“Friends” almost had a key character recast due to the terrible chemistry

Friends director James Burrows reveals details that could have changed the popular sitcom.

In his new memoir, Directed by James Burrows, the director explains that Ross Geller’s wife Emily was almost recast because of the lack of chemistry between Helen Baxendale (Emily) and David Schwimmer (Ross).

“She was nice but not particularly funny,” Burrows wrote of Helen in his memoir, according to People magazine.

The cast of Friends in a promotional photo for the show

Friends first aired in 1994. (Photo by: David Bjerke/NBCU Photo Bank)

According to the outlet, Burrows explained that it was difficult to find on-screen chemistry like Ross and Rachel (Jennifer Aniston).

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“Schwimmer didn’t have anyone to bounce off of,” Burrows said. “It was like clapping one hand.”

The 82-year-old director continued, “In sitcoms and any kind of romantic comedy, the fun is just as important as the chemistry. We found that any new girlfriend for Ross has to be as funny as Rachel.”

Helen Baxendale and David Schwimmer

Helen Baxendale as Emily Waltham, David Schwimmer as Ross Geller in Friends. (Photo by Joseph Del Valle)

Casting a new actress to portray Emily was never entirely off the table for Burrows, but due to the sitcom’s “tight” schedule, it never materialized.

“Often a recast isn’t possible due to tight shooting schedules or other logistical considerations,” Burrows said. “You need someone to make you laugh. Sometimes you start an arc and it doesn’t work out, so you have to get rid of that person. If it’s a day player, it’s a quick goodbye.”

Burrows said that if the opposite were true and the chemistry was right, “the writers go to work to find a way to keep the actor.”

Jennifer Aniston, David Schwimmer and Helen Baxdale backstage at "Friends"

Ross and Rachel (Jennifer Aniston) eventually rekindled their romance in Friends. (Photo by Oliver Upton/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images via Getty Images)

Baxendale appeared as Emily in a total of 14 episodes and made her debut in the fourth season. Emily and Ross’ wedding took place in season five.


Longtime “Friends” fans will remember their wedding — especially when Ross Geller infamously mumbled Rachel’s name during his vows to Emily.

Eventually, Ross and Rachel got back together. On the Friends reunion special in 2021, Schwimmer shared a glimpse into his and Aniston’s on-screen romance.

The occupation "Friends" drinking milkshakes.

“Friends” went off the air in 2004. (NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images)

“At one point we had a crush on each other,” he began. “But it was like two ships going by because one of us was always in a relationship and we never crossed that line. We respected that.”


Aniston said, “Honestly, I remember once saying to David, ‘It’s going to be such a shame when the first time you and I actually kiss is on national television.'”

Rick Schindler

Rick Schindler is a Worldtimetodays U.S. News Reporter based in Canada. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. Rick Schindler joined Worldtimetodays in 2023 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with me by emailing: RickSchindler@worldtimetodays.com.

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