The truest of “Friends” fans can point to one specific episode and know absolutely, positively that that group of pals would have just thrived in quarantine. "The One With the Blackout," from the first season and ever iconic, laid the groundwork as the friends — minus Chandler, who was trapped inside an ATM with a famous model — were confined to Rachel and Monica’s apartment for a night when most of New York City lost power and suddenly went dark.
It was a clever backdrop for some good laughs (Chandler’s antics trying to flirt with the model) and of course drama (the introduction of hot Italian guy Paolo). So it’s too bad, really, that “Friends” didn’t get to have its “Grey’s Anatomy” moment and see how it would have weaved the pandemic into an episode or two.
In light of that lost opportunity, one of the show’s very own stars, Jennifer Aniston, was able to humor us and dream it all up during a conversation Tuesday with TODAY.
“You might have thought the cast of ‘Friends’ was actually in a quarantine because all they did was hang out in the apartment, aside from the coffeehouse,” she said. “But the boys would have figured out a game to play — the one where they didn’t have to drop a ball for how many days,” she said. (Season five’s "The One With the Ball," anyone? Fans love a good callback.)
The friends would absolutely be strict about staying inside, she said — “except maybe not Phoebe so much, because she was a free spirit” — and would’ve been into the nightly ovations for hospital workers that took place across New York City for weeks. And when restrictions would start to lax, the group would still keep contained to their immediate group.
“They would be in each other’s pods,” she said. “So as long as they saw each other, which, well, that’s easy. So we would have Ross’ apartment to go to, we would have Phoebe’s apartment to go to, Rachel and Monica’s, and Joey and Chandler’s. So you have four locations so that they wouldn’t go crazy.”
And, most importantly, their coffee consumption habits would never, ever let up.
“Someone, I think, would probably make the coffee runs. And who would have done that? Everyone. Each and every one would've shared the duty.”
With that important creative exercise out of the way, Aniston was able to touch on other topics during her chat with TODAY, too, like her newest job as chief creative officer with Vital Proteins, a role she says she finds so fulfilling and “so organic to who I am.”
She also delved into the hyped “Friends” reunion that aired on HBO Max in May, when she teamed back up with her old co-stars, Courteney Cox, Matt LeBlanc, Lisa Kudrow, Matthew Perry and David Schwimmer, to reminisce about beloved moments from their 10 years shooting the series together. Quite a few bombshells emerged from the special, a particularly big one being Aniston and Schwimmer’s reveal that they had crushed on each other at the same time their characters were romancing.
Ross and Rachel’s love is still a fixation among fans old and new, even more than a decade after the show wrapped. At the root of it, Aniston says, is that people can see themselves in their relationship.
“I think there was something about unrequited love and really investing in those (relationships),” she said. “I think David and I loved each other — we love each other still to this day — so I do think there was something that had to do with that. And you were investing in something that was very relatable: the one that you never could have or the one you wanted to be with but they couldn't quite get it together.”
While the reunion was peppered with plenty of other big moments, Aniston said there were a few that even took her aback and left her a bit surprised.
“I didn't understand the level of anxiety and self torture (that) was put on Matthew Perry, if he didn't get that laugh, and the devastation that he felt,” she said. “Which makes a lot of sense.” Perry, who played funny guy Chandler, told his castmates during the special that he would sweat and “go into convulsions” if the audience didn’t laugh, to which a shocked Kudrow replied, “You didn't tell us that then.”
Going back to her time on the show brings forth some emotions, Aniston also said, especially watching the particularly poignant scenes from the series. One of them for her is in the finale episode, when Rachel gets off the plane to Paris and returns to Ross’ apartment in a surprise reveal. But most of all, revisiting “Friends” just makes her feel gracious by how drastically it impacted her and her castmates.
“It was just the greatest time in my life,” she said. “I've had so many gorgeous times in my life but that was such a specific experience as an act creatively (and) how it affected all of our careers. We didn't understand in those four walls of stage 24 the impact that it was having on the world, which was also — that was crazy. Talk about emotions.”
What moves her most is grasping the scope of that impact, just how far and wide the show’s reach was then and still is today.
“When (‘Friends’ reunion director) Ben Winston was showing us the videos from all those wonderful people all over the world, not really quite understanding the impact that we had on people's joy,” she explained. “To have an opportunity to land on people's hearts all over the world, that's kind of incredible, whether it was helping them with grief, mental illness, illness of any kind of disease, learning how to speak English. It's just sort of a very — you can't really explain it.”