Once the idea was in place, there was the task of finding the right actors and actresses to bring their ideas to life. Casting director, Ellie Kanner and the three creators worked hard to find the actors to breathe life into their characters. (Monica, Rachel, Phoebe, Ross, Joey, Chandler) For each role, the FRIENDS team saw close to one hundred auditions, but were looking for special qualities that would send the show over the top.
The role of Monica Geller went to Courteney Cox, the only known name in the cast that was later assembled. She was better known for her role as Michael J. Fox's girlfriend in 'Family Ties'. She had also starred in 'The Trouble With Larry' and Jim Carrey's 'Ace Ventura Pet Detective'. Cox was originally planned to take the role of Rachel, but she convinced the creators that she was too neurotic and upbeat to be Rachel and was more suited for the role of Monica. And they agreed.
The Rachel Green role, which eventually went to Jennifer Aniston, ended up becoming the breakout character in the series. From the pilot episode, where Rachel ends up at the gang's hangout, Central Perk, wearing her wedding gown and veil and exclaiming how she left her fiance Barry at the alter, everyone fell in love with her. Aniston was originally supposed to fill the Monica, but when Jennifer walked in, the creators realized that Jennifer was the exact image of the bratty, spoiled yet lovable Rachel.
Lisa Kudrow, who was chosen to play Phoebe Buffay, was selected early in casting. Kudrow also played the ditzy waitress Ursula on 'Mad About You' and continued to keep that role throughout the first several weeks of FRIENDS. Kudrow earned an emmy nomination for best supporting actress.
The part of Joey Tribbiani went to Matt LeBlanc. For television viewers, LeBlanc's face was well known, but you could never remember his name. He starred in the Married with Children spinoff, Top of the Heap. When that didn't take off, the show was retooled and renamed Vinnie and Bobby. He seemed perfect to fit the role of Joey, the struggling actor.
Joey best friend, Chandler Bing, went to Matthew Perry. Matthew grew up in Ottawa, Ontario and moved to Los Angeles to be a tennis player. Most of the content the character Chandler uses is stuff that happens in Matthew Perry's life. For example, Perry went to work one day, and he described a date he went on the night before as okay, but "I'm gonna die alone". That line sound familiar ("The one where Heckles Dies)
The part of Ross Geller went to David Schwimmer. Ross, a paleontologist is a nerdiest hunk on tv. Playing the vulnerable to female and shy kind of guy, Ross immediately became an idle to many female fans. Also, he and Jennifer Aniston's characters (Rachel and Ross) are among the most talked about love couples on tv. Schwimmer earned an Emmy nomination for best supporting actor.
Since its debut season (1994-95), "Friends" has received 12 Emmy nominations, including two for Outstanding Comedy Series. Additionally, the cast won a Screen Actors Guild award in 1996 for Outstanding Ensemble Performance in a Comedy Series.
What Is Friends About ?
The series focuses on a close-knit group of pals, who frequently gather at each other's apartments and share sofa space at Greenwich Village's Central Perk coffee house. Monica Geller (Cox) is a would-be chef with an obsession for neatness and order in her life. Her roommate, Rachel Green (Aniston), is Monica's pampered best friend from high school who now finds herself working as a waitress at Central Perk. Monica's older brother, Ross (Schwimmer), has had a crush on Rachel since school days and only recently acted upon his passion for her. Thrust into bachelorhood when his wife (recurring star Jane Sibbett) announced she was a lesbian and left him, Ross has become more accepting of the situation now that his ex-wife and her companion (recurring star Jessica Hecht) are raising his newborn son, Ben. Living across the hall from Monica and Rachel are roommates Chandler Bing (Perry) and Joey Tribbiani (LeBlanc). Chandler, a wry observer of everyone's life, is a lovable wiseguy who works as a corporate numbers cruncher. Joey, a struggling actor, is more passionate about life. He loves women, sports, New York and most of all, himself. Rounding out the circle of friends is Monica's former college roommate, Phoebe (Kudrow), an offbeat, eternally optimistic folk singer and massage therapist.
According to executive producers Kevin Bright, Marta Kauffman and David Crane: "'Friends' is a show about love, sex, careers and a time in life when everything is possible. It's about searching for commitment and security -- and a fear of commitment and security. And, most of all, it's a show about friendship -- because when a person is young and single in the city, friends and family are synonymous."
Premiere date:September 22, 1994
Starring: Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc, Matthew Perry and David Schwimmer
Recurring stars: Elliot Gould (Mr. Geller); Jessica Hecht (Susan); Christina Pickles (Mrs. Geller); Jane Sibbett (Carol); Marlo Thomas (Mrs. Green); Maggie Wheeler (Janice)
Executive producers/writers: Marta Kauffman and David Crane, Kevin S. Bright.
Created by: Marta Kauffman and David Crane