He may not have joined Friends until Season 9, but Paul Rudd made the most of his 17 episodes on the NBC sitcom. Fans fondly remember Rudd’s character, Mike Hannigan, as the fun-loving boyfriend (and eventual husband) to Lisa Kudrow’s Phoebe who once briefly re-named himself “Crap Bag.” So when it was announced that Rudd wouldn’t appear in Friends: The Reunion, they were rightfully searching for a reason.
Although Rudd hasn’t commented on his absence from the Friends reunion, he explained to Variety last June that he only considered himself a minor part of the series. “In something like Friends, the show was about them, but it’s an interesting thing to be a part of,” he said, referencing the main cast members. “I was only in it for just a blip. I felt, ‘I’m like a prop on this show. It’s not about Mike Hannigan.’ But there’s a very interesting feeling to be a part of something that has that kind of profound impact on pop culture.”
Scheduling also likely played a role. Among Rudd’s upcoming projects slated for 2021 are Apple TV’s The Shrink Next Door, Marvel’s What If...?, and Ghostbusters: Afterlife. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Marvel has also scheduled his movie, Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, which is reportedly now filming, for a February 2023 release.
Interestingly enough, Rudd has previously compared being part of the MCU to joining Friends in 2002. “It’s the one experience I could say felt a little similar, where I kind of join this group... even though I used ‘join’ in quotes — it was like, I get to act in scenes with some iconic characters and actors in the Avengers and it felt a little bit like that, where I came onto Friends, and it was Season 9,” he told Entertainment Tonight in 2019.
Calling his handful of Friends episodes “massive,” he also had a humble assessment of appearing alongside Kudrow, Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Matt LeBlanc, Matthew Perry, and David Schwimmer. “I had never been a part of anything that had that kind of viewership,” he added to ET. “Everybody was very nice, but I never could quite get over the fact that I was sitting in Central Perk, and I just really didn’t want to get in the way. I knew no one was tuning in for Mike Hannigan, so I was like, ‘Oh wow, I’m just going to sit back and kind of observe and enjoy this ride.’”
Rudd did admit to GMA's Robin Roberts in 2018, however, that Mike is one of the few characters fans recognize him for when he's in public. “It's changed over time,” he explained. “Usually if I’m walking down the street now, people just go, ‘Ant-Man.’ And then every once in a while they’ll say, ‘Slap the bass.’ ... And then sometimes I’ll get, ‘How’s Phoebe?’ Those are the only three.”
Although Rudd wasn’t at the HBO Max reunion to answer for himself, Kudrow has her own ideas about where Phoebe and Mike might be today. As the actor explained to People, she imagines Phoebe “is living in Connecticut with Mike and their kids, and she’s in charge of the arts program for the school. And just ... the advocate for her kids because they’re different like she was.”