Friends nearly recast Emily role over lack of chemistry with David Schwimmer, director says

Friends nearly recast Emily role over lack of chemistry with David Schwimmer, director says

Poor Emily can't catch a break. Not only did she come between one of the most popular relationships on television — only to get humiliated at the altar — but she almost lost her job too.

Well, not Emily per se, but Helen Baxendale, the actress who played the doomed second Mrs. Ross Geller on the hit sitcom Friends.

According to legendary TV director James Burrows' recent memoir, appropriately titled Directed by James Burrows, the NBC series nearly replaced Baxendale because David Schwimmer (who played Ross) couldn't "bounce off" her the way he did with Jennifer Aniston (who played Rachel).

Helen Baxendale Jennifer Aniston
Helen Baxendale Jennifer Aniston

Anthony Harvey/Getty, Steve Granitz/FilmMagi Helen Baxendale and Jennifer Aniston

"She was nice, but not particularly funny," Burrows writes of Baxendale, according to PEOPLE. Burrows, who directed 15 episode of the beloved Must See TV show, felt that Baxendale and Schwimmer just didn't have the same kind of classic rom-com chemistry that Schwimmer and Aniston had in spades.

"Schwimmer had no one to bounce off," he writes. "It was like clapping with one hand."

Burrows continues, "In sitcoms and any type of romantic comedy, the funny is just as important as the chemistry. We discovered that any new girlfriend for Ross needed to be as funny as Rachel."


While recasting Baxendale was an option, it wasn't an ideal solution, with Burrows noting that often "you can't recast" because of "tight shooting deadlines or other logistical considerations."

"You need someone who gets laughs," he writes. "Sometimes you start an arc and it ain't working out, so you have to get rid of that person. If it's a day player, it's a quick goodbye."

If someone's landing jokes left and right, however, Burrows adds that the opposite is true and "the writers go to work to figure out some way of keeping the actor."

Despite being nice but not funny, Baxendale played Emily for 14 episodes across seasons 4 and 5 of Friends. And, of course, she and Ross got married (but did they, though?), even after Ross "mistakenly" said Rachel's name instead of Emily's at the altar.

From there it was only a matter of time before viewers said goodbye to Emily and plunged headfirst into five more seasons of Ross and Rachel figuring it out, proving that Emily probably dodged a huge bullet.

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