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The Untold Truth Of Friends

Given that "Friends" had attracted millions of viewers in its prime (and attracts newcomers and rewatchers to this day), it's safe to say that any die-hard fan could rattle off every trivia fact about the show and its characters. Having had a phenomenal 10-year run, "Friends" followed six twentysomethings -– Ross (David Schwimmer), Rachel (Jennifer Aniston), Monica (Courteney Cox), Phoebe (Lisa Kudrow), Joey (Matt LeBlanc), and Chandler (Matthew Perry) –- as they navigate through the misadventures of their careers and love lives in '90s Manhattan.

There are plenty of trivia factoids well-known to any big fan – Courteney Cox had initially auditioned for Rachel (per Vanity Fair), David Schwimmer directed 10 episodes of the show, the series was filmed in Los Angeles even though it is set in New York City (via The Hollywood Reporter). But there are some behind-the-scenes tidbits that even hardcore "Friends" die-hards might have no idea about. For instance, did you know that one of the stars hated (and still hates) their now-iconic hairstyle? Or that the muse for "Smelly Cat" wasn't a cat at all? As Monica would say, "I know!" Now that you're intrigued, here are some more untold truths about "Friends."

Smelly Cat was actually inspired by a dog

The moment a "Friends" fan hears the words "Smelly Cat," they'll probably find themselves humming the entire melody in their head. "Smelly cat, smelly cat, what are they feeding you..." With a simple rhyme scheme, hilariously amateur composition, and absurd topic, "Smelly Cat" has managed to stay inside our heads and hearts long after it debuted in the sixth episode of Season 2, "The One with the Baby on the Bus."

In an interview with Refinery 29, Betsy Borns (who wrote the episode and co-wrote the song) revealed that her inspiration wasn't a cat at all. "My dog was so smelly his name was Gouda, because he smelled like bad cheese," she explained. Having a foul-smelling pet isn't the only detail from her life that Borns had weaved into her writing. In the same episode, Stephanie (the musician who replaces Phoebe at Central Perk) is named after Borns' sister, and the bar that Chandler and Joey suggest when they ask two ladies out for a drink is called "Markel's," after the father of Borns' boyfriend at the time.

Though it's amusing to think about, "Smelly Dog" probably wouldn't have had the same legacy as one of the show's most memorable running gags, an anthem for "Friends" fans that, according to VH1, even rivaled the popularity of the show's theme song "I'll Be There for You."

Pat the Dog originally belonged to Jennifer Aniston

Joey's white ceramic canine statue that was cleverly named "Pat the Dog" was first seen in Season 2, Episode 17 ("The One Where Eddie Moves In"). It arrives in Joey's new apartment amidst all the other animal statues that he splurges on as part of his "ceramic zoo" collection after his big acting break.

One of the most unforgettable running gags of "Friends" in the form of a prop, the statue becomes a central focus two episodes later in "The One Where Eddie Won't Leave," when Joey can no longer afford to keep his apartment and has to sell all of his ceramic animals. In an attempt to cheer Joey up, Ross buys the dog back for him — it isn't Joey's preference, but it's the one Ross can afford.

Humorously, the real-life origin of the prop isn't too different from its story on the show. The prop was owned by Jennifer Aniston, who had been gifted the statue by a personal friend in anticipation of the sitcom's premiere, much as Joey had gifted himself the statue after landing a big role on "Days of Our Lives."

Lisa Kudrow never learned how to play the guitar properly

An acoustic guitar is one particular prop that immediately comes to mind when we think of Phoebe. It served as both a tool for the musician's part-time job at Central Perk and a vehicle for the quirky character's artistic expression, giving us iconic songs like "Smelly Cat" and "Sticky Shoes." You'd think that the actress playing Phoebe would either need to be a natural guitarist or put in a lot of practice to become proficient. Lisa Kudrow did neither of those things, though it wasn't for lack of trying.

She revealed the truth in NBC's farewell special "Friends: Final Thoughts," saying, "I didn't like the guitar. I wasn't getting it." At one point, she had even asked the show's creators if Phoebe could play bongos instead. After Kudrow had taken a few classes, the creators realized that the scope for comedy had diminished noticeably as Kudrow's guitar skills improved. Kudrow and the creative team decided to make do with the few chords Kudrow knew how to play. Her reasoning: "That's all Phoebe would know anyhow."

Even ahead of the recent "Friends" reunion special on HBO Max, Kudrow had to google the chords to the song in preparation for her "Smelly Cat" duet with Lady Gaga (via The Ellen Show). If you're curious how "Smelly Cat" would sound with bongos, the closest thing we have is Phoebe drumming to the song in Season 4, Episode 18, "The One with Rachel's New Dress."

Jennifer Aniston hated the Rachel haircut

Out of all the possible actors who could hate their character's hairdo, you'd expect one of them to be Courteney Cox. After all, there's the episode in which Monica is accidentally given a "Dudley Moore" haircut by Phoebe, or the time she gets poofy, frizzy hair from the humidity during her stay in Barbados. But believe it or not, it was Jennifer Aniston who hated the famous "Rachel" haircut -– a hairstyle that was continuously imitated by millions of women worldwide and has remained in vogue for more than 20 years after its introduction.

Both Aniston and her character Rachel rose to the status of fashion idols during the '90s (per Elle), having influenced and inspired an entire generation of women's clothing and lifestyle. A prominent aspect of her recognizable fashion choices was "The Rachel," a flicky, shoulder-length, deeply layered hairstyle that the character sported for the first three seasons of the show.

Despite the haircut's simple appearance, critics and fans who had tried to replicate the haircut found that it was challenging to maintain without the help of an experienced, professional hairstylist. "I was not a fan of 'The Rachel,'" Aniston revealed to Glamour. "That was kind of cringe-y for me." Adding to her distaste was the fact that she couldn't do the hairstyle on her own, needing her hairstylist Chris McMillan (who had also designed the hairstyle) "attached to her hip."

The fountain dance was a nightmare to film

Whenever the opening titles of "Friends" kick off with the show's theme song "I'll Be There For You," fans are sure to feel at ease, watching the six main characters dance and goof around in the fountain. It's enough to give fans their own fantasies of dancing around in a pool of water with close friends, splashing off all the worries of life.

But much to our disappointment, it turns out that the cast members did not enjoy filming the fountain scene at all. When Courteney Cox was a guest on "The Ellen Show," Ellen asked whose idea the fountain sequence was. "Well, it definitely wasn't mine," Cox replied. "We were in that fountain for a long time. Somebody thought that would just be really fun, and let me tell you what happens: It's not fun to be dancing in the fountain for hours and hours."

Though it might have been a few seconds of screen time for fans, the cast had to endure long hours of shooting late into the night, with cold weather, icy waters, and damp clothes. Cox continued, "Literally, we were just like, 'How much longer are we going to pretend to love dancing in water?'" Regardless, we can all agree that the cast did a wonderful job of pretending to be having fun, which ultimately made the intro sequence so iconic, ingrained into our memories.

Joey and Monica were the original Ross and Rachel

At the risk of upsetting devoted fans of "Mondler" (Monica + Chandler), some could argue that Ross and Rachel were the central romantic focus of "Friends." Their romance had been set up from the very first scene of the series premiere. When the recently-divorced Ross says he just wants to be married, Rachel steps into the café at that very instance wearing a bridal gown –- a moment that establishes how their relationship would be core to the show's narrative. After that, every single season in the show's 10-year run plays with Ross and Rachel's will-they-won't-they arc, culminating in the series finale with Rachel deciding to stay with Ross instead of leaving for Paris for her new job.

However, the creators revealed (via Emmys) that the decision to have the two as the central couple came after they had tried coupling other characters, especially Joey and Monica, while they were pitching the show. When they had finally cast the characters, they found that Matt LeBlanc brought his "great big brother vibe" to Joey, prompting them to immediately throw out the idea.

On paper, Monica and Joey seem like the ideal couple since, among other things, she enjoys cooking and he enjoys eating. But not everything that sounds good on paper translates to on-screen chemistry between actors, and the creators' ability to make that judgement is what made the sibling-like bond between Monica and Joey so charming.

Joey's iconic catchphrase wasn't introduced until Season 4

Even after having rewatched the show for the umpteenth time, fans might be surprised to note that for the first four seasons of "Friends," Joey never uses his signature "How you doin'?" pickup line while hitting on the numerous girls he goes out with.

The character's catchphrase was introduced in Season 4, Episode 13, "The One With Rachel's Crush." It's when Rachel –- having a crush on her assistant Tag –- seeks Joey's guidance on how to ask men out, as she'd never had to ask anyone out before. Joey reveals that his technique is to look a girl up and down and ask "How YOU doin'?" Though Rachel is doubtful that this tactic will work for herself, she's soon convinced after Joey successfully uses the pickup line on Phoebe.

Since then, the catchphrase has come to represent all that is Joey and how we remember him. Even in the years after "Friends" ended, Matt LeBlanc has encountered several fans who ask him to utter the famous line -– including celebrities like Emilia Clarke, who requested that LeBlanc ask her how she was doing when the two appeared together on "The Graham Norton Show."

Chandler and Phoebe were initially secondary characters

Every single character in the ensemble cast of "Friends" stands out as distinctly memorable and loveable in their own unique ways. This can be credited to the writers, who prioritized giving each of the friends equal importance and making sure that no character felt underused or sidelined in comparison to the others. This has also been mathematically demonstrated by a scientific study that calculated the distribution of jokes and screen time among each character and compared them (via Let the Machines Learn).

As with most of the creative decisions behind the show, even the idea that all six characters would be primary characters wasn't always a given. As per series co-creator Marta Kaufman on the special "Friends: Final Thoughts," Phoebe and Chandler were initially thought of as "a little more secondary." Only after Lisa Kudrow and Matthew Perry were cast did the creators realize how much the actors could contribute, elevating their roles to the level of the show's primary characters as they built their chemistry with their castmates.

The sense of unity among the characters wasn't just an effort on the creators' part — the core cast had gotten along so well that they actually became friends in real life and worked as a unit to negotiate their salaries (per Business Insider).

Lisa Kudrow's performance as Phoebe was inspired by Jennifer Aniston

Fans of "Friends" often tend to assume that Phoebe's spirituality and ditzy characteristics are a part of actor Lisa Kudrow's personality that may have been channeled into the role. Although Kudrow portrays the role so naturally that it's impossible to tell where the actor ends and the character begins, the Emmy Award-winning actress revealed on "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert" that when she had read the pilot script before auditioning for the role of Phoebe, she identified more with Rachel's character. Even after being cast as Phoebe, Kudrow found it difficult to get into the mind of the character. She further revealed to Colbert that a Buzzfeed quiz called "Which 'Friends' character are you?" had also matched Kudrow's personality with Rachel.

Coincidentally, Kudrow found a real-life reference for Phoebe's character through Jennifer Aniston, who ironically was cast as Rachel but was closer to Phoebe's personality, according to Kudrow. Kudrow had borrowed Aniston's spiritual lifestyle and worldview as a frame of reference for how she portrayed Phoebe on screen. Speaking with Easy Living magazine (via What to Watch), Kudrow stated, "Phoebe was so spiritual and 'out there' — and I wasn't at all ... if anyone was, it was Jennifer."

Even the cast and creators didn't think Joey and Rachel should be together

Despite the several instances when Joey had casually flirted with Rachel over the course of "Friends" (beginning within the pilot episode), their friendship often felt more like a sibling bond. At times, Rachel would act like an elder sister to the childlike Joey, most notably when she tries to teach him sailing in "The One With Phoebe's Cookie" and scolds him for not taking the lesson seriously.

The show, however, took an unexpected turn in Season 8 when Joey developed feelings for Rachel, who was at the time pregnant with Ross' child. This resulted in a complicated love triangle plot among Joey, Rachel, and Ross that carried over into the show's ninth and tenth seasons. Fans and critics argued that the actors lacked romantic chemistry with one another, and that the coupling was logical neither on paper nor on-screen.

In the book "Generation Friends: An Inside Look at the Show that Defined a TV Era" (via InStyle), "Friends" co-creator David Crane recalled that the cast had vehemently expressed their distaste for the Rachel/Joey pairing, reasoning that "That's like having a crush on your sister!" Crane admitted in an interview with Radio Times that he knew the idea was controversial and "wrong," which is exactly why he wanted to have the characters try it. "There is the relationship that shouldn't be," he explained. "Even though you love someone, that's not who you're going to be with."

Joey and Phoebe might have ended up together

In addition to the ill-fated Rachel/Joey arc and the Monica/Joey coupling that never even got off the ground, the possibility of Joey and Phoebe ending up together had also been considered by the creative team. Even though the two characters engaged in casual flirtations throughout the series and shared a few kisses (even making a "marriage pact" to get together if they're both single by 40), Joey and Phoebe's friendship never crossed the line into a romantic relationship, no matter how many fans shipped them together. Perhaps this explains why their friendship felt sincere, sweet, and pure, untainted by the turbulence of romantic relationships.

However, towards the end of the show's run, Matt LeBlanc and Lisa Kudrow pitched the idea that Joey and Phoebe had actually been having casual sex through the years. In an interview with People, LeBlanc revealed, "We'd go back and shoot all the historical scenes and just before a moment that everyone recognizes, there's Joey and Phoebe coming out of a broom closet together. But they [the show's creators] were like, 'Nah.'"

Speaking to Metro, series co-creator David Crane explained why the idea was shot down. "It all would have been too tidy and too complete," he said. "When your goal is to keep the six characters in stories together, it would be really easy to go down that road but I think we all felt it would be a mistake."

David Schwimmer initially rejected the role of Ross

Despite all the potential casting options for "Friends," the show's creators were always pretty clear about who they thought would be the best fit for Ross: David Schwimmer. In fact, the actor was the first among the six "Friends" to have been cast. In an interview with "The One Show" (via Digital Spy), series co-creator David Crane revealed that Schwimmer had been approached first, as the character of Ross had been written with Schwimmer's voice in mind. However, Schwimmer had initially turned down the part due to a negative experience he had while working on another sitcom prior to "Friends."

Appearing on "The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon," Schwimmer explained why he had declined the role of Ross. "I had a miserable experience on my first job as a series regular ... a year and a half before 'Friends,'" he recalled. Commenting on the collaborative process on that show, he added, "I felt like I was not invited to play ... my ideas were not listened to. Basically, I felt like a prop." Schwimmer had only decided to give it a shot after director James Burrows (who had previously directed episodes of "Cheers" and "Frasier" and was set to direct the pilot episode of "Friends") personally invited him to meet creators David Crane and Marta Kaufman.