The One Friends Actor The Show’s Director Didn’t Think Was Funny

Helen Baxendale was not the first choice to play Emily on “Friends.” Producers initially wanted actor and singer Patsy Kensit for the role of Ross Geller’s English love interest (via Entertainment Weekly). When Kensit didn’t work out, showrunner Marta Kauffman was excited to add Baxendale to the cast. “Helen came in and was brilliant,” Kauffman told the outlet in 1998. “It’s a difficult thing we’re asking her to do, because the audience is very resistant to that seventh person coming in. But you can see her being one of your friends.”

Baxendale ultimately played Emily in 14 episodes between 1998 and 1999, but was known more for her poker face than punch lines. Years later, Baxendale discussed if she grew close with the tight-knit, real-life friend group that had already been working together for five years. “They were all very nice and professional. We were never great mates though,” she told The Sunday Mirror in 2012. “People expect because it is called ‘Friends’ that everyone was great friends, but they were real professionals. They’d been doing it for years and I was one of many guest stars to appear.”

A decade later, Baxendale admitted she never sought the superstar fame that the six main “Friends” actors received back in the United States. “I saw those people in ‘Friends…and thought: I don’t think that life is really what I want,” she told The Independent in 2022. “They were hounded. They weren’t able to walk into a supermarket and buy something.” When searching for the words to describe her overall experience with the recognition that came with “Friends,” Baxendale concluded with, “The whole thing was bonkers.”


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