20+ Supporting Actors From “Friends” Whose Characters Left a Mark on the Show
It’s been 26 years since its premiere, however, it seems that more and more people are talking about Friends because fans just can’t get enough of it. Maybe that’s because it’s a series that can be watched and enjoyed over and over again. But what would the series be without those characters who were part of the story, but who weren’t the stars of the show? What would have happened without Emily, who would Ross have called Rachel at the wedding? Or what would have happened without Richard and his influence on the relationship between Chandler and Monica?
Bright Side brings you the most influential supporting characters of the series. You will find out what they have been doing after the show and how they have changed in looks over the years.
1. Jane Sibbett (Carol Willick)
One of the most well-known roles in her acting career was without any doubt that of Carol, Ross’ first wife (of the many he had!), who leaves him when she falls in love with her friend Susan (played by Jessica Hecht). She is a recurring character in the series, since she has a son (little Ben) with Ross.
Besides Friends, Sibbett has worked on Herman’s Head and It Takes Two, alongside the Olsen twins, among other films. She is actually still close to Jessica and they have given online yoga classes together.
2. Jessica Hecht (Susan Bunch)
Carol and Susan are a great couple and are very popular among Friends fans (besides, if they hadn’t met, Ross would probably still be married to Carol and there wouldn’t be a Ross and Rachel, right?). Jessica went on to pursue an ambitious acting career. She took part in films like Whatever Works, directed by Woody Allen, and Dan in Real Life where she worked with Steve Carell. She also appeared in series like Breaking Bad, where she played Gretchen Schwartz. But maybe you didn’t know it was her, since it’s hard to recognize her without the distinctive curls she wore in Friends.
3. Cole Sprouse (Ben Geller)
Oh, look at how much Ben has grown? For many of us, he’s still that little boy who loved to play pranks that he learned from “Aunt Rachel” and for whom Ross dresses up as an armadillo to explain what Hanukkah is all about. Cole actually has a twin brother named Dylan. Together they starred in a TV show called The Suite Life of Zack & Cody. Currently, he’s playing Jughead Jones on Riverdale, a TV series that combines drama and mystery.
4. James Michael Tyler (Gunther)
Gunther is the recurring character who has the most appearances in the series, aside from the main characters. He won everyone’s affection because of his great and unrequited love for Rachel. In fact, that love once led him to buy a cat that Rachel no longer wanted, and to buy all of Ross’ furniture when he had to get rid of it at Emily’s request (Remember? She wanted Ross to get rid of everything that Rachel had touched!).
James had worked in cafés before, and even though he started out as just another extra, he was chosen for the role because he was the only one who knew how to work an espresso machine. As for his acting career, he has appeared in a number of TV series, including Episodes, a series starring Matt LeBlanc (the actor who played Joey).
5. Maggie Wheeler (Janice)
Oh, my God! How many times have we laughed with Janice and her recurring punchline throughout the series? She’s definitely one of the most charismatic characters in Friends. Both her line and her laugh are an irreplaceable part of the series.
Since Friends, she has appeared in several movies and series, always in supporting roles. If you’ve seen The Parent Trap, then you’ve seen Maggie Wheeler on the big screen. She played Marva Kulp Jr., one of the camp counselors who is best remembered for that scene involving a fencing battle or when she and her mother fall into the trap that Hallie had set for Annie in her room. Aside from acting, Wheeler is passionate about music. She currently directs a choir in Los Angeles called The Golden Bridge Choir.
6. Mitchell Whitfield (Barry)
Barry was left at the altar by Rachel, as we learned in the first chapter of Friends. Without a doubt he is a very influential character in the history of the series, especially in the first seasons. Of course, he then pops up again on several occasions, like when he marries Mindy, one of Rachel’s closest friends from her teenage years. Rachel, who’s a bridesmaid at her wedding, has to see the whole family again of the man she stood up at the very same church a few years back. You might remember that the episode in question doesn’t end very well... Anyway, besides Friends, Whitfield frequently works on series and in movies as a voice actor.
7. Cosimo Fusco (Paolo)
Cosimo played the charming Paolo, an Italian stud that Rachel met during a power failure where they fell in love. It’s no wonder he got Ross so upset. Cosimo is actually Italian and lives in Rome, although he does speak English, unlike his character in the series. His most recent work includes the Spanish series 30 Coins, directed by Álex de la Iglesia for HBO.
8. Larry Hankin (Mr. Heckles)
In addition to being an actor, Hankin is a writer, producer, director, and singer. He played the role of Old Joe in Breaking Bad, both in the series and in the movie. And even though he has a great career in the film world, he admits that Friends was the gig that brought him the most recognition and fame. Besides, he had been there since the beginning of the series and he saw how the series continually grew, as well as how the main characters evolved over the years.
9. Hank Azaria (David)
Unlike the others, Hank is actually not very well known for his role in Friends. Instead, his most defining role was the voice over for several Simpsons characters, like Moe Szyslak, Chief Wiggum, and Apu Nahasapeemapetilon, among others. While we love his vocal work, we remember him as David, the scientist and Phoebe’s love of her life that could somehow never be (and when it could, it was too late).
10. Mike Hagerty (Mr. Treeger)
Also known as Michael Gerard Hagerty, he played Mr. Treeger, the superintendent of the building where Monica, Rachel, Joey, and Chandler lived. Besides Friends, Mike has played many supporting roles in successful series, like Seinfeld, Grey’s Anatomy and Glee.
11. Tom Selleck (Richard Burke)
Tom is a famous actor who is the winner of a Golden Globe and an Emmy. He jumped to fame after starring in the series Magnum P.I. In fact, he’s worked in so many series and films that people don’t automatically think of him as Richard from Friends. But his part was still important: he was the man that Monica fell head over heels for, but their relationship didn’t work out because he didn’t want to have children (and by the time he wanted to pursue that life with Monica, it was too late). However, he is a very beloved character and there will always be a debate between fans who believe that Monica should have stayed with him instead of Chandler and those who prefer Chandler’s nonchalance. All in all, the world might stop turning, but his mustache will always remain intact!
12. Steven Eckholdt (Mark Robinson)
How could we forget about Mark? This is actually the character who changed everything in the series forever when Rachel gets her first job that she really likes at Bloomingdale’s. Of course, he’s the main reason behind Ross and Rachel’s first breakup, because of how jealous Ross gets when he’s around. But that’s not the last game changer he introduces into the series. In the least season, he comes back and actually offers Rachel a new job in Paris... And the rest is history! Eckholdt has worked on other series and films, but Mark remains his most popular TV character.
13. Tate Donovan (Joshua Bergin)
Jennifer Aniston and Tate Donovan were actually a couple and by the time they were working together on Friends, they were in the middle of a breakup. Poor things! Imagine having to work with your ex on a daily basis and if that wasn’t enough, having to act like you’re in love with him. Talk about professionalism!
14. Helen Baxendale (Emily Waltham)
15. Elle Macpherson (Janine Lecroix)
We don’t remember seeing Joey fall in love many times during Friends, but one of the few times he claimed to have found the apple of his eye, was when Janine arrived. She was Joey’s roommate when Chandler moved in with Monica. Macpherson is Australian, just like her character. She’s an internationally acclaimed supermodel, and in March this year she turned 56. No doubt she still has it!
16. June Gable (Estelle Leonard)
Estelle was the talent agent handling Joey’s career. She might have had a slightly weird look and more than a few sketchy tips, but screenwriters and producers made her a unique character that was loved by all Friends fans. Gable went on to play in TV shows and films like Adam Sandler’s The Week Of, but she was already a successful Broadway actor before appearing in Friends.
17. Lauren Tom (Julie)
After her brief, but intense, appearance on Friends as Ross’ boyfriend, Lauren Tom continued working as a voice actor for well-known cartoons like Futurama, where she does the voice for Amy and Inez Wong.
18. Jon Favreau (Pete Becker)
Who hasn’t dreamed of having an extremely rich boyfriend? That guy was Pete, Monica’s former boyfriend during season 3. On their first date, they went to a romantic Italian restaurant... in Rome! He even bought her a restaurant where she could become the chef she always wanted to be.
Favreau, besides acting, is a renowned producer who has worked on films like The Lion King (2019) and The Avengers franchise.
19. Alexandra Holden (Elizabeth Stevens)
Elizabeth was Ross’ girlfriend during season 6. She was often the subject of heated debate and jokes among the group because of the age difference between Ross and her. And the cherry on top: not only was she way younger, but she was also a student of Ross’s at the university he taught at. The relationship doesn’t end well, but we still fondly remember how Elizabeth got Ross to go on spring break with her and some other students.
20. Noelle and Cali Sheldon (Emma Geller-Green)
Noelle and Cali, twin sisters, were famous before they even realized it. They were barely one year old when they were playing the beautiful Emma, daughter of Ross and Rachel. After Friends, they worked on a few short films together.
21. Paul Rudd (Michael “Mike” Hannigan)
The best part of the love story between Mike and Phoebe is how they meet: Joey was supposed to introduce Phoebe to someone, but he totally forgets about it. When their double date starts, Joey improvises and claims to know, Mike. Of course, he didn’t have a friend by that name, so he starts yelling “Mike!” in the restaurant and that’s when Paul Rudd enters the scene. Besides Friends, Rudd has had a successful career as a comedian and now he is well-known for playing Ant-Man (Scott Lang) in The Avengers franchise.
22. Aisha Tyler (Charlie Wheeler)
Charlie started out dating Joey, but ended up dating Ross, as part of a huge love triangle (or actually square) that leads to a brief romance between Joey and Rachel. The “dinosaur girl,” as Phoebe nicknamed her, ended up leaving Ross for her ex-boyfriend.
Bonus: The parents
1. Elliott Gould (Jack Geller)
We remember Jack fondly, his innocent comments and dad jokes, the way he called Monica “My Little Harmonica,” or the steamy relationship with his wife that bothered their children more than once (and with reason).
Gould has a great career in the world of series and films. He worked again with Marta Kauffman (co-creator and executive producer of Friends) in Grace and Frankie, where Lisa Kudrow also makes guest appearances.
2. Christina Pickles (Judy Geller)
Judy had a very obvious preference for Ross, that was especially clear when she constantly pointed out that Monica was not yet married. Christina is an Emmy Award winning, successful actress with a great career.
3. Marlo Thomas (Sandra Green)
We love Sandra, a character that shows how it’s never too late to change the thing you don’t like about your life, regardless of society’s expectations. She divorces Rachel’s father and compares him to Barry so that her daughter understands that she never loved her father.
Thomas has an extensive career. She is active on social media, like Instagram, regardless of being 82 years old! Plus, she’s a writer. This year she published What Makes a Marriage Last with her husband Phil Donahue, with whom she has been married since 1980. Let’s hear it for Marlo!
4. Ron Leibman (Leonard Green)
Rachel’s father was hard to get along with and found it hard to understand that his daughter wanted to be independent. He was also fairly judgmental of Ross, especially after he found out that Rachel was pregnant, but that they weren’t planning on getting married. Leibman passed away in 2019, at the age of 82.
5. Morgan Fairchild (Nora Tyler Bing)
In addition to being Chandler’s mother in the series, Nora is the successful writer of novels. The group of friends enjoys her occasional visits, except Chandler, who is constantly embarrassed by her presence.
6. Kathleen Turner (Charles Bing)
Chandler’s father divorced his mother after cheating on her with the boy who cleaned the pool. We only get to know him when Chandler and Monica travel to Las Vegas to invite him to their wedding, where Charles performs his show. Although Kathleen plays a drag queen, the actress suffers from rheumatoid arthritis, which has completely changed the body she used to have when she was younger.
What do you remember most about Friends? What is your favorite moment in the series?