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The Untold Truth Of The Friends Reunion Special

As a wise man once said, "So no one told you life was gonna be this way." That is certainly true for the cast of the megahit sitcom "Friends." Many of them were up-and-coming actors (did you know Jennifer Aniston starred in "Leprechaun" the year before "Friends"?) when they landed their parts on the show, but now, nearly 30 years later, they have gone on to become some of the most well-known celebrities in the entire world. There are tons of things to unpack regarding the 10 year long journey that was making one of the most popular TV shows in history. And that's exactly what the cast is going to do when they appear on HBO Max's "Friends: The Reunion."

Jennifer Aniston (Rachel), Courteney Cox (Monica), Lisa Kudrow (Phoebe), Matt LeBlanc (Joey), Matthew Perry (Chandler), and David Schwimmer (Ross) will all be sitting down together to publicly discuss "Friends" for the first time since the show ended in 2004. We've already seen a trailer for the special and got some details about what to expect. But what's the story behind the reunion, why is it such an important moment for the cast, and, more importantly, why is Malala going to be there?

We're going to dig into those questions and more while we get to the truth of "Friends: The Reunion."

Fans have been hoping for a Friends reunion for over a decade

"Friends" fans have pretty much been clamoring to see the cast get back together since the end credits first rolled on "The Last One Part 2." In the nearly 20 years since the finale aired, there have been enough rumors about a potential reunion to fill one of those giant Central Perk mugs. None of them quite came to fruition, though, which is part of what makes "Friends: The Reunion" such a monumental occasion.

Back in 2014, the 20th anniversary of the year the show first premiered, "Friends" creators David Crane and Marta Kauffman threw cold water on the rumors of a forthcoming reunion or spin-off during an interview with Entertainment Weekly. Regarding the idea of a continuation of the character's stories, Kauffman said, "The show is over. What was at the heart of the show is done." The pair acknowledged that they had been approached about the prospect multiple times, but, as Crane put it, "We don't think it's a very good idea. It's like, we all worked hard to put the perfect bow on this. What are you doing?"

Then in 2016, there was official word that a reunion was indeed happening (via Time). However, when fans read the fine print, they realized that only five members of the cast would be coming together as part of a larger event honoring veteran TV director James Burrows. It was a lovely moment, but not quite the "Friends" reunion fans had been pining for. Thankfully, "Friends: The Reunion" is poised to deliver just that.

The stars of Friends remain close, but they don't all get together that often

While the prospect of a "Friends" reunion is exciting, some fans were no doubt hoping for a new scripted special featuring the characters themselves. However, having all six main cast members together and reminiscing about the series is actually a pretty significant event. Despite maintaining their friendships, it's very rare to get all six of them in the same place.

During a People interview about the reunion, Schwimmer revealed, "We've only been together once, I believe, nine years ago, in the same room until yesterday ... the whole cast hasn't been together in quite some time."

Meanwhile, Cox has a different recollection of when the cast last got together, but one that still backs up the gist of Schwimmer's point. While making an appearance on Kevin Nealon's web series "Hiking" (via Insider), she said that the cast had all gotten together recently, likely referencing a 2019 photo of all six of them from Jennifer Aniston's Instagram. But she also clarified that, to her recollection, they had only reunited as a group twice since the series ended.

Don't worry about them struggling to rekindle that famous chemistry, though. LeBlanc assured People, "It's funny, when we do get together, it's like no time has passed. I mean, I think everybody sort of has a relationship like that in their life. We get together and it's like, we pick up right where we left off."

Why the cast of Friends is excited to reminisce about the show

While being interviewed on Kevin Nealon's "Hiking," Cox revealed another reason why "Friends: The Reunion" is such a special event: "But we really haven't all done that and actually sat there and talked about and reminisced about this incredible experience we all had."

Getting everyone together to share memories from the show will not only be a thrill for viewers at home, but also for the stars. As you can imagine, it's not always easy to recall specific memories from something that happened several decades ago, even if that something was one of the biggest sitcoms of all time. Kudrow spoke to this during an interview with Entertainment Weekly, in which she revealed, "I haven't seen some of the later episodes, to be honest ... And then I don't rewatch them. So it's really fun to talk about things."

She went on to add, "Someone remembers it one way and someone remembers something else about it altogether, and I don't know, it's really fun. It's great." As for who has the best memories out of the cast? According to Kudrow, "Jennifer [Aniston] remembers everything and [Matt] LeBlanc remembers everything. And I remember nothing."

Friends: The Reunion might have had a different host

"Friends: The Reunion" is promising to be a dynamic event. The cast will do readings of fan-favorite scenes, play a version of Ross' iconic trivia game, and participate in an interview with the eponymous host of "The Late Late Show with James Corden." While some fans aren't excited about the prospect of Corden being tapped to appear on the reunion special (via NBC), his job as a talk show host does make him qualified for the gig. He wasn't the first name being bandied about by the rumor mill, though.

Way back in February 2020, Ellen DeGeneres was speculated to be the most likely host for the event (via NY Post). Obviously, that did not end up happening. Considering the tentative nature of the rumor, the reunion being postponed for over a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and DeGeneres' subsequent controversies surrounding allegations that her show is a toxic work environment, it's not entirely surprising that someone else ended up taking over hosting duties.

How the Friends: The Reunion was produced

Lest you think that "Friends: The Reunion" will be little more than the cast sitting on a bare soundstage together, according to a report from TMZ, it was a three-day shoot that took place on several of the iconic sets from the series and featured a live audience. Who was lucky enough to be in attendance? According to TMZ's source, the audience was seemingly made up primarily of paid union extras who had been COVID-19 tested and screened for the shoot. And before you ask, yes, the stars got paid for the reunion, as well. According to Variety, each of the six main cast members got at least $2.5 million for their time.

There may have also been some contest winners in the audience. Back in April 2020, Aniston took to Instagram to post a throwback photo of the cast and the details of how fans could enter to win exclusive tickets to the show. Hopefully, the reunion's delay didn't put a damper on the winner's trip.

Somebody who did have an inside scoop on the filming was the Twitter fan account @MatthewPerryNew. They posted several images from the reunion set, including guest badges, a Central Perk themed gift bag, and the outdoor fountain set with the live audience looking down at the iconic orange couch.

The celebrity Friends fans who will make an appearance

There are a lot of exciting aspects of "Friends: The Reunion," but one of the most thrilling is the special's long list of guest stars. Exactly what role each will play in the reunion remains to be seen. But the fact that fans will get to catch up with Maggie Wheeler aka Janice, Tom Selleck aka Dr. Richard Burke, and Reese Witherspoon aka Rachel's youngest sister Jill, among others, makes the event feel all the more special.

There are also a handful of celebrities who will be stopping by who didn't guest star on the series. At first glance, some are a bit of a head-scratcher. Why exactly is Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai going to be rubbing elbows with "Game of Thrones" star Kit Harington and soccer legend David Beckham? We can't speak personally as to why each of these guest stars chose to get involved, but they have previously expressed some "Friends" or "Friends" adjacent affinity.

Savannah Walsh of Vanity Fair had the same question about Malala and pointed to an interview where the activist expressed a love of feel-good sitcoms as a likely explanation. Meanwhile, Harrington was on a 2015 episode of The Graham Norton Show with LeBlanc where he joked about getting acting lessons from Joey while watching the show as a kid. And Beckham is known for wearing his affinity for the show on his chest ... literally. In 2020, he posted an Instagram snap of himself decked out in a "Friends" t-shirt (via Today).

You can join those celebs on a fountain dance down memory lane by checking out "Friends: The Reunion," premiering on May 27 on HBO Max.