Okay, we’re going to drop some seriously crazy knowledge on you. Did you know that Friends has been off the air for nearly 15 years now? That’s right — the show started in 1994 and wrapped in 2004. It seems like it was only last year, though, because of how often it appears on television in reruns. And, of course, there’s Netflix — countless new fans have discovered the show on Netflix. Even though some of the fashion may be a little dated, there’s something that’s still so relevant about the adventures of the group of six in New York City. They’re all trying to figure their lives out, from career to love, and the audience is just along for the ride!
Given that the show aired for ten seasons, it obviously had quite a few guest stars over the years. After all, sometimes you need a little excitement to keep the audience enthusiastic season after season. There were a few guest-stars who had larger roles and were in two or three episodes, and then there are some who just appeared for one storyline in one episode. While you might assume the show got quite a few great guest stars based on it’s popularity, you have no idea just how much. Friends managed to score countless A-List actors and actresses to play guest stars — and there are so many we flat out forgot about! Either they hadn’t become super famous yet, or they were just in such a small storyline that we forgot all about it.
Here are 15 celebrities that you probably totally forgot had guest-starring gigs on Friends.
Today, Ellen Pompeo is a legitimate television superstar. She’s been on Grey’s Anatomy forever, and is the centre of that hugely popular show. I mean, the woman is pretty much television royalty at this point!
However, before she was playing Dr. Meredith Grey, she had the opportunity to play a woman named Missy Goldberg. Her character Missy appeared in two episodes, and was a woman that both Ross and Chandler had a crush on in college. Pompeo even got to rock some majorly retro gear in a flashback scene.
At the time, she probably had no idea that she’d someday end up starring on a show that lasted even longer on the air than Friends.
Brooke Shields got her start in the industry when she was very young. Her career just continued to build and build, and in the ’90s she was a star countless people were crushing on. The producers tapped her to guest-star on the show in 1996, and Shields agreed!
And, we’re betting she had an absolute blast with her character. They could have easily made her a model or actress or some kind of diva character. Instead, they made her a stalker who legitimately thought that Joey was the character he was playing on Days of Our Lives in real life.
She got the chance to be over the top in the best possible way on screen, which we bet was a lot of fun.
Kristin Davis is without a doubt best known as playing the prim, proper Charlotte York on Sex and the City. On Friends, she got the chance to play Joey’s love interest for an episode, Erin. And, her character Erin had a totally different perspective on love than Charlotte York. Erin wasn’t looking for a serious relationship — something that Joey realizes once he thinks they really have something special.
We love all the scenes where Davis was interacting with Lisa Kudrow and Jennifer Aniston. She just meshed so well with the cast. In fact, we’re a little disappointed she didn’t have a longer arc on the show!
Nowadays, Ben Stiller is better known for his film roles than anything he’s done in television. However, back in 1997, when Friends came knocking and offered you a guest starring role, you took it. The show was huge!
That’s exactly what Ben Stiller did. While his career had already started, he wasn’t quite the household name he is today. He got a role in one episode of Season 3 where he played Tommy, a guy Rachel is dating who has a bit of an anger problem.
The storyline itself wasn’t the strongest — basically, Ross is the only one who ever sees his temper, until the final scene of the episode. However, Stiller did an amazing job with the character.
Hugh Laurie knows all about what it’s like to be on a successful television show. He spent countless seasons playing Dr. Gregory House on the medical drama House. However, before he polished his American accent to play that role, he let his natural British accent shine in a brief guest-starring gig on Friends.
In the storyline where the gang flies to London for Ross and Emily’s wedding, Laurie plays a character sitting next to Rachel on the flight. It certainly wasn’t a big role — he only has a few lines — but he made the most of it. He has a great dry humour and sarcasm, and delivers some pretty hilarious zingers at Rachel.
As many people know, Dakota Fanning got her start in the industry as a child star. She’s managed to keep her career going as an adult, but she had a truly stunning amount of roles before she ever turned 18. One of them, it turns out, was on Friends!
She was actually born in 1994, the year when Friends started airing, so she obviously wasn’t in the earlier seasons. She had a guest starring role in Season 10. Fanning plays a girl who lives in the house that Chandler and Monica are considering buying out in the suburbs. She ends up having a funny conversation with Joey, giving him some life advice while reminding him that she’s only 8, and doesn’t exactly have all the answers.
That’s right — back in the mid-90s, Friends managed to snag Julia Roberts. It seems absolutely crazy, because Roberts was a humongous star at the time. However, for an episode that aired near the Superbowl, they really wanted to bring in some new fans — and we’re betting they did!
Roberts had a great role playing a former classmate of Chandler’s. Initially, she makes Chandler think that she’s interested in him, and gets him to ask her out on a date. However, it’s later revealed that Chandler played a bit of a prank on her when she was a child that she still remembers. So, she gets her revenge on him by making him strip down during their date, then abandoning him at a restaurant without any clothes.
It’s a bit far-fetched, but Roberts did a great job with the character.
Reese Witherspoon is best known for her film roles — and, now, for her role in the television drama Big Little Lies. However, earlier in her career, she managed to score a guest-starring role on Friends.
And, she wasn’t just someone that one of the group was dating (although that ended up happening in the storyline). She actually played Rachel’s sister, Jill! She played her character in two episodes in season six, and was a total delight.
She ended up playing a spoiled brat while still being somewhat endearing, which isn’t easy to do. Obviously things didn’t work out between Jill and Ross — everyone knows Ross and Rachel were the couple that was meant to be. However, we kind of wish Jill was in a few more episodes!
Okay, talk about a crazy storyline. Winona Ryder appears in one episode of season seven, playing someone who Rachel went to college with. In fact, they were sorority sisters. And, their storyline revolves around the fact that they once kissed after having way too much sangria.
Initially, Winona’s character Melissa pretends not to remember the incident. Then, after Rachel keeps pestering her about it, she admits that she was totally in love with Rachel. What a crazy plot twist!
Obviously Ryder has more serious acting chops, as she demonstrated on Stranger Things. However, we bet the character was a ton of fun to play for the one episode storyline.
At the time he guest-starred on the show, Brad Pitt was actually married to Jennifer Aniston in real life. However, he didn’t end up playing her love interest in an episode — he played her nemesis! Or, well, from his perspective at least.
Brad Pitt could have easily been cast as some gorgeous actor whose sole quality was his looks. Instead, he had a cute storyline as a former chubby kid who was friends with Ross and Monica in school, and was treated poorly by the popular Rachel.
There was just something so perfect about the way Pitt played the role. He was vulnerable, yet confident, a little over the top yet super funny. It’s too bad Will didn’t end up attending a few more Thanksgiving festivities on the show!
One of the most common ways that the show got guest-stars was to have them be brief love interests of the main crew. After all, they were 20-somethings who were single for much of the series. Obviously, they had to go on quite a few dates!
Alec Baldwin plays a bit of an interesting love interest of Phoebe’s for two episodes. Now, Phoebe is known for her super sunny attitude and positive outlook on life. So, initially, Alec Baldwin’s character Parker’s similar disposition makes him seem like a perfect match. However, as Phoebe finds out, he’s actually a little bit too positive. He drives the whole gang absolutely crazy with his constant optimism.
It’s definitely a lot different than Baldwin is in real life!
Sometimes it’s hard to remember just how long Gabrielle Union has been in the industry. I mean, she looks so young! She basically looks the same today as she did back in the ’90s when she started appearing in teen movies.
In season seven of the show, she had a guest starring role as Kristen Leigh, a woman who moved in close to the gang. Joey and Ross both run into her, and they both ask her out. She decides to go on a date with both of them. And, they only later find out that they’re trying to woo the same woman.
Union kind of plays the straight man to Ross and Joey’s crazy shenanigans, but she definitely held her own!
Christina Applegate is certainly no stranger to television. From her teenage role on Married… With Children to her role on Samantha Who?, she’s been in countless television shows. She has a solid understanding of what the rhythm of a sitcom should be, and how to follow that format. So, obviously, she did an amazing job when she guest-starred on Friends.
Applegate actually appeared in two different episodes, in season nine and ten, playing Rachel’s sister Amy. She offers a great look at just how much Rachel has grown over the years by showing just how spoiled and entitled she is. She has some amazing one-liners and just overall does such a phenomenal job playing a character that is totally over the top.
Seriously, it kind of seems like there was no actor or actress that Friends couldn’t get. We’re not sure if they just got lucky, or if their popularity gave them a whole lot more clout, but they got some seriously amazing guest stars! In season seven, they managed to snag Susan Sarandon for a role. In a somewhat meta role, she ends up playing an actress who stars on Days of Our Lives alongside Joey.
While Joey is kind of a rookie in the soap opera world, Sarandon’s character Cecilia Monroe is a seasoned veteran — and ends up getting killed off the show. She ends up having to teach Joey how to play her soap character, because he gets a brain transplant and ends up becoming her (it’s a crazy storyline, we know — it’s a soap!)
And, to make things even cuter, Sarandon’s daughter Eva Amurri even shows up, playing a soap actress who receives one of Cecilia Monroe’s infamous slaps. Talk about a mother-daughter activity!
There were a surprising amount of storylines where Phoebe ended up meeting her twin sister Ursula’s exes. There was one with Courteney Cox’s former hubby David Arquette, who plays Ursula’s stalker. And, of course, there’s the one with Sean Penn.
Penn guest-starred as Eric, a man who was engaged to Ursula. Their relationship sours and he finds that he actually gets along really well with Phoebe — and Phoebe likes him too! The only problem is, when Eric looks at Phoebe, he just sees Ursula.
It’s a bit of an odd character to play, but Penn did an amazing job with it. And, we always give props to Kudrow for being able to play both Phoebe and Ursula in episodes where that was required. She’s a true comedic talent!
References: Stylecaster, Best Life Online