‘Friends’ Cast Had a Sweet Ritual to Honor Lisa Kudrow’s Pregnancy
TV shows that run for many years sometimes have to figure out what to do if real life intrudes and one of the actresses gets pregnant. Should the show write the pregnancy into the script or try to hide the growing bump?
I’ll be there for you
The popular Friends show aired on NBC for ten years, running from 1994 to 2004 as part of the channel’s “Must See TV” lineup on Thursday nights. The show has continued airing in syndication and on multiple streaming platforms, introducing the friends to new viewers.
The friends included six single New Yorkers in their 20s, and over the years, the six faced career and relationship challenges as they moved into their 30s. Many of the scenes were in two apartments across the hall from each other. Monica Geller (played by Courteney Cox) and Rachel Green (played by Jennifer Aniston) lived in one, while Joey Tribbiani (played by Matt LeBlanc) and Chandler Bing (played by Matthew Perry) lived in the other.
The on-again, off-again dating relationship between Rachel and Monica’s brother, Ross Geller (played by David Schwimmer), was a central focus throughout all the years. And, the sixth friend, Phoebe Buffay, was played by Kudrow. The musician and masseuse had previously been Monica’s roommate.
Phoebe Buffay’s pregnancy storyline
When Kudrow became pregnant in real life in 1997, the show created a pregnancy in seasons four and five for her character as well. Rather than create a relationship for Phoebe, the show incorporated her half-brother, Frank (played by Giovanni Ribisi). Phoebe became the surrogate for Frank and his wife, delivering triplets for them.
According to Scoop Whoop, Kudrow did need to wear padding to make it look like she was having triplets, since in real life, she was pregnant with just one baby. As Blast mentions, it was hard for Phoebe to give up the babies and become their aunt, but making her a surrogate also meant the writers didn’t need to add babies to the cast or alter Phoebe’s life by making her a mother. The triplets were born in the 100th episode of the series, which aired on October 8, 1998, as episode three of season five.
Lisa Kudrow’s real pregnancy
Kudrow’s son, Julian Murray Stern, was born before the triplets were. Kudrow gave birth to her son between seasons four and five, on May 7, 1998, and wore padding to film the early episodes of season five. The baby’s father is French advertising executive Michel Stern, whom Kudrow married in 1995.
The timing of Kudrow’s real pregnancy meant she couldn’t join the rest of the cast in London to film Ross’s wedding at the end of season four. This kept Phoebe at home too. Baby Julian was born the same day that the second part of the wedding episode premiered.
The cast had a tradition of huddling before each episode and made it a point to include a shoutout to Kudrow’s fetus. The actress told People: “The six of us would do a huddle backstage and just say, ‘All right, have a good show, love you love you love you love you.’ And when I was pregnant, then they would say, ‘Have a great show, love you love you — love you, little Julian!’ ‘Cause we knew it was a boy and that was his name.”
Other Friends pregnancies were handled differently. Rachel Green’s pregnancy was created with padding, as Aniston was not pregnant, while Cox’s pregnancy was hidden, since Monica and Chandler had infertility issues. Helen Baxendale, who played Ross’s wife Emily, was also pregnant at the end of season four, but was written out during season five at her request before the pregnancy was noticeable, according to Comedy Central.
TV show writers can’t control all the factors that affect their plotlines, and the lives of their actors do sometimes intrude. Luckily, Kudrow’s pregnancy let Friends run with the zany story of Phoebe having her brother’s babies.