Friends director reveals the unexpected reason Emily was written off

1998 The Cast in Year 4 of Friends
1998 The Cast in Year 4 of Friends /

Even if you just made an appearance in one episode of Friends, it was definitely a big deal! Over the years, the popular comedy had guest stars who were already big names, those who weren’t known very much, and some who went on to become famous later on. Actress Helen Baxendale appeared on a total of 14 episodes of the sitcom as Emily Waltham. But why didn’t her role stick?

We were first introduced to the character in season 4 episode 14, “The One With Joey’s Dirty Day.” The actress’ last episode was season 5 episode 6, “The One With The Yeti.” She begins dating Ross (David Schwimmer), and eventually the two decide to get married in London. However when Ross accidentally says Rachel’s (Jennifer Aniston) name at the altar, things go awry.

In season 5, Ross finally gets through to Emily after she goes into hiding and dodges his calls. She agrees to come to New York, but only if he stops speaking to Rachel. Though he accepts this, he tells his wife that their marriage won’t work if she doesn’t trust him. And when she reveals she doesn’t, their union comes to an end.

The storyline may have felt rushed and you may have been left wondering why the writers decided to go this route instead of keeping Ross and Emily together. Well, now we have the answer. Read on below!

1998 David Schwimmer and Helen Baxendale of “Friends.” /

Why Emily was written off Friends: Friends director reveals the unexpected reason

Friends director James Burrows has released a memoir, Directed by James Burrows. It features his memories working on multiple projects like Cheers, Frasier, Will & Grace, and of course Friends. In the book, he reveals that he believes Baxendale “was nice, but not particularly funny,” per Deadline. He also felt like she and Schwimmer didn’t have good onscreen chemistry the way the actor and Aniston did.

"Schwimmer had no one to bounce off. It was like clapping with one hand. In sitcoms and any type of romantic comedy, the funny is just as important as the chemistry. We discovered that any new girlfriend for Ross needed to be as funny as Rachel."

Because of this, the role of Emily was actually almost recast, Deadline shares. But because there wasn’t enough time to do so, Baxendale remained in the role. While they didn’t have time to bring in another actress, the writers decided to quickly wrap up the storyline and write Emily off. To this day, Ross’ “take thee, Rachel” is one of the most iconic scenes from the series!

To be honest in Baxendale’s defense, I think the character was also written kind of rigid and not very relatable. So even if another actress was brought in, I think it would have been difficult for her to bring the comedy element the behind-the-scenes team was looking for. I never particularly liked the Emily character, and I think part of it is the way she was written. Either way, we can be rest easy knowing that Ross and Rachel are endgame. Wohoo!

All 10 seasons of Friends are currently streaming on Max.

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