Friends is one of those rare sitcoms that has stood the test of time. The NBC hit, which aired for 10 seasons from 1994 to 2004, influenced every facet of our lives, from our haircuts (who could forget The Rachel?) to our pick-up lines (“How you doin’?”). Now, its popularity among Gen Zers—combined with a recent reunion show on HBO Max—has given the series a second life. But whether you’re a longtime fan or someone who wasn’t even born yet during its original air dates, there’s a lot you may not know about the program. Find out 10 interesting Friends facts, from cast members’ ages to Hollywood stars who auditioned for the series.
The Show Almost Had A Different Theme Song
Friends‘ theme song, “I’ll Be There For You” by the Rembrandts, is as iconic as the series itself. But did you know the catchy, hand-clapping tune almost never made the airwaves? In a 2019 interview with NME, R.E.M. frontman Michael Stipe and bassist Mike Mills revealed that the original plan was to use their 1991 single “Shiny Happy People” as the opener.
When a deal didn’t pan out, executive producer Kevin S. Bright reached out to The Rembrandts to see if they could record a song that matched R.E.M.’s sound. The band agreed to do it, but at the end of the day, they had little to do with the actual writing of “I’ll Be There For You.” The music was composed by Friends musical director Michael Skloff, and the lyrics were penned by Allee Willis.
By 1995, the 40-second song was so popular that it was re-recorded and released as a single. There are rumors that The Rembrandts earned $5 million in royalties for their efforts, but member Danny Wilde says otherwise.
“Well, let’s just say I’m not going to retire on it, but I’ve managed to put both my kids through college,” he told The Independent in 2011. “We get paid for performance, which means we make something every time it’s on TV, but we never got publishing royalties.”
These Actors Auditioned For The Show But Didn’t Make The Cut
Could you ever imagine Friends—or the pop culture landscape in general—if Jennifer Aniston hadn’t been cast as Rachel? What if Will & Grace’s Eric McCormack had played Ross instead of David Schwimmer? There are quite a few stories about the casting of Friends that might surprise you.
On a 2018 episode of You Up with Nikki Glaser, Saved by the Bell star Tiffani Thiessen told listeners that she auditioned for a part on the series.
“Did you know I tested for Friends, for Jennifer Aniston?” she told Glaser. “I was just a little too young. I was a little too young to the pairing of the rest of them.”
Other actresses who vied for the role of Rachel include Jane Krakowski and Téa Leoni. As for Monica, producers had written the part with Janeane Garofalo in mind. The Facts of Life’s Nancy McKeon narrowly lost the role to Courteney Cox, but Leah Remini was another unexpected contender. The King of Queens star said she was devastated when she didn’t land the gig.
As for the men on the show, Friends casting director Ellie Kanner once revealed that Vince Vaughn auditioned to be Joey. However, producers ultimately passed because he was still just an up-and-coming actor. Hank Azaria is another comic actor who read for the part, but at least he eventually earned a recurring role as Phoebe’s boyfriend David.
Jon Favreau and Jon Cryer both auditioned for the role of Chandler Bing, but given their success with Iron Man and Two and a Half Men, respectively, we’d bet they’re not crying over the lost opportunity.
Finally, Mitchell Whitfield made the final round of auditions for Ross, but producers told him to hang tight while they waited on one more actor to read for the part. It turned out to be David Schwimmer.
David Schwimmer Is Actually Younger Than Courteney Cox
Hollywood doesn’t have the best track record of hiring age-appropriate actors for roles, so it’s no surprise that the stars of Friends weren’t all an exact match for their characters. For instance, while Ross is supposed to be Monica’s older brother, David Schwimmer is actually two years younger than Courteney Cox. (He was 28 when cast on the show; she was 30.)
The rest of the casting was hit-or-miss. Friends characters were written to be in the mid-20s, but Lisa Kudrow was 31 when she made her debut as Phoebe. Matt LeBlanc was 27 years old when he first played Joey, while Matthew Perry and Jennifer Aniston were both 25 during the series first season.
The Main Cast Were The Highest-Paid TV Stars At The Time
According to Business Insider, the cast of Friends earned between $22,500 and $40,000 per episode during its first season. They saw a hike to $75,000 per episode during Season 3, and from that point on, their paydays got progressively bigger. For Seasons 7 and 8, they earned 10 times as much, and by the final two seasons, the actors broke records by bringing home $1 million per episode.
And that’s not even counting passive income! In 2015, USA Today reported that the stars earn two percent of syndication income, which amounts to a stunning $20 million annual paycheck for each actor.
Gunther Wasn’t Originally Supposed To Be A Supporting Character
If anyone deserved to be a seventh friend, it was Gunther. But the platinum-haired Central Perk manager never expected to become a fixture on the series. According to Screen Rant, actor James Michael Tyler was a background actor for over a year before producers gave him an actual speaking part. The small role somehow turned into a recurring role, and by Friends‘ end, he had appeared in 185 episodes.
Sadly, in June 2021, Tyler revealed that he has been struggling with prostate cancer since 2018. He told Craig Melvin on Today that the cancer has spread to his bones and spine and that he was undergoing aggressive chemotherapy. He encouraged all men to undergo screenings during their checkups so that they could potentially avoid the situation he is currently faced with.
The Lead Characters Names Were Inspired By A Popular Soap Opera
You might wonder how producers came up with an unusual name like Chandler. It turns out all of the characters on Friends have one thing in common: their names are all related to or inspired by characters on All My Children.
There’s no word on which producer or writer came up with the idea, but Janet Green, Monique Cortland, Ross Chandler, Joe Martin, and Phoebe Tyler Wallingford were all names from the longtime ABC soap opera.
‘Friends’ Had Its Fair Share Of A-List Guest Stars
There is no end to the number of A-list stars who loaned their talent to a Friends episode or two. Who could forget the time Aniston’s then-real-life hubby Brad Pitt played Will Colbert, founder of the “I Hate Rachel Green” fan club?
Then there’s Jon Favreau, actor and creator of The Mandalorian. Although he failed to win the part of Chandler when Friends was first being cast, he eventually appeared in six episodes as Monica’s boyfriend Pete Becker in Season 3.
Other unforgettable guest roles were played by Billy Crystal and Robin Williams (Tomas and Tim), Reese Witherspoon (Rachel’s younger sister Jill), Julia Roberts (Chandler’s former classmate Susie), and Sean Penn (Ursula’s fiancé Eric).
The Fridge In Monica And Rachel’s Apartment Wasn’t Just A Prop
Any Friends superfan can recall the details of Monica and Rachel’s apartment, from the French wall art to the window treatments. But one interesting fact is that the set wasn’t purely for show—some of it was actually functional!
According to Digital Spy, the refrigerators in both apartments were fully operational. The difference is that Monica’s was stocked with beverages for the cast and crew to drink between takes, while Joey’s remained empty. It was a fitting match for their characters.
Pat The Dog Actually Belonged To Jennifer Aniston
It seems the set decorator for Friends had some resourceful methods for finding props. Take Pat the Dog, Joey’s gift to himself after landing an acting gig on Days of Our Lives. The ceramic canine—which made multiple appearances throughout the series—is believed to be Jennifer Aniston’s in real life.
According to CheatSheet, the actress received it as a congratulatory gift for scoring the role as Rachel. (Fun fact: Aniston eventually got herself a real white dog, Dolly, with her ex-husband Justin Theroux.)
Courteney Cox Was Pregnant During The Final Season
Throughout the series, one of Monica and Chandler’s storylines included their struggle to conceive. What some people didn’t know at the time is that Courteney Cox and her then-husband David Arquette also faced similar challenges. Cox suffered multiple miscarriages before she finally became pregnant with her first (and only) child Coco via IVF in 2003.
This coincided with the final season of Friends, which made for strategic choices during filming. Since Monica and Chandler eventually had children via surrogate, producers concealed Cox’s real pregnancy by dressing her in loose clothes and positing her behind props (via Business Insider).