‘Friends’ Stars Threatened to Boycott the Show Unless Their Salaries Were All Equal

They weren’t kidding when they said, “I’ll be there for you,” on Friends.

When it came to promoting salary equality, Jennifer Aniston (Rachel Green) and David Schwimmer (Ross Geller) threatened to boycott filming if their four co-stars didn’t receive equivalent compensation. They even accepted lower pay to make it happen.

All six cast members started out making the same amount. But as things changed on the show, so did the pay rate. Aniston and Schwimmer were not OK with it.

Cast of Friends
Cast of ‘Friends’ | NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images

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Fans became obsessed with the Ross and Rachel storyline

There’s been plenty of coverage about the pay gap between genders. However, one lesser know pay disparity occurs between actors with different levels of popularity.

When Friends began, Aniston, Schwimmer, Lisa Kudrow (Phoebe Buffay), Matt LeBlanc (Joey Tribbiani), Matthew Perry (Chandler Bing), and Courteney Cox (Monica Geller) all made the same amount per episode: $22,500. That’s not a small amount by any stretch, but it was about to increase — by a lot.

Soon after Ross and Rachel started dating on the show, fans started loving them more than the other four characters. And that led to pay increases, but only for Aniston and Schwimmer.

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Iconic.

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The ‘Friends’ cast had to renegotiate for equal pay

Most actors and actresses would chalk up the pay inequality to the nature of the business. But the two stars did not agree with being paid differently for doing the same job.

“I’m aware that I have had a pretty easy time in terms of my experience in the business. But even back on Friends, it wasn’t so much about women being paid the same as men – some of the women were being paid more,” Aniston told Radio Times.

She and Schwimmer weren’t willing to accept that difference. In 1996, the cast formed a solid partnership and threatened “not to show up for the taping or the season’s new shows” if the network wouldn’t negotiate, Standard UK reported.

“[The negotiations were] more about, ‘We’re doing equal work and we all deserve to be compensated in the same way,’” Aniston said. “I wouldn’t feel good going to work knowing someone was getting x amount and I was getting something greater.”

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Cue eyeroll.

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Jennifer Aniston and David Schwimmer took voluntary pay cuts

Even though the network wasn’t willing to pay the other four actors more money, the castmates did come to an agreement when Schwimmer and Aniston decided to take a pay cut. The reported pay rate for all six main characters during season 3 was $75,000 per episode.

And eventually, those tough negotiations paid off. All six lead actors on Friends wound up making the same amount — $1 million per episode — at the height of the show’s popularity during seasons 9 and 10.

That works out to $45,000 per minute of airtime. The Friends stars are some of the top-paid sitcom stars ever, though they don’t make as much as the actors on The Big Bang Theory (who don’t all make the same salary).

No wonder the Friends cast members are friends in real life, too. They’ve always looked out for each other on-screen and off.