Director of Friends James Burrows spoke about his experience working on set, discussing some of the problems he encountered with one of the guest stars, calling Helen Baxendale “nice but not funny.”
Back in 1998, during the fourth season, the actress had a brief appearance as Emily Waltham, Ross Geller’s prospective wife.
Despite getting hitched, their marriage did not endure, and they divorced in season five, after Ross made his feelings for Rachel pretty clear.
Although she only appeared in 14 episodes throughout the series, the director has shared the issues he faced with her character in his recent memoir.
“She was nice but not particularly funny. Schwimmer had no one to bounce off. It was like clapping with one hand,” he said.
However, he revealed it wasn’t easy to just recast her, “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,” he said.
“Often, you can’t recast, because of tight shooting deadlines or other logistical considerations. You don’t cast anyone to be a straw man, unless it’s for one episode.
“You need someone who gets laughs. 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.
“The reverse is also true. If there’s chemistry, the writers go to work to figure out some way of keeping the actor.”
Baxendale has openly talked about her experience on the sitcom several times. She previously described it as a “surreal little blip” in her life before going on to feature in a number of British TV sitcoms.
She told The Mirror back in 2012, “I look upon it as a strange surreal little blip in my life almost like a dream.”
But said that the Friends cast were all very welcoming, adding: “They were all very nice and professional. We were never great mates though.
“People expect because it is called Friends that everyone was great friends, but they were real professionals. They’d been doing it for years and I was one of many guest stars to appear.”
Are you surprised by Burrows’ comments?