Happy Accidents #057 - Friends

A casting decision sets a new TV show on a meteoric path

In the bustling world of showbiz, casting decisions often shape the destiny of iconic TV shows.

The story of how Matthew Perry landed the role of Chandler Bing in "Friends" is a testament to the unpredictable nature of Hollywood, setting the scene for an iconic character on an uber popular show.

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Let's dig in, shall we?


This is the part of every Happy Accident story where we see every successful outcome starts with the person putting themselves in a favorable position. They work hard, they try new things, they meet new people. They're not just sitting around 'hoping' to be successful some day.

You’re likely very familiar with the TV shows Friends (if not, you’ve been living under a rock for the past 30 years).

The show is an American television sitcom created by David Crane and Marta Kauffman, which first aired on NBC on September 22, 1994.

When originally developing the show, the creators of "Friends" pondered over who would embody the lovably sarcastic Chandler.

Jon Favreau, renowned for his film work and improv comedy skills, emerged as a prime contender.

Favreau, riding high on the success of "Swingers," brought a different flavor to the casting considerations.

However, fate had other plans.


This is the part of every success story where there's a chance encounter, a serendipitous moment, an unintentional discovery (or Happy Accident) that paves the way for the next steps. In some cases, a Happy Accident can even be disguised as something bad in the moment.

Lesser known Canadian actor, Matthew Perry, who was somewhat familiar to TV audiences through a recurring role on the show Beverly Hills 90210, entered the scene.

Perry's audition showcased not just his comedic prowess but a unique chemistry with the ensemble cast.

His delivery of Chandler's signature humor resonated, prompting the producers to pivot away from the expected choice of Favreau.

And boy, what a great decision that turned out to be!

Matthew Perry as Chandler Bing


Just like Happy Accidents don't just fall into your lap (you need to set the stage first), they also don't turn into anything if you don't recognize them and take action. This is the part of every success story where we see people capitalizing on their Happy Accident.

Matthew Perry's entrance into the "Friends" fold turned out to be a stroke of brilliance. His portrayal of Chandler became synonymous with the show's success.

Perry's experience in television and his adept comedic skills perfectly aligned with the character, contributing significantly to the show's enduring popularity.

Did Perry single handedly make the show a success? No, of course not. It was a combination of great writing, terrific chemistry between the actors, and a non-traditional concept.

Friends wasn't the first show to have the setup it did, but it was at the forefront of a wave of shows that were structured around an adult friend group rather than around a family or a workplace.

But Perry as Chandler Bing was the icing on the cake that took the show over the top.

In fact, not only did the role of Chandler make a name for Matthew Perry himself, the show went on to run for 10 hugely successful seasons with the final episode airing on May 6, 2004.

How successful? Today, the entire main cast of Friends continues to make a whopping $20 million per year just off residuals from the series alone!

A Sad Side Note

Sadly, Perry passed away in 2023 after battles with addiction and his mental health.

Check out this short video where Perry opens up about his struggles 👇


In the intricate world of casting, where choices can shape the fate of a show, the unexpected selection of Matthew Perry as Chandler Bing became a pivotal moment for "Friends."

Perry's comedic prowess and on-screen chemistry contributed significantly to the show's success, turning a potential alternative, Jon Favreau, into a fascinating 'what if' in TV history.

Some fun facts:

  • Friends was originally going to be called Insomnia Café (can you imagine?)

  • The first actor cast for the show was David Schwimmer. The role of Ross Gellar was written specifically with him in mind.

  • Kathy Griffin and Jane Lynch both auditioned for the role of Phoebe (which ended up going to Lisa Kudrow)

  • The opening credits were not shot in New York. They were actually filmed in the Warner Brothers lot.

Friends: Opening Credits

The lessons here:

  1. Expect the Unexpected in Casting: The casting process is inherently unpredictable, and sometimes the unexpected choice can lead to remarkable success. Matthew Perry's selection over Jon Favreau in "Friends" highlights the importance of keeping an open mind during casting decisions.

  2. Chemistry Is Key: The chemistry among cast members is a critical factor in the success of a TV show. Perry's unique chemistry with the ensemble cast of "Friends" played a pivotal role in his selection for the role of Chandler Bing, showcasing the importance of on-screen relationships.

  3. Comedic Timing Matters: Matthew Perry's comedic timing during auditions set him apart. The story suggests that a performer's ability to deliver humor effectively can be a deciding factor in casting for comedic roles, emphasizing the significance of comedic skills in the industry.

  4. Embrace Alternative Paths to Success: Both Jon Favreau and Matthew Perry went on to have successful careers, albeit in different capacities. Favreau became a renowned director, while Perry continued to be a TV and movie fixture. The story teaches us that even if the initial plan doesn't unfold as expected, alternative paths can lead to success in the entertainment industry.

…And Another Thing

A quick video about how I became an Accidental Solopreneur overnight

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