Friends remains a cornerstone of television history, but recent comments by one of the show’s directors, James Burrow, have sparked conversations about its iconic cast and a certain guest star.

According to the Daily Mail, Burrow didn’t mince his words when he spoke about British actress Helen Baxendale, who played Emily Waltham on the beloved series. “She was nice but not particularly funny,” he revealed in his memoir Directed by James Burrows, adding to the never-ending allure of backstage drama from this ’90s classic.

Baxendale, who graced the Friends screen during its fourth season, played an essential character during her 14-episode run. She played the girlfriend and later fiancée of David Schwimmer’s character, Ross. Fans will recall the Season 4 finale where Ross accidentally said his ex Rachel’s name instead of Emily’s during their wedding vows, effectively ending their on-screen relationship.

“In sitcoms and any type of romantic comedy, the funny is just as important as the chemistry,” Burrow continued, highlighting the performance dynamics of romantic leads.

Prior to Baxendale’s character entering the story, Ross was primarily involved with Jennifer Aniston’s Rachel, setting up one of TV’s most famous love stories.

Burrow elaborated that Baxendale’s “nice” demeanor just didn’t make the cut. In his words, “any new girlfriend for Ross needed to be as funny as Rachel.”

He went on to say: “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.”

According to the director, Schwimmer had no comedic partner in Baxendale, making the character feel like “clapping with one hand.”

Baxendale’s time on Friends came to an end after the fifth season. The actress left the show after becoming pregnant with her first child and relocating back to the UK.

Friends cast

Credit: Warner Bros. Television/Getty


In a 2012 interview with the Sunday Mirror, she referred to her time on the show as a “strange surreal little blip in my life.” The actress also shattered some popular illusions about the cast, stating, “People expect because it is called ‘Friends’ that everyone was great friends, but they were real professionals.”

Interestingly, her role on Friends had a significant real-world impact on Baxendale. She became more recognizable, to the point that anonymity became a luxury.

“You couldn’t walk down the street to buy a pint of milk. In fact, you couldn’t go anywhere,” she told the Mail in 2012, describing her fame as a “gilded prison.”

Helen Baxendale

Baxendale, who graced the Friends screen during its fourth season, played an essential character during her 14-episode run. Credit: Fred Duval / Getty


Unsurprisingly, Baxendale chose not to return to the US after moving back to the UK.

“Fame just didn’t fit in with my life. I don’t know how much would have come from staying in the States anyway,” she reflected. The actress remains unregretful about her decision, adding, “I didn’t want to live in America, when all my circumstances were leading me back to Britain. I don’t regret it for a minute.”

As the iconic show continues to stream on various platforms, these new revelations by Burrow add another layer to the intricate tapestry that is Friends. It’s a reminder that behind every beloved series, there are myriad challenges, decisions, and personality dynamics that shape its legacy.

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