She Played Julie on "Friends." See Lauren Tom Now at 61.
The actor played the girlfriend who came between Rachel and Ross in Season 2 of the sitcom.
It seemed at the very end of the first season of Friends as though Ross (David Schwimmer) and Rachel (Jennifer Aniston) would finally give a romantic relationship a go. Only fans hopes were dashed when he stepped off of his plane with Julie, a new character played by Lauren Tom. Tom ended up appearing in seven episodes of the series as Ross' girlfriend, and both her presence and their mushy dynamic irritated Rachel, who'd just realized her feelings for her friend. While the guest star had to deal with the backlash of playing an obstacle to one of TV's most popular will-they-won't-they couples, Julie still stands out as one of the nicest partners any of the main characters ever had. And Tom's career has continued far beyond her stint on the sitcom. Read on to find out what she's been up to since.
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You can hear her in many animated shows.
Prior to her guest role on Friends, Tom's biggest claim to fame was playing Lena St. Clair in 1993's The Joy Luck Club. Other roles that came before include parts in the movies Cadillac Man, When a Man Loves a Woman, and North, as well as the TV shows The Equalizer, The Cosby Show, thirtysomething, Chicago Hope, The Nanny, and more. After playing Julie, Tom went on to many, many more roles, including episodes of Tracey Takes On…, Early Edition, Monk, Grey's Anatomy, and The Rookie. Younger fans likely know her best for playing Celia, the main character's mother, on the Disney series Andi Mack.
In recent years, however, Tom has pivoted to taking on mostly voiceover roles. Among her most well-known animated characters are Amy and Inez Wong in Futurama, Nomura in Trollhunters: Rise of the Titans, and Yoshiko on Kim Possible. She's also voiced several characters in the series Disenchantment, The Loud House, Young Justice, and Rick and Morty. Tom has done voice work for her fair share of video games, as well.
"I feel so fortunate to have gotten into the whole voiceover world; it's been my bread and butter," Tom told Your Teen. "They're the nicest people on the planet—there are no huge, raging egos in that world, for whatever reason. And I was able to work all through my pregnancies, practically up to the time my water broke."
She was booed on the set of Friends.
Tom said in a 2019 interview with Resonate that she was so excited to be offered a role on Friends that she fell off her treadmill when she got the news from her agent. She also remembered that the cast was "very sweet" and "welcomed [her] into the group very smoothly." Still, the role wasn't without its downside. Fans wanted Ross and Rachel together so badly that they often reacted to her negatively. "A lot of times I would be booed," Tom laughed about filming in front of a live audience. "And the whole joke of my character was that I was the nicest person on the planet and [Rachel] kept calling me a [expletive], right?"
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She wasn't invited to the reunion.
Although she was just on Friends for a handful of episodes, Tom's character had a major impact on the plot. She was also notably one of the only non-white actors to have appeared on the show and the only recurring Asian American character. So it was noticed by many when she wasn't a part of the 2021 HBO Max special that brought the main cast and many guest stars back together. "Unfortunately, the producers did not invite me to the reunion," Tom told the Chicago Tribune of her absence.
Still, she has fond memories of Friends, mostly because of what it meant to other people.
"It was one of my very favorite jobs of my whole career just for the sheer fact that young Asian women come up to me and say, 'Oh my gosh, when I saw you on "Friends" it was the most exciting thing ever!'" she told the newspaper. "Not that it was the most challenging role on the planet, but seeing me on that show validates their existence and it gives people inspiration: If that person can do it, maybe I can do it too."
She's a mom of two.
Tom has two sons, Oliver and Leo, with her husband, fellow actor Curt Kaplan. In recent years, she's been adjusting to an empty nest. Oliver, her older son, was already away at college when Leo went off to a boarding school for high school. "Both of my boys are quite independent—and they know my whole story about when I left home," she told Your Teen. "You want to just support your kids in following their dreams. But I really take my hat off to my mother now—how scary that must have been for her because I grew up in a sheltered suburb in Illinois and then moved to Manhattan and did not know my way around the city."