Director James Burrows wrote is his memoir that he never found Helen Baxendale, who played Ross Geller’s wife, “particularly funny” and felt she lacked chemistry with actor David Schwimmer
In his new memoir Directed By James Burrows, the 82-year-old director strongly hinted that the ’90s sitcom nearly recast Helen Baxendale, who played Ross Geller’s (David Schwimmer) fling–turned–wife–turned–ex Emily. The reason? She just wasn’t as funny as star Jennifer Aniston, who played Ross’s “lobster” Rachel Green.
“She was nice, but not particularly funny,” Burrows wrote of Baxendale.
Burrows believed that Baxendale, 53, and Schwimmer, 56, lacked natural on-screen chemistry compared to Ross and Rachel.
“Schwimmer had no one to bounce off,” he explained. “It was like clapping with one hand.”
He continued, “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.”
And even though casting a new Emily wasn’t completely off the table, Burrow wrote that it would have been difficult due to the show’s “tight” deadlines, among other issues.
“Often, you can’t recast, because of tight shooting deadlines or other logistical considerations,” he explained. “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.”
Burrows also noted that the reverse was true, adding, “If there’s chemistry, the writers go to work to figure out some way of keeping the actor.”
Baxendale’s character was first introduced in season 4, appearing in a total of 14 episodes. Emily and Ross tied the knot in season 5, but Friends fans will remember that their wedding was anything but a celebratory occasion — he infamously uttered Rachel’s name during the vows instead of hers.
Ross and Emily’s marriage didn’t last long. Emily wanted Ross to agree not to see Rachel anymore, which he refused to do. When she admitted she couldn’t trust her husband, their relationship ended. Emily was written off the show, coincidental timing for Baxendale, who was also pregnant with her first child at the time.
In the end, Ross and Rachel eventually renewed their romance. And although Schwimmer and Aniston, 54, never dated in real life, the actors’ chemistry was apparent in real life too.
“At some point, we were crushing hard on each other,” Schwimmer said of Aniston during the Friends reunion special in 2021. “But it was like two ships passing because one of us was always in a relationship and we never crossed that boundary. We respected that.”
Aniston chimed in at the time, “Honestly, I remember saying one time to David, ‘It’s going to be such a bummer if the first time you and I actually kiss is going to be on national television.'”
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