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Friends fans, this is how close we got to a show without David Schwimmer

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Lauren Geall
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Ross and Rachel in Friends

According to a new book released for Friends’ 25th anniversary, David Schwimmer did not want to sign on to the show at first.      

If you hadn’t already guessed by the endless number of articles, social media posts and hashtags making the rounds, Friends’ 25th anniversary is fast approaching. The Central Perk gang have officially been in our lives for a quarter of a century – but as it turns out, one of the show’s most beloved characters nearly looked very different.

According to a new book by journalist Saul Austerlitz, David Schwimmer was pretty reluctant to sign onto the sit-com’s pilot in 1994.

The book, called Generation Friends: An Inside Look at the Show That Defined a Television Era, reveals how the show’s creators Marta Kauffman and David Crane were ready to offer him the role without him even having to audition – a “rare privilege” for a young actor. 

In fact, they had already wanted him for a pilot called Couples earlier, but the network had insisted they picked someone else. It was only when they came to write Friends that they wrote the character of Ross with Schwimmer in mind.

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“There was only one problem: Schwimmer did not want to do the show,” Austerlitz writes, according to People. “More than that, he did not want to do any more television at all.”

As you can probably imagine, Schwimmer’s wasn’t a thoughtless response – in fact, he was apparently tired of shooting pilots that never made it to air, and wanted to focus on his Chicago theatre company, Lookingglass.

And that’s how ER star Noah Wyle came to audition for the role – he landed ER instead, but was to become available for Friends if the show fell through. However, when ER became a blazing success, the show’s producers had to head back to the drawing board.

But that wasn’t the end of Noah Wyle’s Friends career, as eagle-eyed viewers of the show will know. While he was starring on ER, Wyle made a sneaky guest appearance on Friends as a doctor dating Rachel and Monica, alongside George Clooney. 

Friends cast
Friends: the cast all together.

After a number of other unsuccessful auditions for Ross, including Mitchell Whitfield, the actor who came to play Rachel’s fiancé Barry, Schwimmer’s agent was able to convince him to finally take a look at the script, and he agreed to read for the role. The rest, as they say, is history.

And Ross isn’t the only character who was nearly played by a completely different actor. Vince Vaughn – Jennifer Aniston’s co-star in The Break Up – originally auditioned for the role of Joey, but the casting director said he just wasn’t the right fit. It’s hard to image a world without Matt LeBlanc’s impeccable charm and cries of “How You Doin?” so we’re lucky Vaughn didn’t quite make the cut.

Matthew Perry almost missed out on the chance to play Chandler Bing, too: Jon Favreau originally auditioned for the role, but ultimately turned it down. 

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