It wasn’t all fun and games on the set of “Friends.”
Screenwriter Patty Lin, who worked for one season of the hit sitcom, wrote in her memoir “End Credits: How I Broke Up with Hollywood” (via Time) that the cast was “unhappy” in later seasons. Lin joined “Friends” for its sixth season in 2000 after having written for “Freaks and Geeks.”
She wrote that the “novelty” of working with the “Friends” cast including Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, David Schwimmer, Matthew Perry, Lisa Kudrow, and Matt LeBlanc “wore off fast” due to their respective attitudes towards the series.
“The actors seemed unhappy to be chained to a tired old show when they could be branching out,” Lin penned, adding that the actors would “deliberately tank” jokes they didn’t like.
“They all knew how to get a laugh, but if they didn’t like a joke, they seemed to deliberately tank it, knowing we’d rewrite it. Dozens of good jokes would get thrown out just because one of them had mumbled the line through a mouthful of bacon,” she wrote. “Seeing themselves as guardians of their characters, they often argued that they would never do or say such-and-such. That was occasionally helpful, but overall, these sessions had a dire, aggressive quality that lacked all the levity you’d expect from the making of a sitcom.”
Lin shared that former boss Judd Apatow “warned me about taking the job.” Lin recalled Apatow telling her, “‘The show’s been on for what? Six seasons? It’s a well-oiled machine. You’re not going to learn that much.’”
Lin noted that it was an “uncomfortable” situation in the “Friends” writers’ room as NBC had launched an affirmative action-like diversity program. Lin called the practice a “major mindfuck,” writing, “Naturally, I wondered whether I was hired for ‘Friends’ because of the diversity program or because I was the right person for the job. But dwelling on that question wasn’t going to help my career.”
Lin was the only person of color writing for “Friends” at the time.
“In all of my fears about the new job, I never predicted one of the challenges I would face was that the ‘Friends’ writing staff was cliquey, more so than at any other show I would work on,” Lin wrote. “They reminded me of the preppy rich kids in my high school who shopped at Abercrombie & Fitch and drove brand-new convertibles.”
Lin retired in 2008 after going on to write for “Desperate Housewives.” Now, the legacy of “Friends” has been called into question, ranging from critiques of Kathleen Turner’s transgender character and the lack of racial diversity in the series. “Friends” co-creator Marta Kauffman has addressed the issues, and even announced a $4 million donation to her alma mater Brandeis University to establish a fund to support scholars studying Africa and the African diaspora.