Lisa Kudrow Recalls Secret ‘Friends’ Audition

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Phoebe, Buffay, Lisa, Kudrow
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For the die-hard Friends fans out there, this piece of news might be a tough pill to swallow. While Friends fanatics can't imagine the show any other way, believe it or not, its screenwriter had plans for it to look somewhat different. In a recent interview, Lisa Kudrow, the actress who brought smelly cats to life, admitted that she almost missed out on the role entirely due to some behind-the-scenes casting drama. Crazy, we know!

Appearing on the Jess Cagle Podcast with Julia Cunningham, Kudrow reflected on the casting journey for her life-changing role as Phoebe Buffay. As she remembers it, her complicated history with the show's director, James "Jimmy" Burrows, almost jeopardized her chances of landing the part. In 1993, Burrows was working on the pilot for another popular sitcom, Frasier, and had cast Kudrow as Roz. However, after production wrapped on the episode, he fired Kudrow and replaced her with another actress. "I was... mistakenly cast. I didn't know that at the time," she explained to Cunningham about Roz. "I knew that Jim clocked that I was wrong from the table read, and so I thought, 'Oh, he doesn't like me or what I do.'"

Friends, Cast, Phoebe, Showrunner
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Fast forward to 1994, and Burrows began searching for his perfect gang of Friends. Although he agreed to audition Lisa, he was not looking to make things easy for her. Kudrow revealed in the podcast that she was the only member made to audition twice and for Jimmy personally. "I had to do a special audition for Jim Burrows. You have to do auditions for producers and studio, network, but in between all of that, I had to go in and read for Jim Burrows." Even once she landed the part, the relationship between the two continued to be strained.

For the first time, Kudrow revealed the on-set 'hazing' she received by Burrows, who perhaps seemed eager to make her job more difficult. "We were getting ready to do a run-through, and I have to do my Phoebe monologue, and he's like, 'Lisa, sit under the table to read the monologue, do it under the table, she's out there.'" While Lisa obediently did so, she was upset to think her character would be that far off from her cast members. Plowing through and committing to the role, Kudrow eventually succeeded in winning Burrows over. We shudder to imagine what would have been otherwise!