficulty creating the hairstyle without hairstylist Chris McMillian. She might not have been into it, but it did become one of the defining haircuts of the 1990s.
18. Phoebe was originally supposed to be goth.
We all know Phoebe as the delightful quirky, does-her-own-thing-and-has-no-shame-about-it one of the group. Before we ended up with the final version of Friends, they had originally planned for Phoebe to be a goth girl. The role of goth Phoebe was actually offered to Janeane Garofalo from Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce fame, but she turned the part down. We could actually see Lisa as the goth Phoebe and still killing it.
19. Hank Azaria auditioned twice to play Joey.
Hank Azaria is a voice actor famous for being the sound behind some of the most iconic The Simpsons characters including Apu, Moe, Chief Wiggum and Comic Book Guy. So, it might come as a surprise to you that he actually auditioned to play Joey. He didn’t get the part, but he did end up playing David, Phoebe’s scientist boyfriend who has to go on a research trip in Minsk.
20. Jane Krakowski could have been Rachel and Phoebe.
That’s right. Jane Krakowski could have been cast as two different characters on Friends. How crazy is that? She revealed that she auditioned for the role of Rachel, like pretty much everyone else in Hollywood, but she didn’t get very far in the audition process. It has been rumored that she was also considered for the part of Phoebe. Can you picture her in either of the roles?
21. Courtney is really a neat freak.
One of Monica’s defining personality traits is that she likes things neat, and we mean very neat. It turns out that Courtney shares the same characteristic as Monica. There were rumors that Courtney would even go into her co-stars’ dressing rooms and tidy them up. She even refused to go in them if they were messy. Now that is something that we could totally see Monica doing if she had a bunch of actor friends with big, fancy dressing rooms.
22. Marcel was really a female monkey.
Who could forget the lovable Marcel? Marcel was one of the best animals, nay, guest stars, to appear on Friends. What people may not have realized about Ross’s sweet white-headed capuchin monkey is that he was actually played by a she. The monkey’s real name was Katie. We’re not sure if she actually liked “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” or whether that was just good acting.
23. They used a pie chart to ensure actors got equal lines and jokes.
One of the great things about Friends was that there was never one star. All of the main characters had equal billing. In an effort to keep things fair, the writers apparently had a pie chart taped to the wall so they could ensure each character got an equal number of lines and jokes. It seems to have been abandoned as time went on but the later seasons showed that they continued to keep things equal for everyone.
24. The cast would huddle before each episode.
Some casts have different rituals before they do a show. We’ve all heard of some of the quirky and more outlandish ones, but the Friends cast actually had a cute one. Like sports teams, the cast would have a huddle before filming to get everyone pumped and to wish each other luck. You can totally see the characters doing this on the show, too.
25. Central Perk’s artwork changed frequently.
You might have been so focused on the discussions between the characters that went on in Central Perk that you failed to notice the surroundings. It’s okay, you’re not the only one. If you were to look at the background, you might have picked up that the artwork in Central Perk was changed frequently. To be precise, it changed every three episodes.
26. Ellen turned down the role of Phoebe.
Here’s another Friends casting that almost was. Ellen DeGeneres turned down an offer to play Phoebe on the show. She was apparently the producers’ first choice for the part. Hands up if you wish that there was some alternate universe that you could go to see this? There’s no word on whether she turned down the part when Phoebe was a goth girl or the quirky version of the character.
27. The golden frame on Monica’s door was originally a mirror.
The soft purple door in Monica’s apartment is iconic, but so is the golden frame surrounding the peep hole. The frame was actually the result of an accident. The frame was originally a mirror. One of the crew members accidentally smashed it, but they thought the frame still looked good there so they left it. The final version makes more sense. Why would anyone have a mirror covering up the peep hole?
28. Gunther really did work as a barista.
Gunther (James Michael Tyler) might actually be one of the most beloved characters from Friends apart from the main cast, Marcel and the duck. He was a permanent fixture at Central Perk, but what fans may not realize is that James was actually a barista. He was cast as an extra and got the nameless part of the barista because he knew how to make an espresso. His role ended up growing from there, but he actually kept his job as a barista for a whopping four seasons of Friends.
29. Each episode took about five hours to film.
We know how Friends was (mostly) filmed in front of a live studio audience. If you were one of the incredibly lucky people who was able to watch a live taping, you will have found out that one episode took approximately five hours to film. Considering all of the stuff that can go on in one episode, that is actually a very fast filming schedule.
30. Matt wanted his character to be a bit dim.
Joey might not have been the sharpest crayon in the box, but we loved him. In fact, the characteristic made him endearing and gave him some hilarious lines. It turns out that the trait wasn’t actually part of the original version of the character that the writers envisioned. Matt himself actually suggested that Joey be a bit vacuous.
31. The actors got $22,000 per episode in the first season.
Remember what we said a few facts ago about how the cast was banking a whopping $1 million per episode during the last season? Well, each actor and actress was apparently making $22,000 per episode back in season one. That is still major buck compared to the average salary, but it’s a drop in the pan compared to $1 million.
32. Jennifer actually owned Joey’s white dog statue.
No one could forget Joey’s white dog statue that he bought when things were going very well for him. It turns out that the true owner of the statue was Jennifer. She was given it as a good luck gift from one of her friends when she started acting. It’s said that after the episode with the dog statue aired, producers decided to keep the oversized white dog figure.
33. Every episode has “friends” said at least once.
Here’s something that we challenge you to prove to be true with an epic marathon. It’s said that every single episode of Friends has someone saying “friends” at least once. Who’s up for a tally contest? You can also try counting some of the characters’ other beloved phrases while you’re at it.
34. Jennifer was the last one to be cast.
It took some time to come up with the final Friends cast that we know today. There were many versions of the characters with different actors and actresses auditioning and being offered the parts. The final one to be cast was Jennifer.
35. David directed 10 episodes.
David was a busy guy. Not only did he play lovable Ross, he also directed ten episodes. You might have picked up on it if you always read the credits for all of the episodes. If not, David started directing Friends with “The One on the Last Night” from 1999. He continued to direct an episode here and there throughout the series with his final one being “The One with the Birth Mother” in 2004.
36. Each actor was given a piece of the sidewalk from Central Perk.
At the end of a TV show/movie, actors often take home props to remember their time on set. If you’re wondering what each of the Friends cast got, the answer may surprise you. Each of the main actors was given a piece of the sidewalk outside of Central Perk. Keep in mind that Central Park doesn’t actually exist IRL so it’s not like there’s a cafe missing six pieces of sidewalk right now.