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When the fourth season of Friends came to a close 20 years ago this month, it left fans with multiple jaw-dropping cliffhangers. Rachel (Jennifer Aniston) flew to London to tell Ross she still loved him, but ended up only wishing him luck. Still, Ross (David Schwimmer) flubbed his vows and replaced bride-to-be Emily’s (Helen Baxendale) name with Rachel’s. And if that wasn’t enough, fans discovered Monica (Courteney Cox) and Chandler (Matthew Perry) slept together!
Director Kevin Bright joined EW for the episode’s 20th anniversary to talk about the planning that went into the wedding and how they pulled off all those cliff-hangers. The episode was always intended to be a big one. “In any show that’s about real people, weddings and births are the hallmarks of our lives, so any time that happened on Friends it was a big deal,” Bright notes.
Bright says the show also benefitted from its special setting, filmed on location in London, which made the season finale even more of an event than normal — perfect for some cliff-hangers. “It was fortuitous that this episode took place in London because it put Ross and this wedding on a much grander platform than a normal show, and it wasn’t a normal show,” Bright says.
The famous scene where Ross says the wrong name during his vows could have been disastrous. Bright realized just before they were set to wrap that they’d only done one take. It turned out to be perfect, but for a time, he “thought [he] was going to be left in London in the Tower.”
But how did they keep the moment a secret when Friends was filmed the remainder of the episode in front of a live audience? “We stopped the wedding in front of the audience in London right at the point of where the wedding ceremony starts,” explains Bright. “We did not show the London audience Rachel coming in. That’s how we were able to hold that secret. Nobody knew until it happened, so good job, Friends cast and crew, in not being yappy.”
There’s also the matter of the other coupling in that episode: the Monica and Chandler pairing, which was not a foregone conclusion. “When we decided to put Monica and Chandler together, there was a lot of initial concern. There was no definite plan for the future of it. It was a matter of, well, how’s the audience going to react to this?” admits Bright.
The team needn’t have worried — Bright recalls that the audience’s raucous response to seeing them in bed together. “When we shot that scene for the first time and they came out from under the covers, I’d like to put a literal clock on it, but I would say the applause and cheering lasted for a good solid two minutes,” he recalls. “You just have Courteney and Matthew waiting and waiting to do their lines because just upon seeing them the place went crazy, and I think probably in that moment we knew we had something that was going to be lasting for a while.”
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