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Lauren Tom is easily recognizable to Friends fans as Ross Geller’s season 2 girlfriend, Julie. In Friends, Tom played a paleontologist Ross had previously gone to school. When Ross was sent to China for work, he reconnected with Julie. They returned to New York together and began a relationship, much to the chagrin of Rachel Green. Moments before playing a paleontologist, Tom appeared in an episode of The Nanny

Before ‘Friends,’ Lauren Tom appeared in a backdoor pilot 

Before appearing on Friends, Tom appeared in a single episode of The Nanny. Tom’s episode wasn’t just an average The Nanny episode, though. The season 1 episode was supposed to be a backdoor pilot for a show called The Chatterbox

Matt LeBlanc as Joey Tribbiani, Jennifer Aniston as Rachel Green, Courteney Cox as Monica Geller, Matthew Perry as Chandler Bing, Lauren Tom as Julie, and David Schwimmer as Ross Geller in an episode of 'Friends'
Joey Tribbiani, Rachel Green, Monica Geller, Chandler Bing, Julie, and Ross Geller | NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images

In the episode, Tom played Kim, a nail technician working at a beauty salon in Queens. The salon, The Chatterbox, was the salon where Sylvia Fine and Fran Fine both got their hair done. According to the episode, Kim was a highly skilled nail technician who could create elaborate nail art. She also liked to gossip. 

‘The Nanny’ backdoor pilot was scrapped because it was too close to the series 

While CBS initially ordered the backdoor pilot, the episode was never actually spun off into its own show. According to Mental Floss, network executives realized that the potential series looked and felt too much like The Nanny to succeed. 

The series was supposed to focus on a woman named Mary Ruth who takes a job at a beauty salon after being kicked out by her boyfriend. The salon owner, Mr. Anthony, was a single father to one son. Mary Ruth was effectively a copycat of Fran Fine. Mr. Anthony was similar, in story, to  Mr. Sheffield. Kim had characteristics that fans attributed to Niles. 

When did Lauren Tom land the role of Julie on ‘Friends’? 

The Chatterbox pilot, included in season 1 of The Nanny, aired on May 15, 1995. While the series never went anywhere, Tom appeared to have another similarly important role already lined up. She first appeared on Friends as Julie just a few days later. Her first appearance on Friends came in “The One Where Rachel Finds Out.” The episode originally aired on May 18, 1995. 

Joey, Monica and Julie sit in 'Central Perk'
Joey, Monica, and Julie | Gary Null/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images

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Tom went on to appear in seven more episodes. Her character also appeared in two additional flashback episodes and was mentioned twice more, although Tom wasn’t seen. Tom’s role in Friends ended when writers opted to give fans what they wanted and developed Ross and Rachel’s relationship. She last physically appeared in “The One With Russ.”