David Schwimmer (as Ross) in a scene from Friends.
David Schwimmer (as Ross) in a scene from Friends.

Why iconic Friends scene was hard to film

ROSS screeching "PIVOT!" at Chandler and Rachel makes up one of the most iconic scenes in the entire series of Friends - but turns out it was also the most difficult to film.

James Michael Tyler, aka Central Perk barista Gunther, opened up about the famous gag in an interview with news.com.au, in honour of the 25th anniversary of the show's premiere.

Matthew Perry (Chandler), James Michael Tyler (Gunther) and Jennifer Aniston (Rachel) in Central Perk.
Matthew Perry (Chandler), James Michael Tyler (Gunther) and Jennifer Aniston (Rachel) in Central Perk.

Tyler appeared in 148 of the sitcom's 236 episodes, making him the most frequently-appearing guest star.

All these years on, Friends' popularity is still soaring, largely due to the unique comedic chemistry between the six core cast members - Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Matthew Perry, Matt LeBlanc, Lisa Kudrow and David Schwimmer.

But that banter was a double-edged sword, according to Tyler, who told news.com.au that one particular scene he witnessed became so funny for the actors that they had to keep reshooting it after repeatedly breaking character with their laughter.

"We were under a strenuous schedule and had to get the scenes rehearsed and filmed and the show prepped in time for filming in front of a live audience on a Friday night," Tyler explained.

"During filming, I remember the 'pivot' scene - where they're trying to get the couch up the stairs - that scene took a very long time to shoot because basically the actors just kept cracking each other up … It was hilarious. And then the audience was also in hysterics."

It's truly one of the greatest scenes of the entire series - watch below:

 

Tyler added that there were a series of episodes in the early seasons which were also tricky to film - but for a very different reason.

For some reason, Ross decides to get a pet monkey (Marcel), meaning an actual monkey was "acting" in scenes with the rest of the cast across season one and two.

(Fun fact: Marcel was actually a female monkey named Katie).

And it was a bit of a nightmare.

"Marcel would do everything perfectly in rehearsal, it was flawless … But when it came to filming in front of a live audience - I'm sure that having 300 people laughing probably distracted Marcel, who's real name was Katie by the way, well, Katie was not well-behaved," Tyler said.

"She just wouldn't go to the places where she was supposed to go, so it took a lot of time to film those earlier episodes."

 

Ross’ pet monkey didn’t make for an easy castmate.
Ross’ pet monkey didn’t make for an easy castmate.

Here are some of the other behind-the-scenes Friends stories James Michael Tyler shared:

POPULAR GUEST STARS

"Everyone who came on as a guest star was wonderful, so it's hard to pick a favourite, but when Paul Rudd came on (as Phoebe's boyfriend Mike), he was just so funny and relaxed and such a natural fit with the rest of the cast.

"He was a great guy to hang out with between takes - he made a lot of jokes, and had a great attitude.

"Sean Penn (as Ursula's boyfriend Eric) was also very memorable - to have him come on and revisit his comedic thing was really fun to watch."

PLENTY OF IMPROV

"A lot of the time, the cast were adlibbing - specifically, Matthew Perry was just the master of coming up with a funnier line than the one that was actually written for Chandler - and those lines stayed in 90 per cent of the time.

"Even his inflection, Chandler's 'could I be any more excited?' thing, wasn't written that way on the page, that came out of Matthew naturally as he embodied the character.

"It became his trait, because in the earlier episodes, he didn't do that."

 

Could he be any funnier?
Could he be any funnier?

FIRST DAY

"Seeing everyone together for the first time, just on stage rehearsing, it seemed like they'd known each other for a very long time. It's rare to walk onto a brand-new sitcom or show of any kind and just see that chemistry straight away.

"It just had a really nice energy, it was calm - which is different from other shows I've been on set for - and everyone was really professional.

"But the biggest thing was that they had immediate chemistry, and I think everyone could sense that."

MOST DIFFICULT LINE

"Gunther rarely had a lot of lines, so it was difficult to prepare because I was always afraid of over-rehearsing just one line.

"When I said, 'Hey buddy, this is a family place, put the mouse back in the house,' I remember rehearsing it too much the night before and I kept putting the emphasis on the wrong words.

"Because I had such few lines I had to be very careful not to mess them up in rehearsal, so they wouldn't get cut before filming."

 

Gunther may not have had many lines, but he still featured in plenty of scenes.
Gunther may not have had many lines, but he still featured in plenty of scenes.

REWORKING GAGS

"We were blessed because the writers were there on the set with us, so if a joke didn't get quite the right reaction (from the live audience) the first time, the writers would huddle up with the actors for maybe five minutes, and they'd go back and do it again with a completely different joke or structure, and it would land.

"They could get that from having the energy and reaction from the live studio audience there, which is pretty unique. It was like being on stage and presenting a stage show."

LAST SCENE WITH JENNIFER ANISTON

"There were a lot of tears (during Gunther and Rachel's last scene together).

"The first take, we were both prepared and in character and looked at each other in the eyes … and burst into tears, without a word coming out.

"So it took a long time just to get that moment filmed, because makeup had to keep coming over and touching us up, and wiping the tears off us.

"It was bittersweet, but I'm very glad the writers allowed Gunther to have some resolution, some closure. And then Jennifer (Aniston) gave me a big hug and said, 'I love you, I've loved working with you, I'm going to miss you' … And I said the same."

 

Aniston and Tyler’s last scene together had them both in floods of tears.
Aniston and Tyler’s last scene together had them both in floods of tears.

WATCHING IT BACK

"I only just started rewatching Friends, because I haven't been able to actually remove myself from the show to enjoy it - like the fans have - over the years, because I was so close to it.

"It's really, really fun to watch because I can see them as characters now. but it's taken this many years for me to watch it and appreciate it."


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