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"Friends" Cast Were "Aggressive" and "Unhappy" in Later Seasons, Writer Says

According to Patty Lin, the stars felt "chained to a tired old show"—and acted like it.

Writing for a show as popular as Friends sounds like a dream job for a TV writer, but one person who worked on the hit series says it wasn't all it was cracked up to be. Patty Lin joined the show's writers' room for Season 7 in 2000 and quickly formed an impression of the hugely famous cast. In an excerpt of her memoir, End Credits: How I Broke Up with Hollywood, published by Time, the author writes that the stars of Friends "seemed unhappy to be chained to a tired old show" and would purposely ruin jokes that they didn't like. Read on to find out more.

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Lin wrote for some of the most influential shows of the '00s.

Lin had a career as a TV writer for 10 years before retiring from the job in 2008 when she was 38 years old. In addition to Friends, she wrote for Desperate Housewives and Breaking Bad. Before joining Friends, she had been writing for Freaks and Geeks, which only lasted for one season but is regarded as a cult classic. She had only been a TV writer for a short time when she was offered a job on the Must-See TV sitcom.

"Writing for Friends after only two years of experience seemed equivalent to going straight to the Olympics after just learning to skate," she writes in her memoir. "If I screwed up, it could ruin my career."

The writing staff wasn't welcoming.

Jennifer Aniston and David Schwimmer on "Friends"

While Lin was worried about how she would fit in because she felt drama and not comedy was her strength, she encountered other issues working on Friends. Of the 14 total writers, she was the only racial minority and had difficulty working with her colleagues.

"In all of my fears about the new job, I never predicted one of the challenges I would face was that the Friends writing staff was cliquey, more so than at any other show I would work on," she writes.

She also writes of the hours the staff would spend "endlessly rewriting stuff that was funny the first time." Sometimes, they would be instructed to do this, because the live studio audience didn't laugh hard enough at a joke. This didn't take into account that the studio audience were often fatigued by how long they had to be there.

Lin doesn't have many positive things to say about the show's co-creators, either. In the book, she describes David Crane as "an impossible-to-please workaholic," and writes of Marta Kaufmann, "I would do anything to avoid being alone with her and having to chitchat, which always felt stilted."

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She says the cast ruined jokes on purpose during table reads.

Lin writes that one of the purposes of table reads of the episode scripts was "for the actors to judge the script (so they could gripe about it later)." She claims that the stars would sometimes deliver jokes badly on purpose, so they'd be cut or replaced.

"The actors seemed unhappy to be chained to a tired old show when they could be branching out, and I felt like they were constantly wondering how every given script would specifically serve them," Lin writes. "They all knew how to get a laugh, but if they didn't like a joke, they seemed to deliberately tank it, knowing we'd rewrite it."

"Dozens of good jokes would get thrown out just because one of them had mumbled the line through a mouthful of bacon," she explains. "David and Marta never said, 'This joke is funny. The actor just needs to sell it.'"

She also says the stars were "aggressive" in protecting their characters.

The cast of "Friends" at the 2002 Emmy Awards
Featureflash Photo Agency / Shutterstock

After the table read, one of the next steps in putting an episode together was for there to be a run-through on the actual set.

"This was the actors' first opportunity to voice their opinions, which they did vociferously," Lin writes. "They rarely had anything positive to say, and when they brought up problems, they didn't suggest feasible solutions."

Lin says that the actors saw themselves as "guardians for their characters" so they would frequently argue that their characters wouldn't do or say certain things. "That was occasionally helpful, but overall, these sessions had a dire, aggressive quality that lacked all the levity you'd expect from the making of a sitcom," she continues.

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Lin did have one positive interaction with a cast member.

David Schwimmer, Lisa Kudrow, Jennifer Aniston, and Matthew Perry in 2000

Lin was an extra in the episode "The One with All the Candy," which was directed by David Schwimmer. Lin writes that she was pleased that the actor referred to her personally when he was directing the scene.

"Patty, can you scooch closer to the door?" she says he asked her. "I scooched, thrilled that instead of saying, 'Hey you,' Schwimmer addressed me by name. That night was the high point of my Friends experience. For once, I felt like I had something to do with the show."

Some stars admitted that they were ready to be done with the show.

Jennifer Aniston and David Schwimmer at the 2001 People's Choice Awards
Featureflash Photo Agency / Shutterstock

Lin only worked on Friends for one season. The show returned for three more. When it ended in 2004, Jennifer Aniston admitted that she was ready to move on.

"I had a couple of issues that I was dealing with. I wanted it to end when people still loved us and we were on a high," Aniston told NBC News. "And then I also felt—was feeling—like how much more of Rachel do I have in me? What more is there to—what more—how many more stories are there to tell for all of us before we're just now pathetic?"

Similarly, Schwimmer said in his own NBC News interview about the show ending, "For some reason, there's no fear. I'm not at all afraid. I'm more excited than anything. I mean, it's just been a great run, you know. And I think all of us feel like it's just—we've reached our time to move on."

Lia Beck
Lia Beck is a writer living in Richmond, Virginia. In addition to Best Life, she has written for Refinery29, Bustle, Hello Giggles, InStyle, and more. Read more
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