The Secret Reason You Still Love the Friends Cast to This Day

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Lisa Kudrow, Wikipedia Commons

The Friends cast stole America’s hearts.

Friends, a popular American sitcom that follows the lives of six New York friends, perhaps gained its fan base–in part–due to an all-star cast who convincingly brought the characters to life. This cast successfully used great cast chemistry and ordinary conversation, rather than plot action, to attract viewers for ten years.

Jennifer Aniston played Rachel Green, a confused and slightly spoiled fashion lover who moves in with her childhood best friend, Monica, after leaving her fiance at the altar. Rachel takes a job waitressing, then doing personal shopping and buying for upscale retail stores, all while dating. Although several men become part of her life throughout the series, the on-again-off-again relationship she can’t seem to let go of is with Monica’s brother Ross.

Courteney Cox played Monica Geller, the most driven and responsible (and parental) member of the six. A successful chef, Monica means well, but is often too competitive and controlling. She too dates throughout the series, but becomes wrapped up with her brother’s former college roommate, Chandler, when they impulsively connect at a wedding.

Lisa Kudrow played Phoebe Buffay, a ditzy but well-liked masseuse with a dysfunctional upbringing. Phoebe’s story pulls out all the stops: an unknown birth mother, a father who abandoned her, an adopted mother who committed suicide, a newly discovered half-brother. Her character, who also dates several men before latching on to piano player Mike Hannigan, is unpredictable and that’s her charm. them propose to her. 

Matt LeBlanc played Joey Tribbiani, a fun-loving aspiring actor who loves women and picks them up with juvenile catch phrases like, “How you doin’?”. Joey meets the group when Chandler selects him as a roommate after another guy doesn’t work out. He mostly dates characters outside of their circle, and dates them only briefly, although he eventually considers trying a relationship with Rachel.

Matthew Perry played Chandler Bing, a business executive who hates his job in corporate America. Chandler is a unique mix as he was raised by a novelist and burlesque star. He is known for delivering sarcastic one liners ad being awkward around women, but does eventually stumble into an unexpected relationship with Monica while attending a wedding. Over time, he also quits his corporate job to become a copywriter.

David Schwimmer played Ross Geller, who is both Monica’s older brother and Chandler’s college roommate. Ross is a somewhat nerdy and socially awkward paleontologist who works at a museum and as a professor. Ross is easy going and good natured, but unsuccessful in relationships. He quickly racks up three divorces. He reveals early on, however, that he’s had a crush on Rachel since she and Monica were childhood friends, and that he even almost invited her to prom. Ross and Rachel spend much of the series cyclically dating, trying to figure out if they can make it as a couple.

Although these six actors and their respective characters arguably became some of the most well loved in history, many of their roles evolved differently than the show’s creators originaly anticipated. Although they wrote the part of Ross for David Schwimmer, they had pictured Courteney Cox as Monica, for example. Courteney had to convince them she was better in the role of Monica.  Matt LeBlanc was also said to add some character traits to Joey’s character–like big-heartedness and a somewhat dim-witted personality–that the writers didn’t expect. Other characters were also tweaked to better fit the cast, especially int he first season. Overall, there may have been some initial uncertainties about the cast–the biggest of which is the network pushed writers to hire LeBlanc, even though he wasn’t their first choice. However, by the series conclusion, it was clear that the cast had been chosen and evolved into a massively successful ensemble. They became not only some of the most loved, but also some of the best paid actors on television, with Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, and Lisa Kudrow becoming the highest paid women on TV.

The love leaked onto the sitcom from real life.

The cast is rumored to have got along well. They even sometimes watched their show together and brainstormed as a group about how to improve it. Over time, all six of them consistently claimed to be friends, and each of them also is known to have suggested they grew to relate as family over time.

The cast’s closeness may have helped them on the financial front it turns out, as they became the first cast known to collectively negotiate to be paid the same amount. Although initially, their stance forced Jennifer Aniston and David Schwimmer to take pay cuts (since the network insisted on paying all six based on the rate of the least paid cast member), their tactics paid off over time. Their earnings jumped each year from $75,000 for each episode in season three, $85,000 in season four, $100,000 in season five, $125,000 in season six, $750,000 in seasons seven and eight, and $1 million in seasons nine and ten. In 2000, they even scored a piece of the syndication profits, which is rare.

But it had made sense for the cast to stick together. After all the show’s creator, David Crane, had meticulously worked to make all six characters equally strong. And the cast members themselves also invested in preventing any one actor from dominating, even going as far to enter all of the actors in the same acting categories (rather than registering some as leads and others as supporting roles).

The Friends cast’s cohesiveness even seemed to extend beyond the conclusion of the series, with Courteney Cox even naming Jennifer Aniston as godmother to her daughter. Since the show’s end, fans have clamored for a Friends reunion show or film, but so far, the show’s creators have insisted that the characters have now married and started families and thus outgrown the lifestyle that made Friends work. Fans can, however, find out where the Friends cast is now and explore Friends merchandise that’s been released.

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