The unexpected back-story of how the cast of Friends actually came to be on the show

And where they are now.

When Friends burst onto the scene in 1994, it launched six relatively unknown actors into super-stardom. Over the course of a decade (and 10 seasons) we grew with the Friends cast, Chandler, Monica, Joey, Phoebe, Rachel and Ross, watching them go from 20-somethings to fully-fledged adults with careers, relationships and babies. The show cemented itself into pop culture iconicity, birthing catchphrases, haircuts and an unabating plethora of fans from Gen Xers to Millennials and even Gen Zs.

While the world is still reeling from the untimely death of Matthew Perry, we’re looking back on the Friends cast and what they have been up to since the iconic series wrapped up almost 20 years ago.

Matthew Perry (Chandler Bing)

Matthew Perry stole our hearts with the boyish charm and blunt sarcasm he brought to the character of Chandler Bing. Whilst its hard to imagine any other combination of actors besides the iconic Friends cast, Matthew Perry almost didn’t play the iconic role. In a 2015 interview with Seth Meyers, Perry recalled how “terrible” manager signed him up for a show called LAX 2194 that was about baggage handlers at LA Airport in the year 2194.

Perry read the script for Chandler Bing and loved the role but was already locked into an air-tight contract with LAX 2194. The actor almost had to pass on the role until a Fox executive watched the sci-fi show and called it called it “The worst thing we’ve ever seen in our lives,” according to Perry, who was immediately released from his contract and well… the rest is history!

Matthew Perry wears a striped shirt for a promotional shoot for Friends

Following the finale of Friends, Perry picked up a few movie roles including a part in the film 17 Again alongside Zac Efron. Besides his work as an actor, Perry also became a public advocate for those struggling with addiction, which he was transparent about in numerous interviews and his 2022 memoir, Friends, Lovers And The Big Terrible Thing. The actor was also a celebrity spokesperson for the National Association of Drug Court Professionals in support of funding for drug courts and was in the midst of launching a foundation to help those with addiction when he unexpectedly died on October 28, 2023.

Friends actor Matthew Perry who played Chandler Bing on Friends attends 2022 GQ Men Of The Year Party Hosted By Global Editorial Director Will Welch

Jennifer Aniston (Rachel Green)

The daughter of two Hollywood stars, Jennifer Aniston was always destined for greatness. Aniston’s portrayal of the spoiled, yet sweet, Rachel Green made her an overnight sensation.

Previously, Aniston had starred in the television adaptation of Ferris Bueller and had just landed a role on Muddling Through when she read the script for Friends. Much like her co-star, Matthew Perry, Aniston loved the role but was locked into another series which prevented her from accepting the gig.

Talking to Gayle King, Aniston recalled the sage advice she was given by a showrunner when she accepted the role of Rachel Green on Friends. “‘I’ve seen that show Friends,'” Aniston recalled to King. “I saw the pilot. That’s not going to make you a star. This show will make you a star.” and, well… we all know how that story ended.

Jennifer Aniston portrays Rachel Green from Friends wearing a black mini dress and heels whilst sporting the rachel haircut

Aniston, now 54, enjoyed relative and consistent success following the finale of Friends in 2004. The actress found herself in a number of comedy films such as the Horrible Bosses movies (2011 and 2014), We’re the Millers (2013), and starred alongside Adam Sandler in Just Go With It (2011) and Murder Mystery (2019 and 2023).

Aniston also had two high-profile marriages to fellow movie stars Brad Pitt and Justin Theroux. Most recently, she has found herself back on the silver screen alongside her former Friends castmate Reese Witherspoon on the Apple TV+ series, The Morning Show.

Being solely responsible for popularising an entire haircut, it’s hardly surprising that Aniston also went on to launch a haircare brand in 2021 called LolaVie.

Jennifer Aniston wears a black top and leather pants to the special screening of Apple's "The Morning Show" at The Ham Yard Hotel

Courteney Cox (Monica Geller)

Courteney Cox already had an impressive repertoire of high-profile acting gigs under her belt before she became the beloved neat-freak Monica Geller on Friends. Cox had appeared opposite Michael J Fox on Family Ties, in Bruce Springsteen’s Dancing in the Dark music video and alongside Jim Carrey in Ace Ventura: Pet Detective.

Cox originally auditioned for the role of Rachel Green but instead nabbed Monica Geller, the bossy perfectionist.

Courteney Cox wearing a brown skirt and white cardigan during a promotional shoot for friends

Cox arguably landed herself a part in the most successful post-Friends sitcom, Cougar Town, which ran from 2009-2015. More recently, Cox has appeared in the thriller series Shining Vale, in which she portrays a frustrated writer who draws inspiration from a 1950s housewife ghost (Mira Sorvino) who haunts her house.

Besides acting, Courteney Cox has also stepped into the realm of celebrity-owned brands by launching Homecourt. In true Monica Geller fashion, the brand is centred around homecare, cleaning and luxury fragrances.

Friends actress Courteney Cox attends Celine at The Wiltern

David Schwimmer (Ross Geller)

David Schwimmer portrayed Ross Geller, a palaeontologist who finds himself in an on-again off-again relationship with Rachel Green throughout the show’s 10 seasons. Schwimmer, who had an extensive television and theatre background, was the only Friends cast member whose role was specifically created with the actor in mind.

“Tried to get David, David has quit television. He’s had a miserable experience doing another show, he’s moved back to Chicago to just do theatre. And we had to beg him and besiege him, “We wrote this for you!” the show’s co-creator David Crane recalled during the 2021 Friends reunion.

Schwimmer was also a key figure in negotiating alongside the Friends cast to secure record-breaking salaries of up to US$1 million per episode during the last two seasons.

David Shwimmer as Ross Geller wearing a red button shirt and jeans.

Post-Friends, Schwimmer continued his acting work both on and off the screen, starring in a number of roles including his portrayal of Robert Kardashian in the first season of the FX series American Crime Story.

David Schwimmer wears a black suit on the red carpet for conversation with James Burrows at The 92nd Street Y, New York

Lisa Kudrow (Phoebe Buffay)

Lisa Kudrow portrayed the ever-eccentric Phoebe Buffay in Friends. Similar to her other co-stars, Kudrow almost didn’t make it to our screens as Phoebe, but not because of a contractual obligation.

On the Jess Cagle Podcast with Julia Cunningham, Kudrow revealed that a misunderstanding with Friends director Jim Burrows lead to her being booted off from the Frasier pilot two years prior to her audition for Friends.

“I was… mistakenly cast, Ididn’t know that at the time,” Kudrow recalled to Cunningham. “I knew that Jim clocked that I was wrong from the table read and so I thought, ‘Oh he doesn’t like me or what I do.’”

Kudrow explained that Burrows asked her come in and do an extra audition just for him. The actress explained that shortly after that, the two quickly put their past experiences aside for the sake of the show.

Lisa Kudrow who plays Phoebe in friends wears a white shirt

During and after Friends, Kudrow landed a number of impressive film and television roles from The Simpsons to Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion. Kudrow managed to nab two more Emmy nominations after her time on Friends, which added to the six nods she received during her time on the iconic sitcom.

Lisa Kudrow wears a black blazer for the Carol Burnett: 90 Years of Laughter + Love" Birthday Special at Avalon Hollywood

Matt LeBlanc (Joey Tribbiani)

Matt LeBlanc won millions over with his portrayal of the lady-magnet actor with a heart of gold, Joey Tribbiani. Besides a few minor television appearances, LeBlanc was a relatively unknown actor prior to landing the role of Joey. When Friends wrapped up in 2004, LeBlanc continued to portray Joey in a short-lived, self-titled spin off series.

Matt LeBlanc wears a white button shirt and jeans for a Friends promo shoot

Since Friends, LeBlanc has pursued a number of television and film endeavours. He is perhaps most fondly remembered for co-hosting Top Gear from 2016 to 2019. More recently, LeBlanc portrayed patriarch Adam Burns in the sitcom Man with a Plan which wrapped up in 2020.

Matt LeBlanc wears a pale blue suit on the red carpet for Children's Hospital Los Angeles 2022 CHLA Gala at Barker Hangar

If you or someone you know has been affected by any of the issues raised in this article, help is always available. Call Lifeline on 13 11 14.

Related stories