Summary The Friends cast faced salary disparities in season 3, threatening their real-life friendships. Jennifer Aniston and David Schwimmer negotiated with their co-stars for equal pay. The cast's negotiations paid off as they continued working together for 7 more seasons and earned growing salaries at an equal rate. Aniston's payment negotiation sheds light on the current SAG-AFTRA strike, highlighting the importance of solidarity among actors for fair wages.
Jennifer Aniston looks back on a potentially friendship-breaking conflict the Friends cast faced. Boasting 10 seasons, Friends saw Aniston, Lisa Kudrow, David Schwimmer, Courteney Cox, Matthew Perry, and Matt LeBlanc collaborate for nearly a decade. Since it came to an end, the crew has been by each other's sides for weddings, breakups, pool matches, and as of late, even a reunion for an HBO special.
Yet, the cast's real-life friendships were put in jeopardy when salary disparities emerged in the making of Friends season 3. According to The Wall Street Journal (via TVLine), after the romance between Ross and Rachel garnered a significant amount of screen time in season 2, Aniston and Schwimmer began to earn more than their co-stars. Knowing this would dismantle the comradery shared among the main cast, Aniston and her five castmates negotiated for each lead to make the same amount. "It would've destroyed us, I think, if someone was soaring financially," Aniston says.
Friends' enduring success made the 1996 move especially sound, as the cast continued working together for another seven seasons. Moreover, the actors' salaries did not stop increasing after season 3; the leads earned growing figures at an equal rate until the series finale. Reportedly, the difference in pay between Friends' first and last episode for the six leads was $22,500 and $1 million, respectively. In other words, across the decade, the cast's salary multiplied roughly 44 times.
Aniston's insight into her payment negotiation also illuminates some of the reasoning behind the current SAG-AFTRA strike, where actors are fighting for better wages and streaming residuals. With the introduction of streaming platforms and a boom of new TV shows, most actors today rarely achieve the level of success attained by the Friends stars. Moreover, current negotiations also appear to be more difficult than those Aniston and her co-stars experienced. Clearly, though, solidarity among actors can lead to success when negotiating fair salaries.
Although some TV stars perhaps would have operated differently, Aniston and Schwimmer's decision to stand by their co-stars amid a salary dispute can be celebrated by Friends supporters. Without this off-screen devotion to their friendships, the series may not have enjoyed its decade-long run and ongoing approval.
Source: Wall Street Journal (via TVLine)