The cast of Friends: Where are they now?
The one where EW follows up with the cast.
The Friends cast: Then and now
It's a "problem" any struggling actor would kill for: You star in an iconic hit TV series for a full decade — impacting hairstyles, fashion, and catchphrases ("We were on a break!") — while the syndication rights ensure you'll be beloved for generations to come. But what do you do for a second act?
This is a conundrum that faced the cast of NBC's Friends, which ran for a full decade from 1994 to 2004, resulting in six very different present-day portraits of fiftysomething success. But the actors never strayed too far from their fellow castmates, as they often appeared in each other's follow-up sitcoms. And last year, the syndicated series cemented its move from Netflix to HBO Max with a widely viewed and Emmy-nominated reunion special in 2021, complete with appearances from former guest stars, a Friends fashion show, and emotional table reads.
So let's take a look back at the careers of our six best Friends and where they are today. Helpful hint: If you become suddenly, wildly famous as the star of a major sitcom, you might want to cool it on the slew of rom-com roles you will inevitably be offered. (And judging from the combined track records of this bunch, they rarely turn out well!)
Jennifer Aniston (Rachel Green)
The previously unknown Jennifer Aniston was the breakaway star from the breakaway hit that was Friends — and the only one to earn an Outstanding Lead Actress Emmy for her performance on the show. Thanks to her success as half of the series' perennial romantic couple, Ross and Rachel, she propelled from films like 1993's oddball horror flick Leprechaun to rom-coms tailor-made for her, like Picture Perfect (1997) and Along Came Polly (2004). To Aniston's credit, she always made sure to try to stretch herself in indie films as well, turning in solid performances in movies like She's the One (1996), The Good Girl (2002), and Cake (2014), the latter of which earned her a Golden Globes nomination.
Eventually, she dove deep into the comedy genre, breaking out of the good girl mode with some hilarious performances in the Horrible Bosses movies in 2011 and 2014, the crime comedy We're the Millers (2013), and sparring with Adam Sandler in Just Go With It (2011), Murder Mystery (2019), and its sequel streaming on Netflix now.
Her solid career even managed to outshine her high-profile marriages to fellow movie stars like Brad Pitt and Justin Theroux. But she appears to have found her greatest post-Friends success by returning to the small screen. Playing the longtime news anchor opposite her former Friends sibling Reese Witherspoon's newcomer on Apple TV+'s The Morning Show has been Aniston's most compelling role in years, earning her another Emmy nomination and an upcoming third season.
David Schwimmer (Ross Geller)
David Schwimmer was always the most serious friend, and his post-Ross career has carried that torch. Before he even landed his gig on Friends, he founded the Lookingglass Theater in Chicago in 1988 with some fellow Northwestern grads. And while he also starred in his share of painful 1990s rom-coms (The Pallbearer, Kissing a Fool), he later focused more on prestige projects, like HBO's Band of Brothers and portraying Robert Kardashian on FX's The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story, which earned him an Emmy nomination to match his previous one from Friends. He also had a voiceover stint in the Madagascar franchise as a very nervous giraffe named Melman.
Coming up from Schwimmer is the film Little Death, produced by Darren Aronofsky. He's also gone back to the boards quite a bit, not just at the Lookingglass —where he directed adaptations of The Jungle and Studs Terkel's Race — but in London, New York, and L.A. as well.
Though Schwimmer and his ex-wife Zoe Buckman split in 2017, they share an 11-year-old daughter named Cleo who cheered him on when he competed in The Great Celebrity Bake Off for Stand Up to Cancer. "I lost a grandmother to cancer, my daughter lost a grandmother to cancer and my sister is a cancer survivor, so it's important to me," the actor told U.K. publication The Mirror of why he wanted to take part. "It's a great cause and I happen to be a massive fan of the show."
Courteney Cox (Monica Geller)
Courteney Cox was the friend with the greatest name recognition at the start of the series. She'd already made quite a splash as Michael J. Fox's girlfriend on NBC's Family Ties in the late '80s, as well as the girl Bruce Springsteen dances with in 1984's "Dancing in the Dark" video.
But rather than fumbling around with rom-coms mid-Friends success, Cox made a smarter cinematic move: She landed the part of ambitious journalist Gale Weathers in 1996's Scream, putting bossy perfectionist Monica on hold for a bit. As a result, Cox found herself part of another hip, young ensemble cast, and the career leap was a huge success, so much so that a sixth movie in the franchise was just released. She met her ex-husband David Arquette on the Scream set, and their daughter Coco is now 18 with Aniston as her godmother.
Cox also had the most successful post-Friends sitcom, with the unfortunately titled Cougar Town by Scrubs and Shrinking creator Bill Lawrence, which lasted six seasons from 2009 to 2015 and earned her a Golden Globe nomination. More recently, Cox appeared in the thriller series Shining Vale, playing a frustrated writer who finds unexpected inspiration in the 1950s housewife ghost (Mira Sorvino) haunting her house. Starz has already renewed the horror-comedy for a second season. Cox is also scheduled to star in a fictionalized version of Netflix's Last Chance U as the academic counselor and motivational speaker Brittany Wagner.
Matthew Perry (Chandler Bing)
Before the Friends reunion, Matthew Perry hadn't been seen on TV since 2017 when he played Ted Kennedy in the Reelz miniseries The Kennedys After Camelot. Then his memoir, Friends, Lovers and the Big Terrible Thing, came out in November 2022. And it made headlines every day. While the book has been praised for its honest depiction of addiction, some feel it takes unnecessary mean-spirited jabs at some fellow celebs. (Keanu Reeves deserves no one's scorn, okay?) Of course, he wouldn't have had all those stories to write about (or his 2002 Best Actor in a Comedy Emmy nomination) were it not for his role as the witty and sarcastic Chandler Bing on Friends.
At the height of his Friends fame, Perry also dabbled in forgettable '90s rom-coms (Fools Rush In, Three to Tango), although he did find some success with the 2000 Bruce Willis gangster comedy The Whole Nine Yards and its 2004 sequel. And we can't help but have a soft spot for Perry's 2009 time travel comedy 17 Again, co-starring Zac Efron.
Like Courteney Cox, he attempted to get a new sitcom off the ground, but his series like ABC's Mr. Sunshine, NBC's Go On, and a new version of The Odd Couple for CBS were unsuccessful, as was the rare failed Aaron Sorkin 2006 NBC dramedy, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip.
Perry's most notable small-screen stints since Friends include Emmy-nominated turns on NBC's The West Wing, another Emmy nomination as the main character in TNT's The Ron Clark Story in 2007, and appearances as Mike Kresteva, a less-than-honorable conservative lawyer on CBS' The Good Wife and its follow-up The Good Fight. As for what's next, we're guessing he may continue to be more focused on the page than the screen.
Lisa Kudrow (Phoebe Buffay)
Lisa Kudrow's savvy post-Friends career shows that she's far from the flighty character she portrayed on the show. While the actress had her fair share of forgettable supporting roles (like in 1999's Analyze This and 2002's Analyze That), she starred in the iconic '90s comedy Romy and Michele's High School Reunion and dove into the indie world with 1998's The Opposite of Sex, directed by her frequent collaborator Don Roos.
Just a year after Friends ended, she and Michael Patrick King created HBO's The Comeback, predicting the cringe reality genre to come by playing an actress hired to play the more middle-aged character on what could only be described as a Friends-like show. Kudrow nabbed two more Emmy nominations on The Comeback for its first and second seasons, adding to the six other nods she earned on Friends (she won Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy in 1998). More recently, she, Roos, and his partner Dan Bucatinsky created the inventive series Web Therapy, which transitioned from online to Showtime in 2011. Bucatinsky and Kudrow also produced the Emmy-nominated reality series Who Do You Think You Are? in which celebs trace their ancestral roots, which ran on both NBC and TLC before getting canceled last year.
Kudrow has been married to Michel Stern since 1995, and their son Julian is now 24 (Kudrow's pregnancy was written into Friends when Phoebe became a surrogate for her brother and his wife). She recently appeared on the Steve Carell Netflix series Space Force during the show's 2020-2022 run, and will be in the upcoming TV adaptation of Terry Gilliam's Time Bandits. And with her distinctive vocals, she's also had a wide-ranging career in voiceover work. Honestly, Aniston may be the buzzier name, but Kudrow has our vote for the most impressive post-Friends career.
Matt LeBlanc (Joey Tribbiani)
Matt LeBlanc took a well-deserved break following his brief post-Friends spin-off, Joey. (Thanks to the cast's highly publicized salaries of $1 million an episode by the show's final seasons, which is even steep by Hollywood standards.) He also spent time with his daughter with ex-wife Melissa McKnight, Marina Pearl — who was dealing with a brain condition she has thankfully recovered from — and is still close to his stepkids, Tyler and Jacquelyn.
But a few projects have coaxed LeBlanc out of his semi-retirement, like the popular CBS sitcom Man With a Plan (written by That '70s Show creators Jackie and Jeff Filso) and Showtime's excellent Episodes in which he played an exaggerated version of himself. The comedy ran from 2011 to 2017 and earned him a Golden Globe and four Best Actor in a Comedy Emmy nominations, adding to the two nods he already had for Friends.
A race car-driving enthusiast, LeBlanc also hosted the U.S. version of the popular U.K. series Top Gear until 2019. But he told Entertainment Tonight in October: "I'm taking some time off right now. I'm just enjoying not having to do anything — it's been kinda nice." If LeBlanc learned anything from his most famous character, hopefully, that time off includes lots of naps... and sandwiches.
James Michael Tyler (Gunther)
We would be remiss if we didn't mention James Michael Tyler, the unofficial seventh friend. In his role as Gunther — Rachel's longtime admirer and one-time boss at Central Perk — Tyler appeared in more than half of the show's 236 episodes. He apparently got the role because he had previously worked at a coffee shop as a barista and was the only extra who knew how to work the cappuccino machine. Tyler made a virtual appearance at the Friends reunion but sadly died from prostate cancer in October 2021 at the age of 59.