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[Editor’s Note: The following article contains spoilers for “Friends: The Reunion,” which is now available to watch on HBO Max.]
After 10 seasons on the air and 17 years off it, there haven’t been a ton of questions left unanswered about “Friends.” But it wouldn’t be much of a reunion special without a few unconfirmed truths coming to light.
“Friends: The Reunion” blends candid conversations between the six core cast members — Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc, Matthew Perry, and David Schwimmer — with a sit-down panel interview conducted by James Corden and loads of clips from the 10 seasons of “Friends.” There’s a bit of behind-the-scenes footage tossed in, a bloopers segment, new table reads from the stars, interviews with the creators, guest appearances, and even a trivia game modeled after the Central Perk crew’s famous contest in “The One With the Embryos.” No one can say HBO Max came up short in content for the 104-minute special.
Amid the new conversations are a handful of revelations, six of which have been outlined below. These fun facts are by no means an exhaustive recap of the special, nor are they confirmed by anyone outside the reunion. So read on, watch if you want, and enjoy one more walk down memory lane with your favorite “Friends.”
1. Jennifer Aniston and David Schwimmer had crushes on each other during the show’s early seasons.
About 80 minutes into the reunion, during the moderated panel in front of a live audience, James Corden asked the cast if any of them struck up an off-screen romance. Aniston passed the question to Schwimmer, who said, “The first season, I had a major crush on Jen.” Aniston quickly added, “It was reciprocated.”
As the crowd gasped, Schwimmer pressed on. “At some point we were both crushing hard on each other, but it was like two ships passing because one of us was always in a relationship. We never crossed that boundary. We respected that.”
Then LeBlanc, feigning a cough, said, “Bullshit.”
He quickly claimed to be kidding, before Aniston and Schwimmer explained that their first kiss was, in fact, onscreen — when Ross and Rachel made out in the Central Perk doorway.
“We just channeled all our adoration and love for each other into Ross and Rachel,” Aniston said.
Back on the set, with just the six actors, Cox said she’s glad her co-stars never hooked up because their attraction benefited the show. Aniston and Schwimmer then do a table reading of their first kiss, cross-cut with actual footage from the series. After the scene, the two actors talk about how they used to “spoon” and “cuddle” on the living room couch between takes.
“I’m thinking, ‘How did everyone not know we were crushing on each other?’” Schwimmer said, over behind-the-scenes footage of the two flirting.
“We knew,” Perry said, and Cox agreed: “We knew for sure.”
“It was a situation that we couldn’t do anything about,” Schwimmer said. Cox again noted how if they had gotten together in real life, perhaps their characters’ romance would’ve suffered. Alas, we’ll never know how the show would’ve turned out — or if their innocent claims are, as LeBlanc hinted, actually “bullshit.”
2. Matt LeBlanc suffered a dislocated shoulder during shooting — and you can watch it happen!
Even the simplest stunt work can prove costly, as LeBlanc and the “Friends” crew learned while filming “The One Where No One’s Ready.”
In the Season 3 episode, Ross is trying to get everyone ready for a black-tie event at the museum, but Chandler and Joey are busy fighting over a chair. At one point, neither of them is sitting in it, and when Chandler runs to claim the spot, Joey dives over the coffee table into the plush white seat.
According to series creators David Crane and Marta Kauffman, they had gotten three pretty good takes but decided to do a fourth anyway. And that’s when it happened.
“I went to jump over the coffee table and somehow tripped, and my legs went up in the air and my shoulder came out of the socket,” LeBlanc said during the reunion.
The cast then gathers in Monica’s living room to watch the original footage of LeBlanc’s accident. While some are squeamish, others assure them the event isn’t that hard to watch.
“It doesn’t look like anything until I stand up,” LeBlanc said.
“Friends: The Reunion”
Courtesy of HBO Max
Indeed, the footage is rather tame (if still a bit ghoulish to gawk over), until Schwimmer helps LeBlanc stand up and you can see his shoulder drooping to a disturbing low. (As the group watches, Kudrow said, “Oh, it’s going down too far,” referring to his shoulder.) LeBlanc then retreats to the back bedroom, off-camera, and we see Schwimmer follow him, ask for a minute, and then call for the cameras to cut. LeBlanc cries out from off-screen, “Ow!”
Crane and Kauffman explain that they had to write LeBlanc’s injury into the season — in the show, Joey dislocates his arm jumping on the bed — and then they waited until the actor had healed to film the ending of “The One Where No One’s Ready.”
LeBlanc claims the bad luck was caused by the cast neglecting their pre-show tradition: huddling up.
“That’s the one time we didn’t do it,” LeBlanc said of the ritual, before Kudrow explained that it was early in the show and they were worried about making the audience wait, so they decided to skip the huddle.
“After that, we’d say, ‘Do we need to do the huddle?’ and [LeBlanc] would say, ‘Yeah! I don’t want anything else falling off of me!’” Kudrow said.
3. Courteney Cox kept scripts hidden around the set to help remember longer scenes.
As hinted at in the reunion’s teaser trailer (and oft-discussed around Hollywood for years), Cox kept scripts tucked away on set — and even wrote some of her lines on the kitchen table — so she could reference them between takes.
It’s LeBlanc who outs her shortcut in the special: As the cast looks around the old sets, he makes the following quip: “Does Courteney still have her lines written on the table?” Schwimmer laughs, and Kudrow asks, “Really?” LeBlanc goes on, adding that he never knew she did it until he saw her one day, and she told him to “mind your business.” Instead, he erased her scribbled-down reminders as a prank on his co-star.
As Cox walks onto set to join them, you can hear the four of them talking. “There was always a script in the sink,” Kudrow says. “But I never knew why.” “That was Courteney’s script,” LeBlanc says. “Good for her!” Kudrow adds. Later, after LeBlanc recounts the story for Cox (while dabbing her teary eyes), she says, “I had so much of my dialogue within these apples,” she says, picking up the green apples in the kitchen table’s centerpiece. “I have memory issues.”
David Schwimmer in “Friends: The Reunion”
Terence Patrick / HBO Max
4. Celebrity guests include Reese Witherspoon and Lady Gaga singing “Smelly Cat”
Announced guests included David Beckham (who talks about how much he loves the show), BTS (who discuss how it helped them learn English), Justin Bieber (who dressed up as Ross’ Halloween costume Sputnik, aka Doodie, for the fashion show), Cara Delevingne (also part of the fashion show), Cindy Crawford (fashion show), Kit Harington (another fan testimonial), Mindy Kaling (also a fan testimonial), and Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafza, who also reminisced about her fandom of “Friends.”
5. Fan favorites like James Michael Tyler, Maggie Wheeler, and Elliott Gould popped in, too!
There were also a handful of guest stars’ from the series’ original run. Reese Witherspoon kicked things off by heralding the core cast of six; James Michael Tyler (Gunther) said hello via video conference; Maggie Wheeler (Janice) came on-stage during James Corden’s moderated panel with the cast; Elliot Gould and Christina Pickles said hello from the bleachers; Larry Hankin (who played the downstairs neighbor Mr. Heckles), Tom Selleck, and Thomas Lennon (who was Joey’s identical hand twin, before co-starring with Perry in the CBS “Odd Couple” sitcom) appeared during the on-set trivia contest; and LeBlanc himself walked the runway for his castmates, dressed from head-to-toe in all of Chandler’s clothes — and yes, he was undoubtedly going commando.
Missing from the reunion were Paul Rudd (whose character, Mike, ended up marrying Phoebe), Giovanni Ribisi (Phoebe’s brother Frank), Hank Azaria (Phoebe’s on-again, off-again boyfriend David), Cole Sprouse (Ben, Ross’ son), and any of Ross’ exes, be it Jane Sibbett (Carol), Lauren Tom (Julie), Helen Baxendale (Emily), Aisha Tyler (Charlie), or even the great Jessica Hecht (Susan, who married Carol and often got under Ross’ skin).
David Schwimmer and Matthew Perry in “Friends: The Reunion”
Terence Patrick / HBO Max
6. During tapings, Matthew Perry felt like he “was going to die” if he couldn’t get a laugh.
While the special doesn’t delve too deep into, well, much of anything, it does spend a chunk of time addressing how seriously the “Friends” team took their comedy. Writers would listen to the audience during live tapings and rewrite jokes that didn’t work, or weren’t working well enough, and the cast all said they loved the energy of the live audience.
But Perry, who struggled with addiction while shooting the series (to the point where he doesn’t remember large chunks of the work), expressed a deeper anxiety over jokes that didn’t land.
“At least to me, I felt like I was going to die if they didn’t laugh,” Perry said. “It’s not healthy, for sure, but I would sometimes say a line, [the audience] wouldn’t laugh, and I would sweat and just go into convulsions. If I didn’t get the laugh I was supposed to get, I would freak out.”
“It would take you down,” Aniston said, and Perry agreed.
“You didn’t tell us that then,” Kudrow said. “I don’t remember you ever saying that.”
“Oh yeah,” Perry said. “I felt like that every single night.”
From there, the special veers into the benefits of paying such close attention to the live audience (with Kauffman mentioning how the response to Monica and Chandler hooking up in London is why they ended up extending that relationship), but for the rest of the special, if not beyond, it’s hard not to think about what a similar obsession did to Perry.
“Friends: The Reunion”
Courtesy of HBO Max
7. Don’t expect a “Friends” movie or scripted reunion anytime soon.
The question that had to be asked resulted in the same answer that’s been given in various iterations over the last 17 years.
“Has it crossed your mind that maybe we could do another episode? Maybe we could do a movie? Is that something you’d ever even contemplate?” Corden asked.
“No,” Kudrow said. “No, I’m sorry, I haven’t. Because that’s all up to Marta and David, and I once heard them say — and I completely agree — they ended the show very nicely. Everyone’s lives are very nice, and they would have to unravel all those good things for there to be stories. I don’t want anyone’s happy ending unraveled.”
“Also, at my age to be saying ‘floopy’? Stop! You have to grow up,” Kudrow said.
Still, when asked to speculate what’s happened to their characters over the past 17 years, each actor provided an answer — sort of.
“Did we get married?” Aniston asked Schwimmer. “Let’s say we got married.”
“Sure,” Schwimmer said, smiling.
“I think we ended up getting married, we had some kids, and you’re still playing with bones,” she said.
“That’s paleontology,” Schwimmer said.
“I think Monica is still really competitive,” Cox said. “Her kids have probably graduated, but she’s still in charge of the bake sale in elementary school. She’s just gotta keep things going — and you [Chandler] are making me laugh every day.”
“Just wanted to make sure I factored in there somewhere,” Perry said.
“Phoebe is married to Mike, they’re probably in Connecticut, they had kids, and I think she was the advocate for her kids, who were a little different, and all the kids who were a little different,” Kudrow said. “Creating the arts program and the music thing and all that.”
“I think [Joey] probably opened a sandwich shop in Venice Beach,” LeBlanc said.
And there you have it. What could, but undoubtedly won’t, be the final word on the six friends.
“Friends: The Reunion” is available to stream on HBO Max.
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