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Friends Actors You May Not Know Passed Away

For ten seasons, David Crane and Marta Kauffman's sitcom Friends was there for us, shaping '90s pop culture and fashion while bringing dozens of hours of laughs that continue even decades later. It wasn't just any regular day at Central Perk coffee shop when Rachel Green (Jennifer Aniston) burst in wearing a frothy wedding dress, looking for her estranged high school bestie Monica Gellar (Courtney Cox) after jilting her fiancé at the altar. In spite of their growing apart and Rachel's ever more abrasive and privileged behavior, Monica invites her into her world and takes the socialite under her slightly more worldly wings, introducing her to her neighbors — dorky IT manager Chandler Bing (Matthew Perry), dimwitted soap opera lothario Joey Tribiani (Matt LeBlanc), and quirky masseuse Phoebe (Lisa Kudrow), as well as reconnecting Rachel with her brother Ross Gellar (David Schwimmer), who had been carrying a secret love torch for Rachel all these years. 

Over the course of a decade, we followed the gang through their ups, downs, and hijinks as they explored love and life in the Big Apple. But a lot has happened in the years since Friends went off the air in 2004, and could we be any sadder to report that several Friends collaborators have left the mortal plane since the show's conclusion? Here are the Friends actors you may not know passed away.

Ron Liebman (Dr. Leonard Green)

Rachel's overbearing father Dr. Leonard Green may only appear in four Friends episodes, but he casts a huge shadow over the show, especially Rachel's character. Dr. Green was extremely well-to-do in his career but equally hands-off with his children, and as a result his three daughters have become absolute spoiled brats who have no idea how the world works at all. 

When we finally meet gruff Dr. Green in season 2's "The One With the Two Parties," so much about Rachel's upbringing and current neuroses becomes clear. We also have some moments of empathy for Rachel, who is desperately trying to break out of the old entitled patterns that no longer serve her as a wannabe self-sufficient career woman. While Dr. Green was a character we loved to hate, we all could agree with him on one thing: Ross is a jerk and Rachel could do better. 

Actor Ron Liebman had a long and distinguished career across movies, television, and the stage that included a Tony Award for his work in Angels in America. Liebman passed away in December of 2019 of pneumonia complications at the age of 82. 

Ron Glass (Russell)

Ross Gellar's relationships are so dysfunctional he's on a first name basis with his divorce attorney, Russell. He's constantly disturbed by Ross' compulsive behavior, but he also recognizes a cash cow when he sees one, calling Ross one of his favorite clients thanks to all the business. Let's not forget that Ross got divorced not once, but twice in a year, first from Emily Waltham (Helen Baxendale) after saying Rachel's name at the altar, and then later from Rachel after a blackout drunk drive-through Elvis wedding in Vegas. Oops and oy vey, respectively. 

Russell is the one to give Rachel the unfortunate news that Ross didn't actually file the annulment papers since he didn't want to be a three-time divorcee, a moment that has big consequences for the entire gang, not just Rachel and Ross. Played by Ron Glass — who is far better known for his roles on Barney Miller and Firefly — Russell was a rare voice of reason on Friends. Glass passed away in November 2016 of undisclosed causes at the age of 71.

Max Wright (Terry)

Before lovesick-for-Rachel Central Perk manager Gunther (James Michael Tyler), for a brief moment in Friends history we had Terry, the surly coffee shop owner whose tongue was as sharp as his black coffee. While only on screen for two episodes, Terry offers the Friends-verse one of the most cruel descriptions of Phoebe's music that is so dreadfully mean it somehow comes all the way back around to funny: "It's not that your friend is bad. It's that she's so bad she makes me want to put my finger through my eye into my brain and swirl it around." Yikes, Terry. 

Thankfully Phoebe never hears these words and continues on her merry weird musical way, albeit outside the coffee shop as long as Terry has anything to say about it. It's also courtesy of Terry that we have one of Friends' most memorable cameos, as Chrissie Hynde from the Pretenders plays an open mic set at the café and eventually Phoebe even teaches her the chorus of her infamous ditty "Smelly Cat." While actor Max Wright might be better known for his turn as Mr. Tanner on ALF, his mark on Friends as Terry is indelible. Wright passed away at the age of 75 in June 2019 after a long struggle with cancer.

Conchata Ferrell (The Judge)

One of the core narrative arcs on Friends was the tumultuous, on-again off-again relationship between Rachel Green and Ross Gellar that brought virtually no end to conflicts within the gang. One of the many turning points in their toxic romance comes when Rachel and Ross get blackout drunk in Vegas and get married. While it's hilarious when the inebriated couple congratulate each other with, "Hello Mrs. Ross!" and "Hello, Mr. Rachel!" it's not so funny when they sober up and Ross realizes he is on the road to a third divorce. 

To avoid this, Ross and Rachel visit a judge hoping for an annulment, which goes characteristically wrong for everyone involved, including the grumpy judge who has no patience for lies or the liars who tell them. Naturally, she denies the annulment. Played by prolific character actress Conchata Ferrell, the judge might only be on screen for one episode, but she's unforgettable. Ferrell died in October 2020 after suffering from heart issues earlier in the year at the age of 77.

Taylor Negron (Allesandro)

A key part of Monica's character arc finds her chasing her lifelong dream of being a chef, and on her difficult road down that path she writes a review of Allesandro's Italian restaurant for the Chelsea Reporter, one that absolutely eviscerates the establishment to such a degree that its owner, Allesandro, actually comes to Monica's apartment to chew her out, pun intended. While there, Monica learns that the reason the food was so bad was because Allesandro doesn't actually know how to cook. Also, he's not even Italian — he's Lebanese. 

After tasting Monica's food, a begrudging Allesandro invites Monica to be his new head chef, which turns into another huge conflict as the old head chef was literally related to everyone else on staff, so their anger turns to her until she concocts shenanigans with Joey in order to get her new staff to take her seriously. Actor Taylor Negron, who memorably brought Allesandro to life, was diagnosed with liver cancer in 2008 and succumbed to the illness in January 2015 at the young age of 57.

Joel Beeson (Todd the Hombre Man)

As a sometimes struggling actor, Joey Tribiani often has to get creative with jobs to pay the bills, especially in the early seasons of Friends before his big break as Dr. Drake Ramore on Days of Our Lives. One of the most memorable of Joey's side hustles happens in "The One With the Breast Milk," in which Joey takes a job as a perfume sprayer (something that totally existed once upon a time) at a large department store. While it should have been a straightforward gig, the hijinks begin when Joey finds competition with the Hombre Man, a handsome and chiseled salesperson for Hombre Cologne, for the affections of pretty Annabel (Emily Proctor). 

As Joey attempts to win her over, and also be the better salesperson, the stoic Hombre Man is eventually revealed to be a poser named Todd who ends the episode fired, leaving Joey to walk off into the "sunset" with Annabel. Tragically, Hombre Man actor Joel Beeson died in October 2017 of a congenital liver disease he had been struggling with for some time. He was only 51.

Robin Williams (Thomas)

There were so many ongoing gags that made Friends surprising and fun for the entirety of its run, from Phoebe's weird little songs to Ross and Rachel drama that took some really strange turns along the way. But one of the other narrative tricks that kept things lively was also the overwhelming number of celebrity cameos, with A-listers often playing love interests for the gang. One of the rare non-romantic cameos comes courtesy of Robin Williams and Billy Crystal as Thomas and Tim in "The One With the Ultimate Fighting Champion." 

Thomas and Tim find themselves on the gang's couch in Central Perk on a particularly busy morning as a hysterical Thomas tries to figure out who might be having an affair with his wife. As it turns out, the cuckolder is Tim himself, which unfolds in dialogue that was improvised by Williams and Crystal on set, according to Screen Rant. The gang is in awe, and rightfully so, watching these two comedic masters at work. Heartbreakingly, absolute mensch Robin Williams died by suicide on August 11, 2014 after a long struggle with a number of physical and mental health issues.

If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

Mary Pat Gleason (Nurse Sizemore)

In classic sitcom style, physical comedy played a huge part in Friends right from the beginning, and "The One With George Stephanopoulos" is no exception. One of the concurrent plots involves Ross moping about his pregnant ex-wife Carol (Jane Sibbett), as Joey and Chandler try to take his mind off of his failed relationship by inviting him out to a hockey game. As a morose Ross continues pointing out every small thing he sees that reminds him of Carol and the fact that she left him for a woman, his friends get increasingly annoyed with him until Ross gets hit square in the face with an errant hockey puck, prompting a sudden trip to the emergency room. 

As Ross bleeds in the waiting room, Chandler deals with grumpy Nurse Sizemore, who is more concerned with her complaint about a candy bar than checking in patients, resulting in some wildly inappropriate banter that eventually leads to the sardonic nurse getting a hockey puck to the face, too. Nurse Sizemore was played by well known character actress Mary Pat Gleason, who passed away of cancer in June 2020 at the age of 70.

Shelley Berman (Mr. Kaplan)

As she settles into life in the Big City, Rachel's first and most convenient job becomes coffee slinger at Central Perk — that is, when she actually remembers someone's correct order, an inability that should have gotten her fired immediately. But because Gunther has an enormous crush on her, her terrible tenure at the coffee shop lasts until Joey gets her a new gig in her preferred field: fashion. As she celebrates making her last cup of coffee (and giving it to Chandler, who ordered tea), Rachel gets a new shock on her first day working with Mr. Kaplan to find out her main duty will be... making coffee to his exact specifications. Oh, Rachel. 

But as aggrieved as she might have been about her new not-so-dream job in fashion, it does end up being a stepping stone for her eventual career with Bloomingdales, so we can thank Mr. Kaplan for giving Rachel her first break, even though it wasn't what she expected. Legendary stand-up comedian and longtime stage and screen character actor Shelley Berman passed away in September of 2017 due to Alzheimer's complications at the age of 92.

Stan Kirsch (Young Ethan)

In "The One With the Ick Factor" Friends indeed goes into some pretty gross territory that likely wouldn't even end up on television today, making it a weirdly standout episode. Monica's dating shenanigans devolve into her going to a college party and pretending to be 22 instead of her actual age of 26. While there, she meets a cute guy named Ethan who says he's a senior and Monica agrees to go out with him even under her false pretenses, thinking he's actually in college. 

After sleeping together, Monica finds out that he's a senior in high school, and only 17 to boot, making this not just an "ick factor," but an actual crime that the SVU detectives could pick her up for. Big whoopsie, Mon. Tragically, young Ethan actor Stan Kirsch, better known for his long run on the Highlander television series, died by suicide in January of 2020 at the young age of 51.

If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

Audra Lindley (Frances)

Frances might only be in one Friends episode, but that episode is a key one for Phoebe's character, changing her entire arc mostly for the better (but also a lot for the weird, as to be expected). Frances was Phoebe's adoptive grandmother, although Pheebs didn't actually know that she and her sister had been adopted at all; all the photographs of her "father" around Frances' house were actually the placeholder images that came with the picture frames, explaining why Phoebe insists for the rest of the series that her grandmother is in Hell. 

Thankfully, though, before Frances' death she guides Phoebe to her actual father, Frank Buffay (Bob Balaban). Phoebe also finds out about her brother, Frank Jr. (Giovanni Ribisi), which sets up many new character arcs for the most eccentric of the Friends and her even stranger family, like the time when she carries her brother and his much older wife's triplets. Frances was played by Audra Lindley, iconic for her role as Mrs. Roper on Three's Company. She died in October of 1997 after a long struggle with leukemia, meaning she never had a chance to see how her small appearance on the show would in fact change pop culture history.

Fred Willard (Dean Lipson)

As a paleontologist who won't shut up about his work, it makes an odd kind of sense that Ross Gellar would one day turn up with a pet monkey, as he does during the first season of Friends. Marcel is a capuchin who starts off sweet, but quickly grows more and more aggressive as he ages, leading to an uncomfortable adulthood in which he cannot stop humping anything that moves (or doesn't), including Rachel's childhood stuffed animals. As his friends get more and more annoyed with Marcel's disruptions, Ross decides to let the Bronx Zoo adopt him. But when he goes to visit, he finds out from shifty zoo administrator Dean Lipson that Marcel has died. Or has he? 

The intrigue builds when a janitor tells Ross that Marcel has been shipped out to California to become an actor in Hollywood, and the zoo wants to keep the information under wraps. When Ross finds out that Marcel will be starring in Outbreak 2 filming locally, he's able to say goodbye to his old friend with his favorite song, "In the Jungle." Comedy icon Fred Willard might only have been on screen briefly in Friends, but he brought his characteristic snark to the role in a way that played perfectly with Ross' "natural" suspicion. Willard passed away in May 2020 of a sudden heart attack at the age of 86, never having retired from his lifelong acting career.

Paul Gleason (Jack)

Friends didn't often go into dream territory, rarely exploring any alternate avenues for the characters or offering fresh perspectives on the past and future of the story. But thankfully, we do have the two-part "The One That Could Have Been," which dives into an alternate universe in which Rachel married Barry, Monica never lost all that weight, Joey stayed on at Days of Our Lives, Chandler is an aspiring comedian, Ross and Carol remain unhappily married, and in the biggest twist of all, Phoebe is an investment banker who chain smokes, rather than a floopy vegetarian masseuse with excellent fashion sense. 

It's in Phoebe's portion of the story that Paul Gleason, The Breakfast Club's very own Principal Vernon, appears as her concerned boss Jack after Phoebe loses millions of dollars on a bad deal and has a heart attack. Gleason passed away in May 2016 at the age of 67 after struggling with mesothelioma and lung cancer complications caused by asbestos exposure.

Kellie Waymire (Colleen)

The show may focus on the six titular friends, but the person who seems to have the biggest community outside the gang is Phoebe, who is constantly introducing the others to folks from various different points in her tumultuous life. In "The One Where Ross is Fine" Phoebe introduces Monica and Chandler to Colleen and her husband Bill, so the Geller-Bings can find out more about how they adopted their son Owen and decide if it's a process they might like to attempt too. Everything is going great until Chandler goes to the bathroom and runs into Owen, mentioning the reason why he and Monica are visiting the house at all. 

The problem is, Owen doesn't know he's adopted, and Chandler has just created an incredibly painful situation for Colleen's family, who Monica and Chandler leave amid screaming, crying, and chaos. We never hear from or about them ever again. Colleen actress Kellie Waymire passed away in November 2003 of a sudden undisclosed illness at the young age of 36, sadly just one short month after her Friends episode aired.