It’s hard to think of the cast of Friends in anything other than in their iconic roles, but, in reality, it was a long road before they hit it big.
Before Jennifer Aniston became known as Rachel Green, she starred in a series of short-lived sitcoms.
1. Aniston’s first most notable TV role was Jeannie Bueller, on the sitcom Ferris Bueller (a TV adaptation of the 1986 John Hughes film, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off).
The show lasted 13 episodes, running from Aug. 1990 – Aug. 1991.
2. Her next major role came in 1992, when she was cast as a regular cast member on Fox’s sketch comedy show The Edge.
The series, which was a blend of SNL and In Living Color, ran for 18 episodes before it was cancelled in 1992.
3. Aniston’s final major role pre-Friends was on the CBS sitcom Muddling Through.
The show, which ran from July 9, 1994 to Sept. 7, 1994, was cancelled two weeks before the premiere of Friends.
Matthew Perry, who began working on television in the early ’80s, guest starred on several TV shows throughout the ’80s and early ’90s.
4. Perry’s earliest high profile role came in 1987, when he was cast as Chazz on the Fox sitcom Second Chance.
The ridiculous and far-fetched sitcom — which revolved around a man from the future, who is killed in a hovercraft accident, being sent back in time by Saint Peter to help his younger self (Perry’s character) find spiritual fulfillment — was cancelled after 21 episodes.
5. In 1989, Perry had a three episode arc on the popular sitcom,Growing Pains, where he played Sandy, the boyfriend of one the series’ main characters, Carol (played by Tracey Gold), who dies after drinking and driving.
6. One of Perry’s most memorable (at least for ’90s kids) guest starring roles was on a 1991 episode of Beverly Hills, 90210, where he played Roger Azarian, a popular high school senior, who Brandon Walsh (Jason Priestley) talks out of committing suicide.
Matt LeBlanc actually played several Joey-esque characters before he landed his role on Friends.
7. In 1988, LeBlanc was cast as a popular high school jock on the CBS teen drama series TV 101.
The series ran for one season.
Also please note: Stacey Dash (best known as Dionne in Clueless) was also in the cast, playing a high school student — in the ’80s!!!
8. In 1991, he played Kelly’s dumb boyfriend, Vinnie Verducci, on three episodes of Married… with Children.
The producers of Married… with Children tried to spin-off his character into his own show, Top of the Heap. It lasted seven episodes.
9. Also in 1991, LeBlanc played a small role on two episodes of Showtime’s erotic drama (aka soft-core porn), Red Shoe Diaries.
Before being cast as Monica Gellar on Friends, Courteney Cox was already a well-established actress and probably the best known actor on the show.
10. Cox’s first starring role was in 1985, on the science-fiction series, Misfits of Science, where she played telekinetic teen, Gloria.
The series lasted 16 episodes.
11. Prior to Friends, Cox was probably best known as Lauren Miller, Alex P. Keaton’s (played by Michael J. Fox) girlfriend on Family Ties.
Cox guest starred on the series from 1987-89.
12. In 1994, Cox guest starred on Seinfeld as Meryl, Jerry’s girlfriend who poses as his wife in order for them to get a 25% dry cleaning discount.
13. In 1991, Schwimmer had a small recurring role as Michael, Karen Arnold’s (played by Olivia d’Abo) loser hippie boyfriend.
Schwimmer stayed on the show until the series finale in 1992.
14. In 1992, he guest starred on a five episode arc of the drama series, L.A. Law, where he played City Attorney Dana Romney.
15. In 1993, Schwimmer guest starred on the first four episodes of ABC’s runway hit cop drama, NYPD Blue.
He played Josh ‘4B’ Goldstein, a man who seeks revenge on the man who mugged him.
16. In 1989, a brunette Kudrow guest starred on Cheers.
In the episode her character, Emily, tries to seduce Woody (played by Woody Harrelson) in order to convincingly play a couple in a theater production.
17. She also guest starred on the final episode of the CBS sitcom Newhart, in 1990.
Note: The final episode of Newhart is considered one of the most iconic finales in TV history.
18. In 1992, Kudrow was cast in a small recurring role on Mad About You as Ursula Buffay, a waitress at Riff’s (the restaurant frequented on the series) who always forgets everyones order.
Of course, Kudrow would go on to play Ursula’s twin sister, Phoebe. And while starring on Friends, she continued to guest star on Mad About You until the series finale in 1999.