‘Friends’: Hank Azaria Desperately Wanted to Play Joey Before Landing Part of Phoebe’s Love Interest

Friends is one of the most iconic television shows of all time. The series made superstars out of actors like Matt LeBlanc and Jennifer Aniston and created a fan base that is among the most loyal in pop culture.

During its run on television, Friends welcomed a number of A-list actors to make cameo appearances or even as recurring guests. One such guest was Hank Azaria, a talented comedian, and actor who made a splash playing Phoebe’s boyfriend, David “The Science Guy.”

As much as fans loved Azaria in the role, the actor himself admitted that he actually tried out for a much bigger part on the series — the role of Joey Tribbiani. 

When did ‘Friends’ debut on television?

Friends was conceived in the early ’90s, and though it took several years, and a few title changes, it finally debuted on television in 1994. The show featured an ensemble cast and told the story of a group of friends who all lived in New York City.

Throughout the course of the series, the friends, including Phoebe, Joey, Chandler, Ross, Monica, and Rachel, navigate life and love, all while dealing with some truly hilarious situations. The show quickly became a hit, and audiences responded well to the actors themselves as well as to the fresh and funny storylines.

Over the years, Friends won numerous awards and was nominated for even more — still, the affection that the hardcore fans have for the series remains one of the most notable hallmarks of the series that broke so many television barriers. 

Who is Hank Azaria?

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It didn’t take long before Friends began featuring guest stars like Tom Selleck and Brad Pitt. One guest star was Hank Azaria, a young star who did such a great job on the show that he ended up returning in a recurring role.

Azaria first began working in entertainment as a teenager and although his path to stardom was filled with hardship, Azaria ended up making a name for himself as a voice actor in shows like The Simpsons.

In 1994, Azaria was cast on Friends as Phoebe’s boyfriend, David. He made his first appearance on the show in the tenth episode and his performance was received so well that he ended up reprising his role in the seventh and ninth season.

Fans loved Azaria’s hilarious performance, and although he has gone on to work in shows like Huff and Free Agents, many fans still know him best as David “The Science Guy.” 

Hank Azaria wanted the role of Joey in ‘Friends’

Hank Azaria
Hank Azaria | Getty Images

Although Hank Azaria earned a lot of acclaim for his work in Friends, he actually tried out for a much bigger role in the series before it ended up on television. According to a 2014 report, Azaria actually tried out for the role of Joey Tribbiani.

He admitted that he desperately wanted the role, stating that “that’s the only job I ever auditioned for twice. I thought it was so good — they had rejected me once — I said, ‘I’m going back, I’m gonna do it again, I’m gonna try it again.”

Azaria even admitted that he didn’t like Matt LeBlanc’s portrayal of Joey at first, claiming it took a full season before he really believed in the other actor’s performance. However, by the second season, Azaria had to admit that “he really found himself in that role.”

Fortunately, both stars have found their niches in the entertainment business, with LeBlanc beloved by fans around the world for his work in Friends and Azaria for his multitude of impressive performances — including his legendary guest turn in Friends