Twenty years ago today, a bunch of 20-somethings hooked us with their sitcom charm, coffee house banter and trend-setting hair-do’s …ahhh the ’90s…
On September 22, 1994, Rachel, Monica, Ross, Chandler, Joey and Phoebe were introduced to America on the sitcom Friends, and it wasn’t long before the show became a TV hit and a hairstyle-inspiring cultural phenomenon. Fans could relate to their 20-something angst, dating ups and downs, and the idea that when all else fails friends “will be there for you” (to quote the show’s theme song.)
Friends lasted for 10 seasons (not to mention it’s eternal syndication) and a big part of its success was the chemistry of its tight-knit cast that stuck together onscreen and off. What happened when the “Friends” parted ways? Here’s a look at their lives then and now…
Life after Friends: The TV star had movie success in the indie film The Good Girl (2002) and became a rom-com queen in films like Bruce Almighty (2003), The Break-Up (2006), Marley & Me (2008), Horrible Bosses (2011) and We’re the Millers (2013). She also tapped into the sweet smell of success with two of her own celebrity fragrances launched in 2011 and 2014. And she found love again (maybe?): Aniston became engaged to actor Justin Theroux in August 2012, the same year she received her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Cox started out as teen model (hello, Tiger Beat), but got some rock star face time in 1984 when Bruce Springsteen pulled her from the crowd in his music video “Dancing in the Dark.” She played some notable TV girlfriends – first Alex P. Keaton’s (Michael J. Fox) love interest on Family Ties for two seasons and later Jerry Seinfield’s gal pal in one episode of Seinfeld – before she was cast as Friends control freak foodie Monica Gellar.
Life after Friends: Off screen, Cox had a 5-plus-year relationship with actor Michael Keaton, which ended in 1995, the same year she met her future husband and co-star David Arquette on the set of their slasher hit Scream (1996). (The couple has a daughter Coco, whose godmother is none other than Cox’s BFF Jennifer Aniston.) After Friends, Cox returned to TV in 2009 as executive producer and star of Cougar Town, a sitcom about a divorcee and her 40-something friends. She became a real-life divorcee in 2011 when she and Arquette amicably split. But, like buddy Aniston, she found love again: In 2014, Cox announced her engagement to Irish alt rocker Johnny McDaid of the band Snow Patrol, whom she met through songsmith friend Ed Sheeran.
Like his Friends castmates, David Schwimmer appeared in bit roles in TV shows like L.A. Law, The Wonder Years, and NYPD Blue before landing the role of sweet and geeky paleontologist Ross Gellar. The producers actually wrote the role for him, and he supposedly based Ross on Nicolas Cage’s character in the 1986 movie Peggy Sue Got Married. While Ross and Rachel’s on-again-off-again-on-again romance fueled big time ratings, Schwimmer also got busy behind the camera, directing a bunch of episodes.
Life after Friends: After Friends, Schwimmer turned down the Will Smith role in Men In Black for a starring role in The Pallbearer (1996), followed by some more “meh” movies including Kissing a Fool (1998), Six Days Seven Nights (1998), and Picking Up the Pieces (2000), as well as lots of theater work and a TV stint in Steven Spielberg and Tom Hank’s HBO miniseries Band of Brothers (2001). A favorite post-Friends role: he’s the voice of Melman, the giraffe in Madagascar.
Before Friends, LeBlanc’s big claim to fame was starring in a spin-off of Married. . .With Children called Top of the Heap (1991), which was on the air for only seven episodes. He landed the role of struggling actor Joey Tribbiani by playing it dumb for laughs in his audition. Like Aniston’s “Rachel” haircut, LeBlanc stirred up a bit of a pop culture trend with Joey’s favorite pickup line and much repeated TV catchphrase “How you doin’?”
Life after Friends: LeBlanc appeared in movies like Ed (1996), Lost in Space (1998), and Charlie’s Angels (2000). But he earned bigger bragging rights as the only Friends cast member to get his own spin-off Joey, which followed his character out to L.A. to pursue his acting career. Joey aired for two seasons from 2004 to 2006, after which LeBlanc took a four-year hiatus from acting. In 2012, the now silver fox made a triumphant return to TV, playing himself in Episodes, the BBCTwo/Showtime series co-created by Friends creator David Crane, which earned LeBlanc a Golden Globe for Best Actor.
Perry got his acting start as a teenager playing opposite River Phoenix in a little known film called A Night in the Life of Jimmy Reardon (1988). He followed that with guest spots on shows like Empty Nest, Growing Pains and Beverly Hills 90210, before landing the role of sarcastic Chandler Bing. During the show’s run, Perry moonlighted in movies including Fools Rush In (1997) with Salma Hayek, Almost Heroes (1998) with Chris Farley, and The Whole Nine Yards (2000) with Bruce Willis. But off screen Perry struggled with addiction to both alcohol and prescription medications, leading to stays in and out of rehab.
Life after Friends: In the 2000s, Perry got sober and turned his Malibu beach home into Perry House, a sober living facility for men. He made guest appearances as associate White House counsel Joe Quincy on The West Wing, which earned him two Emmy nominations. He also guest starred on The Good Wife and played an older version of Zac Efron in the movie 17 Again (2009). Perry is producing, writing and starring in a TV remake of The Odd Couple, in which he plays slobby sports writer Oscar Madison.
After training with the comedy troupe The Groundlings, Lisa Kudrow landed a recurring role playing Ursula Buffay, an oddball waitress in Mad About You. This opened the door to playing Phoebe, Ursula’s equally oddball but much nicer twin sister/masseuse/really bad singer/songwriter on Friends. Cue Phoebe’s horribly good song “Smelly Cat.”
Life after Friends: Kudrow made a huge funny in the movie Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion (1997) with Mira Sorvino. In 2009, she reunited with Courteney Cox for an episode of Cougar Town where she played a nasty dermatologist. But it’s Web Therapy, the hilarious improv web series turned Showtime show produced, written by and starring Kudrow, that really launched her back into the spotlight. In November 2014, Kudrow also brought back Valerie Cherish, her washed-up sitcom character turned reality TV star, on HBO’s The Comeback. The show, co-created with Sex and the City’s Michael Patrick King, first aired in 2005 and its hilarious critique of reality TV became even more relevant in its second season, almost 10 years after its premiere. If that’s not enough Kudrow for you, you can also see the busy star in a recurring role as Josie Marcus, an idealistic Montana congresswoman in Scandal, and behind the camera she’s one of the executive producers of the genealogy show Who Do You Think You Are where celebs, like her, explore their family trees.
(Feature photo: © Warner Bros./Photofest)