Friends had a long list of notable guest stars throughout its ten-year run. But many of these actors were reportedly terrified to appear on the show. Friends received 62 Emmy nominations during its ten-year run as a critically acclaimed television series. Slip dresses, “Rachel” cuts, and phrases like “Friend zone” filled the mid-90s and early 2000s with the phenomenon and trend-maker.
After Mad About You and before Seinfeld, Friends premiered on September 22, 1994. George Clooney, Noah Wyle, and Jennifer Grey were the Friends season 1 guest stars. Once Tom Selleck and Julia Roberts were on board, the Friends train only accelerated with celebrities like Charlie Sheen, Isabella Rossellini, Robin Williams, and Billy Crystal appearing on the show before the year 2000. Friends guest stars included Susan Sarandon, Bruce Willis, Denise Richards, Wynona Ryder, Brad Pitt, Freddie Prinze Jr., Selma Blair, Jeff Goldblum, Greg Kinnear, Danny DeVito, and Dakota Fanning in its final four years.
Friends star Jennifer Aniston recently revealed to Pam & Tommy’s Sebastian Stan (via Variety) that most of the series’ guests were “terrified” to appear on the show, despite many of the guest stars being big-screen stars. As the actress asserts, the sitcom’s live audience frightened the movie stars, which Stan readily conceded scared him as well.
Doing in front of a live audience is a unique experience. With the addition of a live audience, the actors immediately feel good and bad reactions.
The live audience was intimidating to everyone, not just the Friends guest stars. I felt like I would die if they didn’t laugh,” Matthew Perry said in an interview with the Independent. “To me, it felt like I was going to die if they didn’t laugh,” he continued. I’d start sweating and convulsing if I didn’t get the laugh I was expecting. “I’d be in a panic.”
All of the guest appearances on Friends are all the more impressive. Consider the incalculable variables that come into play when performing in front of a live audience. As Perry points out in his blog post, film actors may have difficulty adapting their performance to audience reaction times. It may be challenging to remain in character despite the audience’s reaction.