Friends Cast: The Actors Who Almost Played the Leading Role
Friends has a stellar and well-loved cast, but many other notable actors almost steal the six lead roles themselves.
The stellar cast of Friends makes it hard to imagine anyone else taking their place, but there are plenty of famous people who initially auditioned for these iconic roles. "Friends" is one of the most successful sitcoms of the past few decades, constantly attracting new fans in the streaming age. The chemistry between the friends is palpable, but what happens if none of the original six play their roles?
Although the roles seem tailor-made for these performers, only a handful of the six main characters in Friends were written for specific actors. Others required hundreds of auditions, including some of today's most recognizable comedians. Thankfully, creators David Crane and Marta Kauffman's meticulous process found their perfect cast. However, there are many other actors who almost make it.
Lisa Kudrow was one of the original cast members in Friends. Although Kudrow auditioned twice, she eventually won over producers with her portrayal of Ursula Buffy on NBC's "Crazy For You" thanks to her eccentric charm and impeccable comedic timing . Kudrow was able to play both roles, and Friends even included Ursula in the show as Phoebe's twin elder sister.
There were rumors that Ellen DeGeneres had turned down her own NBC series of the same name, but DeGeneres denied this in 2015 on The Howard Stern Show. A number of other actresses have been rumored to have auditioned for the role of Phoebe, including Kathy Griffin and Jane Lynch, but Lynch told The Huffington Post that she never auditioned. While all of these women have had successful acting careers in comedy, it's hard to imagine any of them taking Kudrow's shoes. Kudrow brings uniqueness and likability to a role that might have seemed ridiculous in other actresses' pens.
Of all six friends, Rachel Green is arguably the star of the show. The Friends pilot revolved around Rachel leaving her ex and starting a life of her own. Throughout the ten seasons, Rachel has arguably developed the most character. Therefore, Rachel is an important character. Courteney Cox was originally brought on to play Rachel, but was eventually drawn to Monica's strong personality.
Besides Cox, many other actresses were considered for the role of Rachel. Jami Gertz auditioned and was The segment was originally provided by NBC execs (via Vanity Fair). However, Crane didn't think she was Rachel, and Gertz passed the role on to her anyway. Gertz went on to become a regular on the ER series and was nominated for an Emmy for her role in Ally McBeal. According to E! News, Jane Krakowski also auditioned to play Rachel alongside Goetz and Cox. Krakowski went on to star in two comedy ensemble shows, 30 Rock and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmitt.
Before Cox expressed interest in Monica Geller, the creators chose Jenny Garofalo, whose voice Crane and Kaufman had in mind when writing the character (from " Vanity Fair"). Garofalo went on to appear in many films, including Wet Hot American Summer and Reality Bites. Leah Remini made it to the final rounds of auditions for Monica, but when she met Cox (via US Sun) in the parking lot, she knew she had lost it Role.
Remini played a pregnant woman named Lydia in "Friends", who bonded with Joey over basketball in "Birthchild". After starring in "Friends," Remini played the role of Carrie Heffernan in "King of Queens." Nancy McKeon also auditioned part and previously had ensemble experience playing Jo on The Facts Of Life. In an interview with Vanity Fair, Kaufman said the final decision was between McKean and Cox, who came across as "more maternal" than the other actresses who auditioned.
As one of the central characters in Friends, Ross Geller is crucial to casting the character correctly. While he may be socially awkward, the actor needs to be both likable and intelligent. According to an interview with The Guardian, Mitchell Whitfield went very far during the audition process, but ended up playing Rachel's ex-fiancé, Dr. Barry Farber. Eric McCormack auditioned for Ross multiple times, but failed, leading to his eventual starring role in Will & Grace. McCormack also told Vanity Fair that the pilot's producer and director, James Burrows, told him years later, "Honey, you're wasting your time. They wrote it for Schwimmer."
Although many actors came close to playing Ross, But Klein and Kaufman were most impressed by Schwimmer, who had auditioned for another pilot a year earlier. Schwimmer was initially reluctant to leave theater after a bad experience with the short-lived TV stint The sitcom before it was conquered. It's hard to imagine anyone else emulating Rose's poise and wide range of quotes.
The character of Joey was originally conceived as a traditional girl in Friends, but LeBron brings sweetness to him. In an interview with People magazine, Hank Azaria said he auditioned twice for the role of Joey. He wasn't right for the role, but he did appear in Friends as Phoebe's love interest, David. Louis Mandylor was another actor who auditioned for Joy but ended up in a smaller role years later (The Hollywood Reporter). Ironically, Mandylor plays a lookalike of Joey, who tries to make some quick bucks by impersonating his "identical twin." Mandylor is also known as Nick Portokalos in the series My Big Fat Greek Wedding.
Vince Vaughn also auditioned for the role. While casting directors were impressed with his performance, he wasn't who they envisioned for the role (via The Huffington Post). Interestingly, LeBlanc's audition didn't initially fit Crane and Kauffman's vision for Joey either. Klein told Vanity Fair that "Joey was never stupid when we pitched the show," but LeBron's stupidity came out really well. This led the creators to realize that Matt LeBlanc's portrayal of Joey as a simple-minded man with a big heart in "Friends" was a boon to the sitcom.
Chandler Bing turned out to be the most difficult character to pick. Creators need someone who can deliver dry humor without coming across as a jerk. While Matthew Perry was considered for the role early on, he was committed to another pilot about baggage handlers, a show called LAX 2194. Perry directed Craig Bilko in the role of Chandler because he didn't think he was right for Friends. His direction proved helpful, as producers approached Bierko for the role, but Bierko turned it down. Fortunately for Friends, Perry was able to take up the role (via Vanity Fair) when the sitcom didn't launch.
Jon Cryer of Two Halves of Heroes also auditioned for the part, but his audition tape was lost by the carrier and was never reviewed (via Page Six). Jon Favreau also came close to playing Chandler, but he turned it down to focus instead on writing, co-producing and starring in Swingers (from Esquire). Favreau ended up appearing in Friends as Pete Becker, Monica's wealthy boyfriend. After starring in Friends, Favreau has continued to develop his career both in front of and behind the camera. He's been an important figure in the early MCU and Star Wars universes, with his resume including directing Iron Man and creating The Mandalorian.