‘Friends’ Gave Lisa Kudrow’s Phoebe a Pregnancy Arc as a Coverup

When a TV character becomes pregnant and the actor in real life is not, the solution is simple: The actor wears a pregnancy belly, as Margot Robbie did playing the pregnant Sharon Tate in Once Upon a Time …  in Hollywood. 

However, when an actress becomes pregnant in real life, the issue is trickier. If the character isn’t supposed to be pregnant, a TV show will sometimes obscure the pregnancy behind large shirts and coats or by having them stand in front of tables a lot.

Sometimes the real-life pregnancy is written into the show. This was the case when Lisa Kudrow was pregnant on NBC sitcom Friends. The only difference: Friends turned her single-child pregnancy into a three-children story arch. 

Why was Lisa Kudrow’s pregnancy scripted in but not Courtney Cox?

Lisa Kudrow as Phoebe Buffay on NBC's 'Friends.'
Lisa Kudrow as Phoebe Buffay on NBC’s ‘Friends.’ | David Hume Kennerly/Getty Images

Kudrow became pregnant in 1997. The actress felt uncertain about Phoebe being pregnant as well, but the writers came up with a clever solution.

According to Mental Floss, the writers made Phoebe a surrogate mother for her brother’s triplets. That way, the pregnancy could be genuine, but it would absolve the show of having to write in baby characters in triplicate. 

The interesting wrinkle here is that in the final season, Courteney Cox became pregnant with her daughter. However, that couldn’t be written into the show without doing a major about-face. Friends had already established that Chandler and Monica could not conceive, so on came the baggy costumes and the concealing furniture placed just so. 

Phoebe being Phoebe, she got attached to the triplets — so much so that she almost refused to hand them over. In the show called “The One Hundredth” (because it was the 100th episode) Phoebe gives birth to a boy and two girls. When Phoebe finally realizes she can’t keep at least one child for herself, she tells the babies she wishes she could take them home but will settle for being their favorite aunt.

ABC’s ‘Once Upon a Time’ handled pregnancy differently

Actress Ginnifer Goodwin had one of the more unique experiences with pregnancy in that she saw both sides of the experience. When she starred in the ABC series Once Upon a Time playing Snow White, life imitated art and she began dating her co-star Josh Dallas, who played Prince Charming. 

When the couple found out they were expecting, the writers made that part of the storyline of the third season, putting the show into a time jump and giving Goodwin’s onscreen daughter Emma (Jennifer Morrison) the opportunity to enact her role as savior once again. 

However, the writers did not repeat this process when Goodwin became pregnant a second time, probably figuring that would suspend too much disbelief. Fortunately, since the show was shot in Canada, there were lots of coats handy to obscure her baby bump.

The decision behind hiding a pregnancy on a TV show

With special effects and plots getting more elaborate for certain shows, one might think it would be easy to write a pregnancy into a superhero show. However, when Danielle Panabaker became pregnant with her first child, it was decided not to make her character Caitlyn pregnant on The Flash

I mean, it’s not up to me. It’s up to the writers,” she said on Entertainment Tonight.  “I told them when I was pregnant and sort of left it up to them to make a plan of however they wanted to [handle it], and I think they have a great vision for the rest of the season. … It is nice though that (alter ego)  Killer Frost’s clothes are a little bit looser than Caitlin’s were. That’s for sure,” she added.

At least when Kudrow had her baby in real life, there was plenty of love to go around on Friends. According to Bustle, Kudrow recalled: “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.”