Sunday, January 27, 2002

What stars did before they were 'Friends'

By John Kiesewetter
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        It just seems like the six Friends always have been “there for you,” as the theme song says. Not many can remember the actors' jobs before the sitcom premiered on Sept. 22, 1994:

        • Courteney Cox Arquette, then known as Courteney Cox, was the most famous of the bunch. She had parlayed an appearance in Bruce Springsteen's “Dancing in the Dark” video into roles on Family Ties and Ace Ventura: Pet Detective.

        • David Schwimmer had played a crime victim befriended by Sherry Stringfield on the first season of NYPD Blue.

        • Lisa Kudrow was the ditzy waitress on Mad About You. The Vassar College graduate had planned to use her biology degree as a scientific researcher until being inspired to perform by her brother's friend, Jon Lovitz.

        • Matt LeBlanc had bounced around making commercials for Levi's 501 jeans, Coca Cola and Doritos, and TV shows like TV 101, Top of the Heap (the short-lived Married ... with Children spin-off) and Showtime's R-rated Red Shoe Diaries.

        • Matthew Perry, who had a recurring role on Growing Pains, had just been a guest star in “a horrible sitcom pilot” at Warner Bros. “He was the only good thing in the show,” says Les Moonves, CBS president and CEO, who was head of Warner Bros. Television at the time.

        • Jennifer Aniston was starring as a teen-ager on a 1994 CBS summer-replacement series called Muddling Through. Mr. Moonves called a pal at Columbia Tri-Star, which was making Muddling Through, and asked for permission to use her in Friends.

        “He allowed us to share her — or she wouldn't have been able to do it,” Mr. Moonves says.

        In a word, the casting of Friends was magic, executive producer and co-creator Marta Kauffman said in a 1998 interview.

        “The stars were aligned, everything fell into place,” she said. “You know, it could have been the same script, and five of these people with one difference, and it wouldn't have been magic.”


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