The Reason Jennifer Grey Ditched Her Role As Mindy On Friends

When "Friends" made its debut in 1994, viewers were introduced to Rachel Green (played by Jennifer Aniston), a disheveled bride who showed up at the Central Perk coffee shop 15 minutes before she was supposed to marry orthodontist Barry Farber. In that opening scene, Rachel tells her five future besties — Monica, Ross, Phoebe, Chandler, and Joey — that she knows she can't marry Barry because he looks like "Mr. Potato Head." In the original "Friends Like Us" pilot script, she even mentions that she discussed this fact with her maid of honor, Mindy. Fans would hear a lot about Mindy over the show's 10-season run. Not only did she totally break the girl code by going on Rachel's canceled honeymoon with Barry, but she later became the cheating orthodontist's wife.

Viewers saw Mindy for the first time in the season 1 episode "The One With the Evil Orthodontist," in a storyline about Rachel's fling with Barry while he was engaged to her former best friend. "Dirty Dancing" star Jennifer Grey played Mindy, a character who ultimately overlooked her fiancé's indiscretion because, at the end of the day, she still wanted to be "Mrs. Doctor Barry Farber." Fast forward to the 1995 "Friends" season 2 finale, and Mindy was back — but Grey wasn't.

Jennifer Grey's anxiety impacted her acting career on Friends

The tables were turned at the end of the "Friends" second season. Mindy and Barry were getting married, and Rachel was the maid of honor. But Jennifer Grey did not reprise her role as Mindy. Instead, the role was recast with Jana Marie Hupp. For years, fans were in the dark about the reason for the casting switch. But in an April 2023 interview with Media Village, Grey explained that her crippling anxiety forced her to decline a return to the megahit show. "I was a fan of the show, and I got the call to do it," Grey explained. "Then when I did it, I had such bad anxiety because they kept changing the script. ... They were trying to figure out what the character was, what the scene was, and it was changing, and changing, and changing. It all made me so anxious that I could barely do it."

"I didn't know at the time what was going on with me," Grey added. "But I had a lot of performance anxiety, and I just didn't understand at that time that I needed help in the anxiety department. ... When they asked me to come back, I said I couldn't. They got someone else to play the role."

Hupp took over the role of Mindy in the season 2 episode, "The One With Barry And Mindy's Wedding." It wasn't the first time a "Friends" role was recast — Ross's ex-wife Carol was originally played by Anita Barone before Jane Sibbett took over the role — but it was especially noticeable due to Grey's fame as a movie star.

Jennifer Grey once had a panic attack onstage

Jennifer Grey's cameo on "Friends" came two years after she experienced a debilitating panic attack while on stage. In an interview for The Chicago Tribune series "My Worst Moment," Grey revealed that she had a panic attack during her performance in the 1993 Broadway play "The Twilight of the Gods" when a stagehand forgot to put out a prop she was supposed to use. As she tried to improvise the scene, Grey couldn't remember her lines. She recalled that everyone on the stage suddenly looked strange to her in the frightening lighting. "I felt like I was tripping on bad drugs," she said. "I think I might have murmured under my breath to one of the other people in the play, 'Help me. Help me. Something's wrong.' I was like, what is happening to me — am I having a stroke?"

Grey declined to take anxiety medication and instead temporarily stopped acting. In 2010, she was offered a spot on ABC's "Dancing With the Stars" and she agreed to do it after years of turning the opportunity down. "I kept saying no because of my anxiety," she said. "So I ended up facing my own fear in a very big, public way. Which I guess was my path." Grey told Media Village that doing "Dancing With the Stars" was therapeutic for her anxiety. At the time, she was 50 years old, becoming the oldest woman ever to win the ABC celebrity ballroom competition. "When I look back at 'Dancing with the Stars,' I'm like, 'Look what I did!'" she said.