And the answer: Matt LeBlanc.
So no one told Matt LeBlanc life was gonna be this way (clap clap clap clap), but he still made the best of his first paycheck by buying himself a nice, hot dinner. The actor had only $11 to his name when he booked Friends in 1994. The starting pay was $22,500 per episode, and by the end of the show’s 10-year run, each main cast member made $1 million per episode. Today, each of the six friends make about $20 million each in royalties.
Before Friends was one of the most popular TV shows of all time—with a staggering 62 Emmy nominations—it was a seven page pitch titled Insomnia Café. Not only did the show have a different name, but its plot centered around love interests Joey and Monica instead of the familiar pairing of Ross and Rachel. After NBC bought the pilot, it was titled Friends Like Us, and by the time they shot it, someone finally had the idea of shortening the show’s name to the instantly recognizable Friends. From there, Friends ran 235 more episodes across ten seasons, and ultimately ranked within the top ten highest-rated TV shows of the 2000s.
Did you know?
28 years ago today, the very first episode of Friends aired! Watched by almost 22 million people, the series quickly became a staple of NBC's Thursday night line-up and one of the most awarded TV comedies of all time. Almost thirty years later, the impact of Friends can be seen in hairstyles like “The Rachel,” in Joey’s iconic “How you doin’?,” and much more.
Interestingly, the production of Friends used specific techniques to make sure each actor was compensated and featured fairly among the group. The writers of Friends reportedly used a pie chart to measure how many lines and jokes each actor said, thereby ensuring no one character would get less screen time. The actors themselves also enforced fair treatment, as each vowed to receive the same compensation per episode. Talk about solidarity!
Learn more about the history and influence of Friends here.