It might surprise you to realize that the beloved sitcom Friends premiered over 20 years ago! That's right, it was September 22nd when the show burst onto our screens and almost immediately surprised everyone when it became a ratings bonanza.
For the next 10 seasons we got to know and love Ross, Rachel, Monica, Chandler, Joey and Phoebe as we followed their life journeys as 20 and 30-somethings in New York City. However, as familiar as these faces are to us these days, originally the producers of the show, David Crane and Marta Kauffman, had other plans.
Take a look at some of the other actors who were up for the parts of our fave friends, and tell me in the comments below if you could imagine any of them in those famous roles:
Tea Leoni as Rachel Green
Tea Leoni was the producers' first choice to play the part of Rachel Green, which ultimately went to Jennifer Aniston. Leoni passed up the role to star on the sitcom The Naked Truth, which ran for 3 seasons before being cancelled. Rumor is that she chose The Naked Truth over Friends because it put her in a leading role as opposed to an ensemble cast like Friends.
Courteney Cox was also initially brought in to audition for the part of Rachel but requested to audition for the stronger female role of Monica.
Eric McCormack as Ross Geller
The role of Ross was specifically written with David Schwimmer in mind, however at the time he was working on the theater production The Master and Margarita and was hesitant to sign on for a TV series. While the producers worked on winning over Schwimmer, they also auditioned Eric McCormack a few times for the role, however in the end Schwimmer accepted. Despite not getting the role of Ross, things went pretty well for McCormack, the actor starred on sitcom Will & Grace for 10 years.
Hank Azaria as Joey Tribbiani
While Matt LeBlanc eventually landed the part of Joey after impressing producers by crafting the character into a dim-but-lovable Italian, Hank Azaria also really wanted the part. Azaria went so far as to audition for the role twice after being rejected the first time! While he unfortunately didn't win the part, the Simpsons actor did appear in Friends several times as Phoebe's boyfriend, David.
Jon Cryer as Chandler Bing
Much like Tea Leoni, Jon Cryer was another actor who was the first choice for a role in Friends. However, after Cryer missed the casting tape cutoff date he lost out on the part. Other actors up for the role of Chandler included Jon Favreau and Craig Bierko. Bizarrely, Bierko was actually a good friend of the actor who would eventually be cast as Chandler, Matthew Perry.
Leah Remini as Monica Geller
As the most well known of the six actors at the time, Courteney Cox had been approached by the producers to star in Friends, though they originally they had her in mind for the part of Rachel, and in the meantime Leah Remini also auditioned for the role of Monica.
Ellen Degeneres as Phoebe Buffay
There were many big stars up for the role of the alternative goofball, Phoebe, before it eventually went to Lisa Kudrow. While Kathy Griffin and Jane Lynch auditioned for the role, Ellen Degeneres actually won the part but turned it down! In the end, after seeing her guest appearance on Mad About You, Kudrow was welcomed aboard.