Inside the ‘awkwardly magic’ Friends reunion: From private jokes to hilarious table reads

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It has been 17 years since viewers saw the emotional final episode of Friends after a decade of gripping highs and lows.

Now we can pull back the curtain and reveal some of funniest quips and sweetest anecdotes from the 'awkwardly magic' reunion.

Fans of the popular show were this week given a glimpse behind the scenes of the long-awaited reunion. A trailer for the hotly anticipated get-together showed the stars return to the studios where they filmed 236 episodes over ten years.

The show will be broadcast later this month with the original six protagonists along with numerous celebrity guests, including Nobel peace prize winner Malala Yousafzai and former footballer David Beckham.

In the show, Jennifer Aniston, who played Rachel, is reunited with Courteney Cox (Monica), Lisa Kudrow (Phoebe), Matt LeBlanc (Joey), Matthew Perry (Chandler) and David Schwimmer (Ross).

They visit the Hollywood studios and recreate the famous Friends quiz from season 4 which saw Joey and Chandler win Monica and Rachel's apartment.

At one point, emotional Cox wipes a tear from her eye while Aniston puts a comforting arm around Perry. The clip ends with the stars hugging and Aniston saying: "I love you guys so much."

"This cast in these roles and the collaborative spirit that the writers invited, where we were all playing at the highest level that we could play, was just a dream come true for all of us and I think we all realised that very early on," Schwimmer says during an interview.

"Over the years we have all struggled with different obstacles and challenges and I think in those times it's been nice to be able to reach out and touch base and have a call. I mean, I'm speaking for myself because I'm the only one who doesn't live in California – I live in New York.

"In the 17 years since we've wrapped we've seen each other like one or two people, and I know the girls get together often, but the whole cast together haven't in about nine years."

Walking back onto Stage 24 at Warner Bros. studios, the former castmates are visibly taken aback by the site of meticulously recreated sets of a world they haven't visited in 17 years: Joey and Chandler's bachelor pad, Monica and Rachel's apartment, even Central Perk, where the thrift-store-find orange couch was always reserved for them.

"I was flooded with 10 years of irreplaceable memories," Cox, 56, says.

In one of the trailer's funniest moments, we see the six principal cast members revisiting the set of Monica and Rachel's apartment.

Matt LeBlanc then moves the fruit bowl in the kitchen to one side, and asks: "Does Courtney still have her lines written on the table?"

By the end of its 10-season run, Friends was one of the highest-rated television shows of all time.

Now, for only the second time since the finale aired in 2004, the six actors have reunited for two days to film Friends: The Reunion – a non-scripted celebration of the NBC series premiering on HBO Max on May 27.

"It's funny, when we do get together, it's like no time has passed," says LeBlanc, 53. "We pick up right where we left off."

The list of A-list stars due to make cameo appearances in the reunion is also pretty long.

Along with Beckham and Yousafzai, we'll also be seeing Lady Gaga, Mindy Kaling, Justin Bieber and Cindy Crawford.

One highlight of the trailer is seeing Cara Delevigne wearing Rachel's bright pink bridesmaids dress from The One with Barry and Mindy's Wedding.

When she turns around, Delevigne even has the back of the dress caught in her underwear, just like Rachel did in the show.

The model seems to be taking part in some kind of Friends fashion show, which also features someone dressed as the holiday armadillo.

From reminiscing about the show and performing a table read of part of The One with The Jellyfish episode, the reunion special also features special guests like Reese Witherspoon, who played Rachel's sister.

James Michael Tyler (Gunther), and Elliott Gould and Christina Pickles (Ross and Monica's parents Jack and Judy) are also among the stars returning to our screens.

Two of the recurring characters make an appearance in the trailer. We get a glimpse of Tom Selleck (Monica's ex-boyfriend Richard) as well as a big "Oh. My. God!" from Maggie Wheeler (Janice).

Some fans have expressed their disappointment however, that Paul Rudd (Phoebe's husband Mike) isn't taking part, as he effectively became a seventh member of the main cast in the last two seasons.

When the six stars first met up together on the soundstage, their initial mutual thought was "Oh God, how are we going to get through this alive, without just crying our faces off?" says Aniston, 52.

"It was kind of melancholy, I guess. Right?" asks LeBlanc. Kudrow, 57, agrees: "Yeah, emotional."

While the special is unscripted, the cast members each have an idea of what their characters would be doing today.

"I would like to have maybe started a clothing line of my own, and it's sort of a small franchise," says Aniston of Rachel. "Like a Nili Lotan. And I live in New York City on the Upper East Side."

For Cox, "I always just feel like Monica would be doing something competitively with other mothers and trying to outdo them," she says.

"Whether it's the bake sale at school or something. I mean, she'd be so annoying. She'd be at the head of the PTA or something."

Kudrow thinks Phoebe "is living in Connecticut with Mike and their kids, and she's in charge of the arts program for the school," the actress says. "And just…the advocate for her kids because they're different like she was."

Chandler "would be a wonderful father," says Perry, 51. "And a wonderful comedy writer."

LeBlanc says Joey "would have opened a chain of sandwich shops." Adds Perry: "And eaten all the sandwiches."

As for Ross, aside from "playin' with the bones" as a palaeontologist, Schwimmer, 54, says "he would've invested in Joey's sandwich shop and lost a lot of his savings for his kids."

"Dinosaur-themed sandwich shop," adds LeBlanc. "Bronto-burger."

The trailer is full of nostalgia for fans and shows the cast sitting down for an interview with British comedian James Corden and doing a table read of well-known scenes.

In one, we hear Kudrow shouting "My eyes! My eyes!" from The One Where Everyone Finds Out.

We also see Kudrow reunited with her acoustic guitar for some presumably awful live music.

Then there's the aforementioned celebrity Friends fashion show and the set visit – including reconstructions of the two main apartments and the coffee house, Central Perk.

But surely the biggest highlight is the recreation of Ross's trivia test from series four, where the boys and girls battle it out over who knows each other better.

How long was the letter Rachel wrote Ross? "Eighteen pages," cries LeBlanc. "Front and back!" adds Jennifer Aniston.

"The show was a character-driven funny, not timely funny," says Perry of why the show has found such a following.

"They didn't make timely jokes. They didn't make jokes about O.J. Simpson. They made character-driven jokes about people – and people are going to come back time and time again and watch that."

The chemistry that still exists between them all is "magic," he insists.

"Awkward," deadpans LeBlanc. "I would say awkward." Adds Perry: "It's awkwardly magic."

"When we do get together it's like no time has passed," LeBlanc adds.

"Everybody has a relationship like that. You know when you have a conversation with that person it's heartfelt and open and there is no ulterior motive."

Chandler was a character who struggled to show his emotions – to the point that the writers based an entire episode around it.

The One Where Chandler Can't Cry sees the group surprised at how rarely Chandler gets visibly upset, with Monica coming up with a variety of scenarios to see if she can make him cry.

But in real life, actor Matthew Perry clearly has no issue with displaying his emotions.

We don't know what sets him off, but in the trailer we get a glimpse of Perry saying "yeah, I'm gonna cry now", as Aniston puts her hand on his shoulder.

The cast also admitted things they stole from the iconic set.

"I stole a dress that Monica wore," Aniston admits. "I went into her line of clothes, pulled it out and still wear it to this day, and it still fits. It's a lace, floral, black V-neck dress. It will always be in style."

"I stole an 'I Love Friends' license plate and put it on Schwimmer's car and it took him a week to realise," LeBlanc reveals.

"I stole the cookie jar that had the clock on it and gave it to Lisa Kudrow because she at one point looked at it and thought it was an actual clock," Perry jokes.

As for Kudrow, she confesses to pinching a couple of Phoebe's rings. And Schwimmer says he only took a little placard that read 'Professor Geller' from his office at the museum.

"Every day since the first day we met it is a pleasure to be friends with these people," Aniston gushes. "It goes way beyond the work and what it was. You can't put words to what's come out of it.

"We're connected no matter what, till death do us part."

"It's true," Cox agrees. "The chemistry between the three of us is easy, honest and open."

"Like siblings," LeBlanc adds.

And then there is the question on everyone's lips – were Ross and Rachel on a break?

As Corden poses this question to all six of the cast members, they seem pretty much in agreement that Ross and Rachel were on a break, and therefore Ross technically did nothing wrong by sleeping with the girl from the copy place.

Except one.

LeBlanc replies: "Bull***" much to David Schwimmer's visible shock and delight.

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