Seventeen years ago, NBC aired the final episode of Friends — you know, the one where Rachel got off the plane, and Chandler and Monica brought home (surprise!) twins. A lot of time has passed since the series finale, but you wouldn’t know it by the way the cast strolled onto the set for the much-anticipated HBO Max Friends reunion special. The world they stepped back into was far from a “hot set,” of course. Instead, the original sound stage, Stage 24, had been carefully reconstructed over the course of three weeks to capture the one-of-a-kind environment the friends called home for 10 seasons — but the cozy purple walls, apartment decor, and Central Perk vibes felt as familiar as ever.
The heartfelt reunion marked the first time the entire core cast of Jennifer Aniston (Rachel), Courteney Cox (Monica), Lisa Kudrow (Phoebe), Matt LeBlanc (Joey), Matthew Perry (Chandler), and David Schwimmer (Ross) had all been in the same place in almost a decade, as Schwimmer told People. Naturally, the tears flowed. And fortunately for us, so did the secrets and inside jokes. Here are some of the most surprising behind-the-scenes secrets revealed during the Friends reunion on HBO Max, including a real-world crush, a clever way of memorizing all that iconic dialogue, and more.
The Actor Who Almost Played Joey Appeared On The Show
When casting Joey, Friends had trouble finding a womanizing actor-type who was also funny — until LeBlanc came along. Though this led to some disappointed almost-Joeys, it wasn’t the end of the line for one actor who auditioned. Louis Mandylor went on to play Joey’s fake identical twin in “The One with Unagi,” revealed executive producer Kevin Bright.
LeBlanc Had A Risky Audition Approach
The night before his final callback, LeBlanc went out with a friend who suggested the best way to prepare for the part was to drink. “I woke up in the middle of the night at his apartment and had to go to the bathroom, got up too fast ... I kind of blacked out, as you do, and fell face-first into the toilet.” The actor revealed that he lost “a huge chunk of meat” in the process but was honest about the reason for his injury and got the job anyway.
A Real-Life Injury Affected A Classic Episode
Apparently, LeBlanc’s injury-prone antics did not stop with his callback. While filming Season 3’s classic “The One Where No One’s Ready,” the actor tripped over a coffee table and dislocated his shoulder — turning an otherwise simple, self-contained bottle episode into a lengthy shoot. It’s also why Joey is sporting a sling in the next episode, where he’s trying Monica’s jam.
There Was One Difficult Cast Member
While the friends of Friends have long been known for their real-life camaraderie, at least one member of the cast wasn’t so fun to work with — that is, of course, Marcel the capuchin monkey. During the reunion, Schwimmer went on a Ross-level rant about how difficult it was to work with the monkey actor, Katie, who frequently dropped food (i.e., live grub) on the actor between takes. “It was time for Marcel ... to f*ck off,” he said.
Another Show’s Producer Told Aniston Friends Wouldn’t Make Her A Star
It’s hard to imagine a time when Friends wasn’t a pop culture mainstay — or when Aniston wasn’t a major star. But as the award-winning actor revealed during the reunion, a producer of the show she was on pre-Friends wasn’t so convinced. “He goes, ‘I saw that show. I’m gonna tell you something, that show’s not gonna make you a star,’” she recalled.
Schwimmer & Aniston Were Crushing On Each Other IRL
Though the cast never crossed over to more-than-friends IRL, Schwimmer and Aniston came pretty close. The pair revealed that they used to “cuddle and spoon” on the couch between rehearsals, even though they both acknowledged they couldn’t do anything about their growing crush. Their first kiss was their characters’ first kiss, in which Aniston said the actors “channeled all of our adoration and love for each other into Ross and Rachel.”
Ross & Rachel Weren’t Always Going To End Up Together
Speaking of Ross and Rachel...
While the famous will-they-won’t-they couple may have seemed like a foregone conclusion from the start, co-creator Crane said there was discussion about whether or not they would indeed end up together by the finale. Ultimately, he explained, the writers wanted to do right by fans who had been shipping Ross and Rachel for years. So, their dramatic, last-minute reunion in “The Last One” was simply a means of ensuring “that the journey is unexpected.”
Filming The Finale Was Super Emotional
OK, it’s not exactly a secret that ending a beloved series of 10 years would be emotional — but the Friends reunion included footage that showed just how much of a rollercoaster it really was. After the cast walked out of the apartment for the last time, they huddled together in the hallway and cried. Soon after, the set had to be struck down to make room for an incoming pilot, so the cast and crew got together for pizza, beer, and signing the set walls. The messages ranged from the poignant, like Schwimmer’s “the best 10 years of my life,” to the very playfully in-character, like LeBlanc’s “I sh*t here.”