How a last-minute change on Friends made 'The One Where Paul's the Man'
Alexandra Holden got the guest role of all guest roles when she joined Friends in season 6. The actress, who played Ross’ girlfriend-slash-former-student Elizabeth, had moved to Los Angeles a few years prior to pursue her dream of being an actor and found herself auditioning for the biggest sitcom of our time — and then, quickly, being asked to do a chemistry read with David Schwimmer.
“My fashion sense wasn’t so great at the time so they did give me one note,” she jokes to EW in the video above. “They said, ‘Do you think you can wear something a little cuter?’ At the time I was living in baggy jeans and combat boots — I didn’t even know what they meant but I ended up wearing a tube top. With the baggy jeans and combat boots.”
Holden was cast as the NYU student with the hots for Professor Gellar — Cutie McPretty — and while the extension of her recurring role was a shot of good news, the true serendipity came a few episodes in. It was the week that the cast was set to shoot the episode where Ross meets Elizabeth’s dad, and with that role’s casting still up in the air they did the first day of rehearsals with no idea who would be showing up on tape day.
“The next day we showed up to work and I was in my dressing room and there was a bang bang bang on my door,” she explains. “I open it and there was David and he’s like, ‘Oh my God, did you hear?’ I thought there was a fire but he just yelled, ‘Bruce Willis!’ And then he went bounding down the hallway to tell everybody else.”
Holden assures fans that getting to act alongside Bruce Willis was amazing not just for a young actress like herself, but equally mesmerizing for the already-famous members of Friends. They were all taken by his essential cool factor and ability to portray an entire sentence with a single word or head nod.
The actress says the episodes they taped with Willis worked like a well-oiled machine, but there is one moment during the making of “The One Where Paul’s the Man” that still sticks with her to this day.
“We had done a take for the audience and it was good, but then the writers came over to me,” says Holden. “They said, ‘This time when Ross says, ‘I was just thinking about your dad,’ say ‘Well whatever works for you.’ It totally killed because the audience wasn’t expecting it — it’s such a testament to the writers, how they could come up with new jokes on the fly.”
Twenty-five years later, Holden still gets stopped by Friends fans when she’s out in Los Angeles, whether it’s to talk about their favorite episodes or ask a question or…something a little different.
“Quite a few times people have said, ‘Cutie McPretty is my nickname for my baby or dog or girlfriend,'” she says with a laugh.
Whatever works for you.