Fans were delighted when the Friends reunion finally aired on HBO Max earlier this year. Sixteen years after the beloved sitcom came to an end, the entire cast got together on camera for the first time since the finale.
While the reunion special brought joy to its viewers, Jennifer Aniston revealed it was actually emotionally challenging for the cast. During an appearance on Literally! with Rob Lowe, Aniston recalled how the bittersweet experience came to be.
"We didn't know what it would look like. I mean, we've been hearing about it for a long time. We knew that people wanted [it] — fans really wanted some kind of reunion," she told host Rob Lowe. "But why unwrap the perfectly packaged [series]? You know, leave it where it was. Let's not disrupt it."
"So when Ben Winston, our producer-director, came to each of us with his idea, it just resonated with all of us," she explained. "And it didn't sound like something that would cheapen or tarnish something that was perfectly left in its place."
The reunion special saw Aniston return to the Friends set with Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, David Schwimmer, Matt LeBlanc, and Matthew Perry. Seeing the set returned to its former glory was filled with "melancholy" for the actors as they reflected on how much time had passed since the show came to an end.
"I think it really took us all down way harder than we anticipated," Aniston admitted. "Because in your mind, you think, 'Oh, this will be really fun to time travel.' It turns out, oh, ouch — it's kind of hard to time travel."
"All of a sudden, here you are. And, you know, 16 years, a lot has gone on for each of us," she continued. "And 16 years ago, we were all sort of wide-eyed and bushy-tailed and sort of had our whole lives ahead of us, even though we were heartbroken to say goodbye to these 10 years and this family and these people and the job we all love to do. And it brought so much joy to fans and ourselves. I mean, it was like having a happy pill every single day."
"Going back there, it's nostalgic in a way that's kind of also a little melancholy, you know," Aniston said. "Because a lot has changed and we have all gone down different roads, not so easy and some easy ... for each of us."
Filming the reunion became so emotionally overwhelming that some parts had to be cut out in the editing room. "There was a period where we were all kind of in a puddle," Aniston revealed. "I don't think we broke David, but even LeBlanc broke at one point. You know, Mr. Tough Guy. You know, our brother. Mr. Impenetrable. Our big brother who would kill anybody if they looked at you wrong. Even he got a little misty."
The Friends reunion special is available to stream on HBO Max.