Can you picture anyone other than Matthew Perry playing the sarcastic-yet-lovable Chandler on Friends? Neither could creators Marta Kauffman and David Crane, but Perry—who was committed to another pilot at the time—almost wasn't cast in the role. "We brought everybody in. We were so sure that Chandler would be the easiest part to cast. It’s got the most joke jokes. It’s sarcastic and kind of quippy, but no one could do it. No one," says Crane in a new book about NBC previewed in Vanity Fair. Craig Bierko was the best option, but he passed on the show and Perry was ultimately released from his other pilot.
And the part of Rachel almost went to Courteney Cox, not Jennifer Aniston. But when Cox was offered the role, she said she wanted to play Monica instead—and it worked, despite the fact that the writers originally wrote the role for someone more like Janeane Garofalo, "darker and edgier and snarkier," says Crane. Nancy McKeon, The Facts of Life star, also read for—and almost got—the role. Top of the Rock: Inside the Rise and Fall of Must See TV, by former president of NBC Entertainment Warren Littlefield, also reveals that the show was originally titled Six of One. "Then Kauffman and Crane came back with Friends, which we thought was such a snore," says a former NBC exec. "Some people thought the show was too Gen X, way too narrow."