Lisa Kudrow on Friends reunion special, how Phoebe would handle quarantine
The actress also stars in two Netflix series, Space Force and Feel Good.
As you may have heard, the cast of Friends will reunite — and not just in an Instagram photo, but on your TV — for a one-off special that celebrates NBC’s absurdly popular 1994-2004 sitcom about Manhattan twentysomethings. But right off the bat, Lisa Kudrow would like to remind you of one thing, in case this point has been buried in all of the hype and excitement: This is strictly an interview special — a reunion of actors, not characters. “We want people to know: it’s not a scripted episode,” she tells EW. “It’s just us, reminiscing. Talking how we haven’t been in the same room for anyone to see us in 20 years — or more now.” (The actors —minus a then-out-of-the-country Matthew Perry — reunited in person for NBC's 2016 tribute to director James Burrows.)
The Friends creators and cast have not been shy in expressing their lack of interest in an in-character reunion special. (“What was at the heart of the show is done,” co-creator Marta Kauffman told EW in 2014. “And let’s be honest, it’s 20 years later. Nobody looks like they did then. And you’re going to spend the whole time going, ‘Wow, he’s aged.’”) So, hefty paycheck aside, what appealed to the cast about reconvening in a Q&A environment? “Look, we’re all incredibly grateful, and we all knew it then, and know it now, that that was such a unique situation,” Kudrow explains. “We all loved — and love — each other. And genuinely had so much fun. And laughed for 10 years every day. We’re just really grateful. When we have been able to get together — I think that’s maybe twice and not even all of us — some people remember stuff the rest of us don’t remember at all. And then it’s fantastic. It’s like you’re being introduced to something that everybody else knows that you forgot.”
Kudrow notes that each cast member has a different level of minutia recall, which should lead to an entertaining conversation. And she isn’t afraid to name names. “I haven’t seen some of the later episodes, to be honest,” she says. “And then I don’t rewatch them. So it’s really fun to talk about things. Someone remembers it one way and someone remembers something else about it altogether, and I don’t know, it’s really fun. It’s great. And then some people have phenomenal memories. Jennifer [Aniston] remembers everything and [Matt] LeBlanc remembers everything. And I remember nothing.”
The interview special — which also will feature cast members Courteney Cox, Matthew Perry and David Schwimmer, as well as Kauffman and co-creator David Crane — was supposed to be filmed this spring (on the Friends soundstage on Burbank's Warner Bros. studio lot) so that it could be used to help launch new streaming service HBO Max on May 27. Given the pandemic shutdown and stay-at-home orders, though, the big interview has been postponed for the time being. Speaking of which, how does Kudrow think that her free-spirited character, Phoebe Buffay, would be handling quarantine? “I think her place would be full of half-done projects,” she quips. “Like, big art things. Huge. Like, cumbersome, getting-in-the-way. And Mike (Paul Rudd) would just be sweet about it.” Also: "She’d follow the rules!”
Kudrow also spoke to EW about her role as Steve Carell’s on-screen wife, Maggie, in the new Netflix comedy Space Force, debuting May 29. Their marriage will be one of the more unusual ones shown on screen this year. “Mark and Maggie are forced to navigate a big challenge to their relationship," hints the actress. That’s not the only Netflix series on which Kudrow currently appears. She also stars in Feel Good (now streaming), a romantic comedy in which stand-up Mae (Mae Martin) is navigating a new relationship with girlfriend George (Charlotte Ritchie) while maintaining her newfound sobriety; Kudrow plays Mae’s mom, Linda. “Feel Good is really good,” she says. “Mae is just so appealing. You get to meet someone who a lot of people might not know, and she’s not judgmental. Everything’s okay. This show is easy to watch even though it’s a person who is battling addiction, and has tricky parents who don’t mean to be tricky. Just her mature understanding and forgiveness of everybody is what I get out of that. When I read those scripts, I was like, ‘Okay, this is complicated, in a good way.’”
Kudrow also can be seen in Celebrity Escape Room, which airs Thursday at 8 p.m. on NBC. Part of Red Nose Day 2020, the special reunites her with Cox — and unites her with Ben Stiller and Adam Scott — as they attempt to unlock a series of puzzle rooms masterminded by Game Master Jack Black.