Working on the hit NBC series, Friends, according to show star Lisa Kudrow, the cast became more than friends. They were like family.
The 57-year-old actor, who played ditzy Phoebe Buffay on the comedy, opened up about what a normal week on the job was like on Friends and how it eventually became the easiest money she ever made.
How Lisa Kudrow was cast as Phoebe Buffay
Kudrow reminisced about getting hired to portray Phoebe Buffay on the series, recalling her audition for the comedy.
“Everyone was talking about this one pilot,” she told Television Academy Foundation in 2012, “called Friends Like These…?…I went straight to the producers, which was good…it went well, and then I had to go in and Jimmy Burrows is directing and I was like, ‘Oh God, he hates me,’ I mean I got fired from Frasier. He was directing and he was the one saying, ‘This isn’t working.’”
“And I did, I auditioned for him and he sees it. He doesn’t crack a smile, nothing. He just says, ‘No notes,’ which either means, forget it or it’s fine the way it is. Then I get called back again…And I got it.”
A week in the life of ‘Friends’
In her conversation, Kudrow described a “typical week” on Friends, making sure to clarify that the first five years on the show were very different from the show’s later years.
“It depends on the first five years or the second five years,” she said. “The first five years, it was Monday, table read. And then we would rehearse. Then Tuesday, rehearse, then run-through until end of the day…10am to 5 or 6 o’clock. Then, Wednesday same thing, network run-through. Then Thursday camera blocking day, we’d all be there, all day into the night sometimes.”
The actor explained that Thursdays were the longest days, starting at 10am with rehearsals, blocking scenes with stand-ins. The audience would arrive around 6pm, after which, “we would shoot for about six hours.” She described finishing up on many Thursdays into the wee hours of the morning.
How ‘Friends’ became a ‘part-time job’
Kudrow revealed that, once the show took off, the actors requested less of these longer days. They were getting older and more famous and felt the work could get done earlier.
“[Those longer hours] are fine when you’re in your twenties,” she said. “I was 31 when we started but when I got pregnant, it was really hard because I was exhausted the whole time.”
The cast negotiated a new deal, part of which included a request to start shooting the show in the afternoons instead of evenings. At first, producers didn’t think anyone would come to the filmings so early in the day. But the now-famous actors put their foot down.
“Everyone was like, ‘Well, I don’t know that we can get an audience that early.’ We sort of went, ‘Really? You think you might not get an audience? You think that the people coming to our show didn’t take off work or they’re not visiting from out of town? I don’t think anybody has anywhere else they need to be.’ We were pretty secure about that,” Kudrow said.
With the show a runaway hit at that point, NBC was not going to argue with its stars and they began filming much earlier in the day. In fact, to hear Kudrow tell it, the job became infinitely easier.
“The longer we did the show,” Kudrow admitted, “we got paid more and worked less. Because everyone had it down and it just wasn’t necessary. So it was like a part-time job. It was unbelievable. And we didn’t come in on Mondays. Table read on Tuesdays…poor writers,” she said laughing.