Tragic Details About The Cast Of Friends

This article contains references to addiction and suicide.

Without a doubt, "Friends" is one of the best go-to feel-good television shows in history. From gags in the apartment — "PIVOT!" — to days spent drinking coffee at Central Perk, there's no crew that feels like family quite as much as Chandler, Joey, Ross, Rachel, Monica, and Phoebe. There's a reason that the sitcom's final episode was the most watched TV episode of the 2000s, even after 10 seasons.

Still, just because these New Yorkers' problems could be solved in 30 minutes or less doesn't mean their real life counterparts had it just as easy. Between defamation and addiction, divorce and fraught relationships with the press, stars Jennifer Aniston, Matthew Perry, Matt LeBlanc, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, and David Schwimmer would certainly agree that no one told them "life was gonna be this way." Let's take a deeper look at the storms that the cast of "Friends" have had to weather.

Matt LeBlanc and his family went through hard times

The end of the 10 season run on "Friends" was emotional enough for the show's resident funny guy, Joey, and unfortunately it was just the beginning of a few tough years for actor Matt LeBlanc. Around 2006, his daughter with wife Melissa McKnight was diagnosed with cortical dysplasia which affects how neural connections function in infants and commonly causes epilepsy and seizures, according to UCLA Health. On top of that, his marriage soon fell apart after photos of him and a strip club dancer getting cozy surfaced. "It was a very dark period," LeBlanc told the Mirror. "But I got through it. Don't they say what doesn't kill us makes us stronger?"

Thankfully, LeBlanc and his wife remained friendly through the divorce and their daughter "outgrew her medical condition," according to The Mirror. The situation gave LeBlanc a lot of perspective. "Spending time with her is the best thing I've ever done," he gushed to the Mirror. "We have a great bond and it's the best thing in my life."

His experiences with fatherhood prepared him for his gig in CBS's "Man With a Plan" where he starred as a father taking on more of a role in his children's life after his wife goes back to work. While the show only ran for four seasons, his love for his own daughter is certainly forever. "The second I laid eyes on her, I was in love, and I had never felt that way before," he recalled to the outlet.

Jennifer Aniston went through a nasty divorce

Jennifer Aniston and Brad Pitt may have been separated since 2005, but America just can't let go of this former Hollywood power couple. Considering even their amiable conversation at the 2020 SAG Awards attracted media attention from all angles, it's easy to imagine just how hard the scrutiny must have been while they were in a relationship throughout "Friends" up until they split. The breakup was made especially sour by Pitt's quick bounce back with Angelina Jolie as the two filmed "Mr. and Mrs. Smith."

According to her 2006 interview with Vanity Fair, rumors began to swirl that Aniston was too focused on her career and didn't want to have kids, and while she told the outlet that couldn't be farther from the truth. "A man divorcing would never be accused of choosing career over children," she explained to Vanity Fair. "That really pissed me off. I've never in my life said I didn't want to have children." Aniston was also equally as thrown by Pitt and Jolie's romantic affairs, carefully stating, "The world was shocked, and I was shocked."

Not unlike Rachel Green, Aniston was determined to take it in stride. "I have to think there's some reason I have called this into my life," she told Vanity Fair. "I have to believe that — otherwise it's just cruel."

David Schwimmer struggled with the press

David Schwimmer skyrocketed to fame as the decade-long run of "Friends" documented his character Ross's adorable and frustrating on-and-off relationship with Jennifer Aniston's Rachel. Were they on a break or were they not? It only makes sense that years after the show ended, he admitted to The Hollywood Reporter in 2016 that his overnight success "was pretty jarring and it messed with [his] relationship to other people in a way that took years ... to adjust to and become comfortable with."

Case in point: the 2006 defamation lawsuit Schwimmer filed. Fundraiser Aaron Tonken alleged that Schwimmer "demanded two [Rolex] watches, worth $26,000, for himself and his father in exchange for attending a 'Friends Helping Friends' event" in 1997, according to the Los Angeles Times. Schwimmer maintained that he did no such thing, and Tonken eventually admitted that he had falsely given The Times and the National Enquirer the story. The actor took home $400,000 from the suit while his accuser, on the other hand, had been previously sentenced to five years in prison for an unrelated crime.

Courteney Cox's relationship was tabloid fodder

Like her co-star Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox also underwent intense media scrutiny after her very public divorce with actor David Arquette. The couple first met on the set of "Scream" in 1996 before marrying three years later. They stayed together through Cox's run as Monica on "Friends" before officially calling it quits in 2010. While the two maintain a good working relationship as they co-parent their daughter, that didn't stop the media from having a field day dissecting what went wrong.

Still, Cox was determined to take the high road. The actor explained to Harper's Bazaar in 2011 that the split was her idea. "I just had a moment of looking at our relationship, and there wasn't anything in particular, but it brought up a lot of stuff." Even though Arquette spoke a little too candidly following their divorce on shows like Howard Stern's radio program (via E! News), Cox couldn't even find it in herself to be mad at him. "He's not out to harm," she said in Harper's Bazaar. "But I'm his biggest protector. I can't help it." As for her main focus, she told that outlet that their daughter remained the couple's "number-one priority."

Matthew Perry went to rehab

While everything was coming up roses for the "Friends" cast during the late '90s and early 2000s, star Matthew Perry was hiding a dark secret. As he told People in 2002, he dealt with a four-year addiction to drugs and alcohol after being prescribed Vicodin after a jet ski accident in 1997. At the height of his addiction, he admitted that he was taking an "insane number of pills" as well as drinking "probably a quart of vodka a day." After attending rehab in 1997 and 2001, and being hospitalized for "alcohol-related pancreatitis" in 2000, he got the help he needed.

"It all starts from a spiritual connection with something that's bigger than you," he told the outlet of his sobriety. "I'm lucky to have a cool car and plenty of money. But if you don't have happiness inside, and you don't think of others first, you'll be lonely and miserable in a big house." In fact, his harder years helped inspire his off-Broadway debut "The End of Longing" in 2017, which he explained to Variety was his way of using "humor as a device to tell a story about addiction and how difficult it is to overcome."

Perry revealed to People in 2022 that his on-and-off opioid addiction had led to his colon exploding and being hospitalized in 2018. The actor credited the near-death experience and following 14 surgeries for helping his rehabilitation. "That's a lot of reminders to stay sober," Perry noted. "All I have to do is look down."

The end of the show was a bit hard on Matt LeBlanc

Saying goodbye to Central Perk was tough on all the "Friends" stars, but Matt LeBlanc felt it especially hard. His character's spinoff series, "Joey," was yanked after two seasons due to poor ratings, and as he told Norwegian-Swedish talk show "Skavlan" in 2018 (via Us Weekly), so began a few years of disappointment. "You like to think that your career is always going to go [up] and I think it was, and not in a bad way ... hard to imagine success beyond [the end of 'Friends']," he said.

Although he is able to reflect on the series' end as "sort of closing a chapter in all of our lives that was amazing," he particularly struggled after filming the finale. "I had quit smoking and the last episode, I started smoking again," he admitted on the show. "It was very sad."

Thankfully, the show's fans were able to change that mindset for him. "I've had people come up to me and say, 'My mom had cancer and the only thing that lifted her spirits was watching 'Friends,'" he revealed. He added that he's "heard all kinds of things like that," and getting "to come into people's lives and make them laugh" is proof that comedy is "humanity's band aid."

Courteney Cox went through tough times with her character

Life imitates art, and just as "Friends" showcased life's more hilarious moments, it also made a point to highlight the harder times, like when Chandler and Monica struggled to have a baby during the show's later seasons. Unfortunately, Courteney Cox found herself going through a similar experience as her character off-screen. "It was really weird because everyone in my family has kids," she explained on "Dateline NBC" in 2004. "I mean ... No one in my family has a problem. So to me, I just thought this would not be a problem at all."

As Cox shared on "Dateline NBC," she and then-husband David Arquette struggled for two years to have a child. After miscarrying, Cox learned she "had a rare anti-body in her blood" and could not maintain a pregnancy. Thankfully, going through IVF and taking blood thinners worked for her, and she gave birth to their daughter, Coco Arquette, in 2004. Still, being a comedian and entertainer while living throughout the horrific ordeal was especially painful. "I remember one time I just had a miscarriage and Rachel was giving birth," Cox recalled. "It was like that same time. Oh my God, it was terrible having to be funny."

Matthew Perry's addiction affected the show

Matthew Perry sought rehab due to his addiction to drugs and alcohol, and because he was filming "Friends" through the toughest parts of his addiction, he doesn't "remember three years of" the show, as he revealed to BBC Radio 2 in 2015 (via Vulture). "Somewhere between season three and six ... I was a little out of it," he said. 

Perry's cast and crew, including co-star Matt LeBlanc, saw what was happening and tried to help, but as they told People, he had to heal on his own terms and time. "I tried to talk to him," LeBlanc told the outlet. "There wasn't a response. It's such a personal struggle; They need to bottom out on their own." In his 2022 memoir, "Friends, Lovers, and the Big Terrible Thing" (via The Times), Perry recounted the story of when co-star Jennifer Aniston confronted him about his addiction to alcohol, with her revealing to him that the cast could "smell" the alcohol on him. 

While in the throes of his rehabilitation journey, Perry recalled to People in 2022 that his fellow "Friends" actors remained gracious to him. "It's like penguins. Penguins, in nature, when one is sick, or when one is very injured, the other penguins surround it and prop it up," he related. "They walk around it until that penguin can walk on its own. That's kind of what the cast did for me."

Several of Friends' supporting cast members have died

In the near two decades since "Friends" has been off the air, a lot has changed for its actors. Unfortunately, some of the series' most memorable side characters have since died. In 2020, Stan Kirsch, who portrayed Ethan in "The One with the Ick Factor" in 1995, died by suicide at the age of 51. The "Highlander" actor was remembered by his former show as "a warm presence that will be missed."

Fans will also remember Taylor Negron who played chef Allesandro, the angry restaurateur who would eventually offer Monica a job as head chef during the show's fourth season. After being diagnosed with liver cancer in 2008, he died in 2015 at 57 years old. 

In 2016, Alexis Arquette died at the age of 47 of cardiac arrest after living with HIV for years. Her brother David was married to Courteney Cox. In addition to Alexis's memorable roles in films like "Pulp Fiction" and "The Wedding Singer," she appeared in two episodes of "Friends," including a stint as the Waiter in Drag in "The One With Chandler's Dad."

James Michael Tyler — who played Central Perk's resident manager and barista, Gunther — died in 2021 after he was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2018. "'Friends' would not have been the same without you," co-star Jennifer Aniston wrote on her Instagram. Thank you for the laughter you brought to the show and to all of our lives. You will be so missed."

Jennifer Aniston got flack about not having kids

As one of Hollywood's highest-paid actors, Jennifer Aniston is a household name — an accomplishment that has its cons, namely worldwide interest in her personal life. Aniston took to HuffPost in 2016 to share a scathing op-ed entitled "For The Record," addressing "the sport-like scrutiny and body shaming that occurs daily" in the tabloids.

Between her relationship with Brad Pitt and marriage to then-husband Justin Theroux, Aniston constantly found herself the subject of pregnancy rumors and presumptuous and petty tabloid photos. As she wrote in her essay, the situation "illuminated for [her] how much we define a woman's value based on her marital and maternal status." She made it a particular point to tackle the media's misogynistic tone, as well as the real pain that came from the rumors. "I resent being made to feel 'less than' because my body is changing and/or I had a burger for lunch and was photographed from a weird angle and therefore deemed one of two things: 'pregnant' or 'fat,'" she wrote.

While Aniston is still a hot ticket for the tabloids, she hoped her powerful words would stay with readers, helping them gain "awareness" to "the toxic messages buried within these seemingly harmless stories served up as truth and shaping out ideas of who we are." Next time you check out a tabloid, make sure you're not — in Aniston's words — "buying the bulls***."

Courteney Cox regretted her cosmetic procedures

Courteney Cox got an early start in Hollywood when she was cast as Michael J. Fox's girlfriend in "Family Ties" at 21 years old, but she later realized that she didn't quite have her priorities straight. "I grew up thinking appearance was the most important thing," she revealed to New Beauty in 2017. "That as long as I looked okay, I would be okay, which got me into trouble."

In fact, Cox told the outlet that she regretted cosmetic procedures she had gotten earlier in her career, including "a little injection here or filler there." She admitted that the business of keeping up appearances in Hollywood had gotten to her. The "Cougar Town" alum explained that it was "kind of sad" that she had been "trying so hard to keep up" and "actually made things worse."

However, as she hit her 50s, she found new confidence in looking her age and had her fillers dissolved. She even developed a much different attitude towards the lines she once tried to erase. "You need movement in your face, especially if you have thin skin like I do," Cox noted. "Those aren't wrinkles — they're smile lines. I've had to learn to embrace movement and realize that fillers are not my friend." 

Lisa Kudrow dealt with body image issues

Lisa Kudrow brought a palpable confidence and unique energy to Phoebe in "Friends," prompting America to fall in love with the fictional character who marched to the beat of her own drum. But while Kudrow looked completely comfortable serenading Central Perk's clientele with her renditions of "Smelly Cat," behind the scenes, she was struggling with her body image and the pressure that comes with being in the spotlight. "Unfortunately for a woman, if you're underweight, you look good," she said on a 2019 episode of the "WTF with Marc Maron" podcast. "And when I was too thin, I was sick all the time."

Kudrow explained to Maron that seeing herself on television during the "Friends" era was particularly triggering, as she couldn't help but compare herself to her co-stars. "I'm already bigger than Courteney and Jennifer ... my bones feel bigger, I just felt like this mountain of a woman next to them," Kudrow said of her mindset at the time. And while she still grapples with bad feelings about her body, she tries to bring it back to the beauty in the gift of aging. "I end up with ... 'So what, alright ... you're older, that's a good thing," she said.

Jennifer Aniston had a hard relationship with her mother

While the majority of Jennifer Aniston's on-screen personas — from Rachel Green to her "Office Space" character, Joanna — are fairly happy-go-lucky, the actor herself admitted to Elle in 2018 that she had a "challenging upbringing." Born to actors John Aniston and Nancy Dow, who divorced when she was young, Aniston recalled having a particularly trying relationship with her mother, who focused too much on looks and was overcritical to the point that she made "some deep wounds that [Jennifer] would then spend a lot of money [in therapy] to undo."

"She was from this world of, 'Honey, take better care of yourself,' or 'Honey, put your face on,' or all of those odd sound bites that I can remember from my childhood," Aniston recalled to the publication. Although she and her mother were estranged for many years, Aniston has come to terms with how "pretty crappy" it must've been to be "a single mom in the '80s," and forgives her mom for "just holding on and doing the best she could." An eternal optimist, Aniston explained that their difficult relationship helped shape her into the kind of woman she wanted to be. "I have chosen to use what I grew up with as an example of what I do not want to be or live in," Aniston said. "It's a glass-half-full kind of thing."

Matthew Perry's unexpected death

Matthew Perry shattered the hearts of many "Friends" fans when he unexpectedly died in 2023. News of his passing shocked the world when police found the actor unresponsive at his Los Angeles home. That day had been going seemingly normal, as TMZ reported that the star had earlier returned home from the country club and sent his assistant to run an errand. No illicit drugs were recovered at the property, but the police did find prescription drugs for anxiety and depression.

Perry's co-stars Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc, and David Schwimmer released a joint statement offering condolences shortly after his death. "We are all so utterly devastated by the loss of Matthew," read the statement exclusive to People. "We were more than just cast mates. We are a family. There is so much to say, but right now we're going to take a moment to grieve and process this unfathomable loss ... For now, our thoughts and our love are with Matty's family, his friends, and everyone who loved him around the world."

The "Friends" star's family also released a statement to People, saying, "We are heartbroken by the tragic loss of our beloved son and brother," the family says. "Matthew brought so much joy to the world, both as an actor and a friend." Before his death, the actor was an advocate for people with addiction issues and shared his own story with the world in hopes of inspiring others on their rehabilitation journey.

If you or anyone you know needs help with addiction issues, or is struggling or in crisis, contact the relevant resources below: