‘Friends’ Stars Had a Sweet Secret Ritual Before Every Episode

Fans gearing up for a Friends reunion may need to buff up on their trivia. The much anticipated special will appear on HBO Max, although it’s not clear when.

One of the best pieces of trivia about the show is that the cast is friends in real life. The Friends actors are still incredibly close, long after the show started airing.

Unlike most shows, where the cast grows close over the course of many seasons, these guys had a bond right from the beginning, even though they didn’t know each other before being cast. 

The ‘Friends’ stars celebrated being cast in the show at Caesar’s Palace

Lisa Kudrow (top row, 2nd from left) with the rest of the cast of 'Friends'
Lisa Kudrow (top row, 2nd from left) with the rest of the cast of ‘Friends’ | Reisig & Taylor/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images

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Even though their success was far from assured, it seems like Friends cast members had some idea that they were about to make a hit. David Schwimmer, the actor who plays Ross, was cast first. His love interest, Rachel, was cast last. When Jennifer Aniston filled the role, the six actors slated to play the six main characters all took a trip together to Las Vegas. 

They ate dinner at Caesar’s Palace together to take advantage of their “last shot at anonymity.” A lot of shows don’t last very long, so it was brash of the six Friends friends to assume that their show would raise them out of their state of anonymity.

Maybe they were basing their assumptions off of the reactions from the live studio audience. Friends was filmed in front of an audience, as were many shows in the 1990s. One thing is clear, however. This crew was close from before day one. 

The main ‘Friends’ stars had this special ritual

Friends at a counter
The cast of Friends | Getty Images

The fact that Friends was filmed in front of an audience added a level of pressure to the actors. Unlike with recorded shows, the cast would have less leeway to mess up.

If they did make a mistake, it wouldn’t just end up on the cutting room floor. Fans of the show would see, even if the moment wasn’t syndicated. The cast had a special ritual that they performed before every show, and it may have been to help them get over a little bit of stage fright. 

Before filming, the six main actors — Schwimmer, Aniston, along with Matthew Perry, Courtney Cox, Matthew LeBlanc, and Lisa Kudrow — would get together. The six of them would lock themselves away for a private huddle.

Their huddle happened before every episode, and no one else was allowed in. The cast would reportedly wish each other well for their performance. “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,’” recalled Kudrow to People.

Their closeness in real life probably made the show better, but it also increased their earnings. 

The ‘Friends’ negotiated as a unit 

The cast of Friends is well known for breaking salary records when they negotiated a $1 million per episode paycheck. This was no accident.

The cast was smart about the way they approached negotiations, and it was their closeness that led to the raise. The six main actors negotiated as a unit, which is how they managed to finagle the salaries they did.

Often times, studios offer main actors more money, and supporting actors less. When actors band together for a raise, their success is dependent on the other cast members standing firm. Once one member folds, the studio is less likely to give in to the holdouts. 

The Friends group understood that. If one of them had folded during negotiations, none of them would have received the money they asked for. But since all six stood strong, the studio eventually gave in to their high salary demands, and gave them the raise they asked for.

In the beginning of the show, the cast was making $22,000 per episode. By sticking together, they managed to increase their salaries more than 4,000% over the course of the show.