‘Friends’ director reveals which actor he struggled to work with most
Friends director James Burrows has revealed which star from the show was the hardest to work with.
In his new memoir, Directed by James Burrows, he admitted that he struggled to work with guest star Helen Baxendale — who played Ross’ English wife Emily — due to her not being “particularly funny”.
Of the episode ‘The One with All the Rugby’, Burrows recalled: “She was nice but not particularly funny. [David] Schwimmer had no one to bounce off. It was like clapping with one hand.”
He continued: “In sitcoms and any type of romantic comedy, the funny is just as important as the chemistry. We discovered that any new girlfriend for Ross needed to be as funny as Rachel.
“Often, you can’t recast, because of tight shooting deadlines or other logistical considerations. You don’t cast anyone to be a straw man, unless it’s for one episode.”
The director went on to stress the importance of casting someone who can “get laughs”, adding: “Sometimes you start an arc and it ain’t working out, so you have to get rid of that person. If it’s a day player, it’s a quick goodbye.
“The reverse is also true. If there’s chemistry, the writers go to work to figure out some way of keeping the actor.”
Despite Burrows’ opinion of her, Baxendale’s character was well-received by fans of the hit ’90s sitcom.
The actor — who has since gone on to star in several UK shows, such as Cold Feet and Cuckoo — has reflected on her time in Friends on multiple occasions, describing it as a “surreal little blip”.
Speaking to The Mirror back in 2012, she said: “I look upon it as a strange surreal little blip in my life almost like a dream.”
She was also full of praise for the Friends cast, adding: “They were all very nice and professional. We were never great mates though.
“People expect because it is called Friends that everyone was great friends, but they were real professionals. They’d been doing it for years and I was one of many guest stars to appear.”
Elsewhere, a writer on the sitcom recently claimed in their own memoir that the cast were “aggressive” and “dire” to work with.