First, while filming the pilot of Friends, the network reportedly “got really nervous” that audiences wouldn’t like Monica because she sleeps with Paul the Wine Guy after the first date. So, Lisa Kudrow recalled that while filming, they made up a survey to give to the audience to ask them questions about the show, including if they were fine with Monica sleeping with a guy after only one date.
For “The One After the Super Bowl,” Matthew Perry asked Julia Roberts if she would want to guest star — he apparently sent her a card and flowers — and according to executive producer Kevin Bright, Julia wrote back to Matthew saying, “Write me a paper on quantum physics and I’ll do it.” He apparently wrote the paper and faxed it to her the next day.
Friends is credited with popularizing the term “friend zone” thanks to the episode “The One with the Blackout” where Joey tells Ross that he’s stuck in the friend zone with Rachel.
The now famous moment when Ross says Rachel’s name instead of Emily’s in “The One with Ross’s Wedding” was reportedly inspired by a real-life mistake David Schwimmer made while filming. In the book Generation Friends: An Inside Look at the Show That Defined a Television Era, while rehearsing lines one day, David accidentally said, “Rachel, the taxi’s here” instead of “Emily, the taxi’s here,” and that inspired producer Greg Malins and co-creator David Crane to tweak the end of the episode.
In “The One with Ross’s Wedding,” they filmed all of the interior moments in London in front of a live studio audience, except for the Phoebe scenes which were shot on their usual soundstage in LA. While Friends only taped a typical episode once, for this Season 4 finale they actually “did it three times,” according to co-creator David Crane.
The reveal of Monica and Chandler in bed together in the Season 4 finale received such a wild and positive reaction all three times they performed it in front of the live audience that it actually made the creators change the storyline. At first, Monica and Chandler were just going to sleep together as “a big, quick, funny mistake,” but after the audiences’ reactions, the creators decided to test out Monica and Chandler as a couple.
During Season 5, namely “The One in Vegas,” there was reportedly an initial idea for a storyline that involved Chandler cheating on Monica. The show hired Lisa Cash to play the woman. According to Lisa, she and Matthew Perry even rehearsed the scene, but ultimately Matthew apparently told the writers that he was concerned that fans would “never forgive” Chandler for his actions.
Phoebe’s hilarious “My eyes! My eyes!” moment in “The One Where Everybody Finds Out” was inspired by Matthew Perry. Lisa Kudrow explained that the way she says the line was “how Matthew Perry said things,” and she actually got his permission to perform the moment like he would before they filmed the episode.
Friends dictated a lot of its jokes based on how the live audience reacted during filming. Lines were often re-written if an audience didn’t laugh or actors tried multiple line readings of the same joke to see which one the audience liked best. Due to this, sometimes live tapings reportedly went until 1 or 2 a.m., and sometimes audiences were swapped out halfway through so the “sleepy audience” was replaced with a “fresh one.”
In fact, in “The One with the Embryos,” which is often considered the best Friends episode, the cast and crew reportedly shot numerous versions of the trivia questions Monica, Rachel, Chandler, and Joey answer during the game for the apartment. In the end, they used the ones that got “the biggest laugh possible.”
The turkey that Monica and Joey put on their heads during “The One with All the Thanksgivings” wasn’t a real turkey, but was instead made out of foam. However, writer Greg Malins said he did want a real turkey at first, just so Matt LeBlanc had to put it on, but, “the biggest turkey ever for sale is not big enough to fit a human head.”
While Friends became known for the six core friends — Monica, Rachel, Phoebe, Chandler, Joey, and Ross — NBC reportedly suggested that a seventh character be added so the group would have “an older secondary character.” The network was apparently worried that because of the young cast, they would lose a lot of older viewers.
Jane Krakowski, Bradley Whitford, Neil Patrick Harris, Sandra Bullock, and Molly Ringwald were reportedly among the list of potential actors up for roles in Insomnia Cafe, the original title of Friends.
Production designer John Shaffner is the one who came up with the idea to paint Monica’s apartment the now iconic shade of purple. He recalled that everyone was “really anxious” about it, until he painted his white model of the set purple. John explained his choice saying having the apartment be purple helped establish the show’s identity and set this space apart from other sitcom sets.
As for the iconic burnt orange couch in Central Perk, set decorator Greg Grande said he initially found it while combing through an old basement storage area at Warner Bros. studios, where the show was filmed. After the first rehearsal, the network reportedly questioned why the couch was ripped and not brand-new, but director James Burrows said it made the coffee shop feel “absolutely believable and real.”
Monica’s apartment was furnished by set decorator Greg Grande rummaging through thrift stores, the Rose Bowl and Long Beach swap meets, and the Warner Bros. prop house. You’ll notice all of Monica’s dining table chairs are different because it gave the feeling that she “really couldn’t afford a matched set” and it helped create the backstory that “her Sundays were spent in New York in these parking lot swap meets and she did a lot of mixing and matching.”
Bruce Willis guest-starred on Friends because he lost a bet with Matthew Perry that their film The Whole Nine Yards wouldn’t perform well at the box office. In Matthew’s memoir Friends, Lovers, and the Big Terrible Thing, he explained, “Bruce hadn’t been sure the film would work at all, and I’d bet him it would — if he lost, he had to do a guest spot on Friends.” After his three episodes, Bruce donated his entire paycheck to charity.
When it came to the costume design for Friends, it was important that each character stood out on their own, but also complemented each other. So, costume designer Debra McGuire assigned each character a color palette in Season 1. For the girls, Rachel typically wore greens and blues, Monica stuck to black, white, gray, and burgundy, and Phoebe got brighter colors and floral palettes.
In “The One Where No One’s Ready,” which includes the moment when Joey wears all of Chandler’s clothes, it gives the illusion of being layers of clothes, but costume designer Debra McGuire explained that “it opened from the back…it was actually one garment that you walked into.” The look is so iconic a parka from Balenciaga in 2018 was seemingly inspired by it.
And finally, after filming wrapped, Matthew Perry revealed that he stole the cookie jar with the clock face on it that sat in Monica’s apartment. He ended up giving it to Lisa Kudrow as a present because he remembered one time she “looked at it and thought it was a real clock,” which he found hilarious.