2019 marks 15 years since Friends ended, and 25 since it began, with the hit sitcom airing 10 seasons between 1994 and 2004.
One actor besides the central six – David Schwimmer (Ross), Matt LeBlanc (Joey), Jennifer Aniston (Rachel), Courteney Cox (Monica), Matthew Perry (Chandler) and Lisa Kudrow (Phoebe) – who appeared across the show’s entire run was James Michael Tyler, who appeared in over 100 episodes as deadpan Central Perk manager Gunther.
Tyler told RadioTimes.com that he was surprised by the show’s long run and that he’d expected Friends to end when it hit its sixth season.
“I knew it would come to an end eventually, but it kept going and going and going,” he said. “I honestly thought it was going to be maybe done after the sixth season – it just kind of felt like… it wasn’t waning necessarily, but it’d been a long time and they were bringing characters together…”
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Indeed, the sixth season ends with Monica and Chandler getting engaged. But Friends would continue for another four years, with the storytelling happening “organically”, according to Tyler.
“Nothing was contrived,” he added. “I think that gives its legacy a lot more weight, because it was not contrived in any way, shape or form.”
When the series did eventually wrap up, it was a “bittersweet” experience, Tyler said. “It was tough. We all knew it was coming, so I was prepared for it. Everyone was. It was wrapped up so beautifully, I think.
Gunther – FriendsNBC
“I’ve never been round a cast that were so natural, and that maintained their friendships over 10 years on the same show – that’s really tough to do. But they did not have the egos, they were committed to the characters and to the project and to what Friends was.”
Tyler also credited the show’s success to “the most exceptional hard-working writers that I’ve ever encountered. They had hours that were insane, unheard of, there were times when they would not go home for a weekend, just to perfect a script.”
Friends airs on Comedy Central. Fan event FriendsFest will also be coming to London with a festive revamp from 28th November to 21st December.