In the beginning, the cast of Friends reportedly made $22,500 per episode, by the end all six actors famously had astounding salaries of $1 million per episode. However, at one point, all of these stars were not set to make the same amount of money. It turns out that David Schwimmer and Jennifer Aniston actually played a big role in helping the ensemble eventually get to their gigantic paydays, as the late Matthew Perry revealed in his book.
As many reflect on and pay tribute to Matthew Perry, including his fellow Friends alums, discussions about the legacy of Friends and just how popular it was (and still is) have been reignited. Along with that, the crew’s famously high salaries have been explained, and thanks to the Chandler actor’s book, it’s also been revealed how the crew was able to stand together, and make it so they were all paid equally.
David Schwimmer Had The Idea For The Cast To Negotiate Salaries As A Group
In Friends, Lovers and the Big Terrible Thing, Perry wrote about how the Ross Geller actor was considered the big star of the show. However, instead of taking a larger raise than his co-stars, Schwimmer approached the cast and proposed the idea that they all negotiate their salaries as a unit.
After Season 1 of Friends, as reported in The Guardian, David Schwimmer and Jennifer Aniston were earning more than Perry, Matt LeBlanc, Lisa Kudrow and Courteney Cox because of the buzz around Ross and Rachel’s relationship. When Season 3 rolled around, Schwimmer asked Aniston if she’d be willing to take a pay cut, so all six members of the ensemble could receive equal pay. In his memoir (via The Guardian), the Chandler Bing actor gave big props to his co-star for making this choice, as he wrote:
David had certainly been in a position to go for the most money, and he didn’t. I would like to think that I would have made the same move, but as a greedy 25-year-old, I’m not sure I would have. But his decision served to make us take care of each other through what turned out to be a myriad of stressful network negotiations, and it gave us a tremendous amount of power.
Later on, Perry wrote about how grateful he was to Schwimmer and that decision made during the early seasons of Friends. He explained:
We had David’s goodness, and his astute business sense, to thank for what we had been offered. I owe you about $30m, David.
In the end, the cast went on to famously make $1 million per episode during the last two years of the show. Series co-creator Marta Kauffman called the salaries “ridiculous.” However, considering how beloved the show was, and how much appreciation there still is for the series, it seems like it was worth every penny to pay all six actors so much.
By The Last Seasons, The Friends Cast Was Making $1 Million Per Episode
By the time Friends entered into its later seasons, the cast had become bonafide superstars, and the show had been a pop culture phenomenon for years. In an interview with the Huffington Post Matt LeBlanc commented on how the ensemble ended up making $1 million per episode, saying:
I've been asked this question before, but phrased as, do I think we were worth it? Were we worth $1 million? To me, that's such a strange question. It's like, well, that's irrelevant. Are you worth it? How do you put a price on how funny something is? We were in a position to get it.
The Joey Tribbiani actor went on to say that if anyone is in a position to get a raise, and they don’t, they’re “stupid.” He then explained that he and his castmates were “in a position” where they could “pull it off,” so they did.
By the end of its run, the stars of the hit sitcom were making $1,100,040 per episode, and it was in big part thanks to David Schwimmer and Jennifer Aniston deciding to take a pay cut early on and stand in solidarity with their colleagues. To this day, the Friends cast still makes money in royalties, and the story of their incredible salaries is legendary.
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