Kevin S. Bright In His Own Words: ‘Friends’ Facts For The Ages

During Saratoga Living‘s day with Kevin Bright and his wife, Claudia Wilsey Bright, in their Saratoga area home, we had quite a bit of time to geek out on one of our favorite shows of all time—NBC’s Friends, which ended its 10-season run in 2004, only to have a major renaissance in the past several years on streaming service Netflix. Bright let us in on some of the show’s best-kept secrets. Find out about them below.

For big episodes, the Friends cast performed the entire show for multiple live audiences in order to keep the laughs fresh.
“We had this whole approach to it,” says Friends executive producer/director Kevin Bright, who directed the two-part “The One With Ross’s Wedding” (Season 4, Episodes 23-24) in London. “We would shoot it three times, nonstop, in front of three different audiences, and that way, the most possible people could see the show.”

Even fictional brides and bridesmaids want to look perfect on the wedding day.
During that same shooting, “everything was going swimmingly,” until it came time for the actresses to change into their bridal gowns. “That took three hours,” Bright says, leaving the live studio audience restless. “Three hours to put three girls in wedding dresses, makeup and do their hair! For the second show we decided, let’s just leave them in the wedding dresses, and we’ll just pick it up at that point. It was so crazy that when it was all done, because we kept moving things around, I realized we had only shot the processional to the wedding once!”

The whole “Friends copied Seinfeld” debate was real.
Coming on the heels of smash hit Seinfeld, Friends was relentlessly accused of copying the concept (a group of NYC best friends, two of whom live across the hall, hanging out). In reality, the creators were breaking new ground—by setting the show in a coffee shop (pre-Starbucks!). Bright explains: “NBC was very worried that Middle America would not understand what a coffeehouse was. They wanted it to be in a diner like Seinfeld. They’d tell us, ‘People know what a diner is; they don’t know what a coffeeshop is.’ If you wonder, in these high-level meetings, what kind of amazing, intellectual notes are passed between creators and buyers, that’s what you get. Can’t it be a diner like Seinfeld? Can’t it be something that’s already on television?”

HBO Max’s upcoming Friends reunion special has been rescheduled.
First, fans rejoiced that all six Friends would be on-air together again, and then (only less than a month later!) came the collective devastation when shooting became another victim of COVID-19. Would the busy friends be able to re-schedule? Bright says yes. “We were actually supposed to be shooting [the week of March 23], and now it’s probably not going to be shot until May,” the next time that all of the now-household-name actors could get together. 

During the special, the actors will play themselves.
The reunion will be a “nostalgic look back,” not the actors stepping into their beloved former roles. Says Bright: “We said to many people, ‘You know, you think you want to see the Friends again, but you got to trust us. You know what it’s going to be like? First episode you’re going to stop and realize that they’re not in their twenties anymore. Why would we want to do that show?”

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