During the long-awaited Friends reunion that started streaming on HBO Max on Thursday, Jennifer Aniston and David Schwimmer revealed they had “major crushes” on each other when they were filming the first couple of seasons of the hit series.
Talk show host James Corden sat down with Aniston, Schwimmer, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matthew Perry, and Matt LeBlanc — who played Rachel, Ross, Monica, Phoebe, Chandler, and Joey, respectively, on the iconic TV series. During the nearly two-hour special, Corden asked the actors if any of them ever participated in any off-screen romances with each other.
“Umm, I mean well, David,” Aniston said, awkwardly pointing to Schwimmer.
“Yeah the first season, we, I, had a major crush on Jen [Aniston],” he responded.
“It was reciprocated,” Aniston chimed in.
Schwimmer continued, “And at some point we were both crushing hard on each other, but it was like two ships passing because one of us was always in a relationship, and we never crossed that boundary. We respected that, but we both…”
Before Schwimmer finished his sentence, LeBlanc cut him off and said, “Bullshit,” then took a sip from his coffee mug. The audience cheered and clapped while Corden, as well as Friends executive producers sitting in the audience, gasped.
“I’m kidding,” LeBlanc joked.
“Honestly, I remember saying one time to David [Schwimmer], it’s gonna be such a bummer if the first time you and I actually kiss is gonna be on national television. Sure enough, first time we kissed is in that coffee shop,” Aniston said, pointing to the stage where Friends’ coffeehouse Central Perk was. “But we just channeled all of our adoration and love for each other into Ross and Rachel.”
The behind-the-scenes revelation is a huge one, considering Ross and Rachel were at the center of an on-again, off-again storyline that lasted all 10 seasons, from the first episode when Rachel leaves her then-fiancé at the altar and walks into the Central Perk coffeehouse wearing a wedding dress.
After Aniston and Schwimmer answered Corden’s question, the reunion special cut to the six Friends actors sitting around Monica’s apartment discussing Ross and Rachel’s first kiss.
“That scene in the coffeehouse where [Ross and Rachel] first kiss … I watched it the other day and I was weeping,” Cox said. “The tension, it was just palpable, it was just perfect. I’m so glad you guys didn’t [kiss offscreen] because, I don’t know, well, you would’ve just been great actors but man, that was something.”
“Yeah, we were really just not great actors,” Aniston joked.
Schwimmer continued to reminisce about filming with Aniston during their first couple of seasons, saying, “I thought back on the first year or two when we had breaks from rehearsal, like there were moments we would cuddle on the couch and I’m thinking, How did not everyone know we were crushing on each other?”
“We knew, we knew,” Perry said.
“We knew for sure,” Cox added.
Schwimmer explained that even though he and Aniston shared a mutual attraction, “it was a situation that we couldn’t — we couldn’t do anything about it.”
“How great, though, ultimately, ’cause if you had and it didn’t work out, it would’ve probably not been as great,” Cox responded.
In addition to Corden interviewing the six actors on the Warner Bros. set in Burbank, California, Friends creators and executive producers Kevin S. Bright, Marta Kauffman, and David Crane also make appearances, sharing details about the genesis of the series. It is in these interviews that the executive producers also reveal that Monica and Chandler’s romance wasn’t originally supposed to last for as long as it did, but they were inspired by the audience’s reaction to the two friends getting together.
“One of the times we listened to the audience the most was when we were shooting in London and Monica and Chandler are in bed together,” Kauffman said.
Crane added, “I think that moment was the beginning of how we rethought Monica and Chandler, because the original plan was they would sleep together in London, it was a brief thing, and we’d have some fun with it afterward with them saying, ‘Oh my god, what did we do?’”
According to Kauffman and Crane, after they filmed the scene when Monica and Chandler first get together in the Season 4 finale, “The One With Ross' Wedding,” the executive producers realized that they needed to “pay attention.”
“That was the end of the season, so we had to really ruminate and think about it, but it was such a powerful moment that we knew we had to explore it more,” Kauffman said. “We still at that point didn’t quite realize how far it would go. We still thought, ‘Maybe it’d be fun with them doing it in secret and hiding it,’ which did give us a lot of funny stuff.”