Friends Was Almost a Facts of Life Reunion—Lisa Whelchel Reveals She Read for Jennifer Aniston's Role
NBC; Larry Busacca/Getty Images; Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic
Friends could've been a Facts of Life reunion. Lisa Whelchel, Blair Warner on The Facts of Life, revealed she read for Rachel on Friends, but decided not to go through with it.
"There were many opportunities I maybe could have pursued, but I didn't feel comfortable," Whelchel, a devout Christian, said on an episode of Oprah: Where Are They Now? "I remember reading the pilot episode and I said to my husband, ‘This is the funniest script I have ever read and this is going to be a huge hit.'"
So Whelchel's loss became Jennifer Aniston's gain, as the star went on to win an Emmy and a Golden Globe for her time on the NBC hit series.
However, Whelchel said she could tell from the pilot script that Friends was going to be "all about sex." Still, she said she doesn't regret not taking that opportunity.
The casting "what ifs" of Friends came to light in a 2012 when Warren Littlefield released a Top Of the Rock excerpt to Vanity Fair. In the oral history of Friends, behind-the-scenes players revealed many casting stories, including producers wanting Craig Bierko for the role of Chandler Bing because Matthew Perry was attached to another pilot.
Courteney Cox originally read for Rachel, and the role of Monica almost went to Whelchel's Facts of Life co-star Nancy McKeon, but the show's creators decided to go with Cox.
"Nancy McKeon, from The Facts of Life, also read for Courteney's part. She gave a terrific performance," Lori Openden, head of casting for NBC at the time, said. "Warren [Littlefield, the then NBC president] let Marta [Kauffman] and David [Crane] make the call. They went off for a walk and came back and said Courteney."
The rest is history.
Can you imagine what Friends would've looked like if it had The Facts of Life ladies? How long would it have been until Mrs. Garrett showed up in Central Perk!?