Friends Director Shares The Guest Star He Struggled To Work With The Most Because She ‘Wasn’t Funny’

James Burrows has revealed that he struggled to work with one Friends guest star in particular.
Credit: Alamy & NBC

James Burrows has revealed that he struggled to work with one guest star on Friends in particular – and he savagely added that it’s because she ‘wasn’t funny’. 

Friends is an American TV show which aired on NBC between 1994 and 2004 and throughout its run it received huge praise, becoming one of the most popular sitcoms of all time.

It had an ensemble cast starring Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc, Matthew Perry and David Schwimmer.

The sitcom revolved around six friends who lived in Manhattan, New York City, during their 20s and 30s.

Throughout its run, it had a number of celebrity guests, including Bruce Willis, Brad Pitt and Ben Stiller.

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Many of these stars made a mark on the show and feature in fans’ most favourite episodes but according to Friends director Burrows, he struggled to work with one guest in particular.

He’s admitted that it was hard work filming with guest star Helen Baxendale due to her ‘not being funny’ – ouch.

Baxendale played one of the many fiancées of Ross Geller (played by Schwimmer) as she appeared as British Emily Waltham in 14 episodes of the show.

One of her most memorable scenes is when she’s about to tie the knot to Ross when he accidentally calls her by his ex-girlfriend Rachel’s name at the altar – which eventually leads to their divorce.

Mostly, Baxendale’s short stint on the show was down to the fact that she and her husband, David L. Williams, were expecting their first child.

However, Burrows has now revealed that the other actors on set found it difficult to ‘bounce off her’.

Helen Baxendale as Emily in Friends.
Friends director James Burrow has revealed it was difficult working with Helen Baxendale as she ‘wasn’t funny’. Credit: NBC

In his memoir ‘Directed by James Burrows’, he recalls the episode titled ‘The One with All The Rugby’, commenting: “She was nice but not particularly funny. Schwimmer had no one to bounce off. It was like clapping with one hand.”

The director goes on to say: “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.

“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.”

Burrows goes on to explain that while a character may have originally been intended for the long run, this can change – and for a character who was meant to only have a short stint on the show ‘the reverse is also true’.

But the director of Friends isn’t the only one to call out a guest star on the sitcom.

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When appearing on The Howard Stern Show alongside Cox and Kudrow, Aniston revealed that there was a male actor on set who was unpleasant.

The We’re the Millers actress recalled: “The funny thing is, that male did apologise about their behaviour years later and just said, ‘I was so nervous, to be honest, that I wasn’t on my best behaviour’.

“It was as if they were just too ‘above’ this to be on a sitcom.”

Stern went on to ask the cast if they were talking about Tom Selleck, who played a recurring role as Monica’s boyfriend, Dr Richard Burke.

“It was Tom. You just don’t know how cruel and unusual he is,” Aniston jokingly confirmed.

She went on to add: “Tom has an angel’s halo over his head, it’s just a permanent halo over Tom’s head.”

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