The ‘Friends’ storyline that was inspired by Lisa Kudrow’s life
Credit: Friends

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The ‘Friends’ storyline that was inspired by Lisa Kudrow's life

The TV sitcom Friends remains an enduring classic more than a decade after it finished airing on the small screen and is still cherished by fans worldwide who cannot have enough of it on streaming platforms like Netflix.

The creators, Marta Kauffman and David Crane drew from their own experiences while writing the show. In an interview with The Cut in 2019, Kauffman reminisced about the inception of Friends, “When David and I lived in New York, we had a group of six friends. We were all each other’s best friends. We hung out all the time; we were like a family,” she stated.

“So later, when we were thinking of shows that could have an ensemble cast, it occurred to us to look back at that point in our lives. That was the birth of the idea for Friends — that time in your life when your friends are your family,” Kauffman added.

While the characters on Friends were entirely fictional, the show occasionally drew from the personal lives of its talented ensemble cast, which included Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc, David Schwimmer, and Matthew Perry. Lisa Kudrow’s pregnancy inspired one such storyline on Friends.

Kudrow’s real-life pregnancy became the muse for the writers when they crafted the storyline in which her character, Phoebe Buffay, decides to become a surrogate for her brother and his wife. This choice ultimately leads to Phoebe giving birth to triplets, as well as several funny and poignant moments.

In an interview with the Emmys, Warren Littlefield, who served as NBC President from 1990 to 1998, recalled how the Friends creators embraced Kudrow’s pregnancy as a cause for celebration. Lisa was the first among the cast to be married and then the first to become a parent, marking significant milestones in her life. He recalled, “There was almost nothing you could throw at [creators] David [Crane] and Marta [Kauffman].”

Crane later explained to TV Guide that they didn’t want to follow the conventional TV trope of concealing a pregnant character behind oversized coats or silly props. “We wanted to find a way to actually incorporate it into the story, which was obviously tricky considering Phoebe wasn’t with anybody at that point. This seemed to be a really different and unexpected way to go, and it was a storyline we had never seen before.” 

Kauffman echoed this sentiment, emphasising that the surrogate storyline allowed Phoebe to grow without becoming a parent herself.