Love it or hate it, the TV show Friends left an unmistakable mark on the pop culture landscape. These friends, their stories, and that catchy theme song are basically burned onto our brains.
However, a show this rich is full of secrets that many fans don’t know about. And the best example is the very last episode. We’re here to bring you the seven biggest secrets about the series finale that will completely change how you look at Friends.
Leave them wanting more
If you remember, the final season of Friends was a bit short of the usual 22-24 episode season. It came in at only 18 episodes. Even though fans and cast members alike were pushing for more episodes and even more seasons, making this final season short and sweet was very deliberate.
Executive producer Marta Kauffman summed this up nicely for Entertainment Weekly: “You don’t want them to feel like, ‘Thank God it’s over!’ And leaving them wanting more is always a nice thing.”
But the shorter episode count also added to the challenge of writing the last season and final episode. The writers had less screentime to work with but needed to wrap up several important storylines.
‘Ross and Rachel’ was always in the cards
For better or for worse, Ross and Rachel provided the constant romantic tension in the show. They had big “will they or won’t they energy,” and that extended to the final episode. Here, fans bit their nails to see if Rachel would really go to Paris or choose Ross instead.
In reality, the writers always knew they’d be getting the two star-crossed lovers together in the final episode. But this didn’t keep them from using much of that episode to milk even more romantic tension out of Rachel and Ross.
Real emotions and real tears
One of the most difficult acting challenges is crying. It’s one thing to look a bit sad on camera and it’s another thing to get the waterworks going.
However, that “challenge” was no challenge at all for the cast filming the final episode. There were so many tears between takes and behind the scenes that crying on camera was quite easy because all those tears were real!
The cast knew that this was nothing less than the end of an era. And that’s why they did their best to make these special moments last even longer.
Making the moments last
Perhaps the most bittersweet thing about the final episode is that the cast and crew didn’t really want things to end. And they ended up finding almost any reason to make each moment last.
Maggie Wheeler, who played Chandler’s ex Janice, explained this to People Magazine. “The tears were flowing and the entire cast had to go back and have their makeup redone before starting.”
And Aniston backs this up. In an interview with Oprah, she said, “I don’t think we’ve ever taken more time in hair and makeup in between scenes.”
How bad did it get? In her appearance on Inside the Actor’s Studio, Aniston described not wanting things to be over. “It was just awful. The last scene, we just wept, cried our eyes out, in front of the whole show. A couple of us stayed really late and we crawled up to the roof of stage 24 and we drank champagne and just watched the sunrise. It was really wonderful.”
The sadness drove Matt LeBlanc back to a bad habit
The emotional experience of the final episode was overwhelming for all the actors. But the stress and sadness of things being over were enough to drive Matt LeBlanc back to smoking!
At the time, he had famously quit smoking, and it was a major accomplishment in his life. But the sheer stress over his world of 10 years coming to an end was enough to drive him right back into a bad habit.
“I had quit smoking and the last episode, I started smoking again,” LeBlanc revealed in a 2018 interview on Norwegian-Swedish television show Skavlan. “It was very sad…. It was this sort of closing of a chapter in all of our lives that was amazing. There’s only five other people on the planet that know what that was like, to have been a part of [it].”
No tears for Matthew Perry
There was only one member of the cast who didn’t burst into tears on that final day. And that cast member is Matthew Perry.
It wasn’t that he didn’t feel the strong emotions that day. As he later told E!, “I didn’t cry, but I felt like I was about to for like seven hours.”
But it’s possible there was more to Perry’s sadness than you might think. In 2019, US Weekly claimed that Matthew Perry loved Courtney Cox and always had. A source told them, “Matthew’s always been in love with her. Matthew has never fully been able to get over her.”
If that’s true, and since they never got together, the final day of filming was the last day Perry could regularly spend time with the woman he loved.
Brad Pitt missed the taping of the finale for a fateful reason
Four days before filming, Jennifer Aniston and her then-husband Brad Pitt threw a big party for everyone. It was a great chance to send the show off in true style.
However, Pitt caused a bit of a stir in the press when it was revealed he failed to attend the taping of the final Friends episode. “He was working,” Aniston defended him to Vanity Fair.
The movie he was too busy working on to attend the Friends finale? Mr. and Mrs. Smith, where he met his soon-to-be-second-wife Angelina Jolie.
In fact, a year after filming the Friends finale, Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston were divorced. So, the final episode of Friends signified the end of an era in more ways than one.