Just in time for Super Bowl LV this year, The Hollywood Reporter sat down with the team behind Friends and asked about how the show managed to snag big names for Julia Roberts, Jean-Claude Van Damme, and Brooke Shields for a very special post-Super Bowl special 25 years ago. Appropriately called "The One After the Superbowl," Roberts appeared as Chandler Bing's middle school classmate and in order to get her to appear alongside everyone's favorite group of coffee-obsessed pals, Matthew Perry had to write a paper on quantum physics.
David Crane, the show's co-creator, said, "We never, over the course of doing the show, wrote for a specific guest. We came up with stories we thought were funny and put it out to our casting to find the best people. But for this episode, we couldn't just go with a really good actor. We needed names."
Executive producer Kevin Bright, got even deeper into how Roberts agreed to appear, saying, "Do you know the story of how we got her? Matthew [Perry] asked her to be on the show. She wrote back to him, 'Write me a paper on quantum physics, and I'll do it.' My understanding is that Matthew went away and wrote a paper and faxed it to her the next day."
And to add a major dose of '90s nostalgia to the whole thing, writer Alexa Junge explained that Perry and Roberts, who dated after her guest spot, used the fax machine for more than just that physics paper.
"There was a lot of flirting over faxing. She was giving him these questionnaires like, 'Why should I go out with you?' And everyone in the writers room helped him explain to her why," Junge said. "He could do pretty well without us, but there was no question we were on Team Matthew and trying to make it happen for him."
NBC Entertainment president Warren Littlefield couldn't believe that the show managed to pull in the big names. "I remember when I got a call and they said, 'Oh, we got Julia Roberts,' and it was like, 'Are you fucking kidding me?'" he said.
Director Michael Lembeck only has good memories, saying that although Roberts had anxiety about performing in front of a live audience, she did just fine.
"Julia Roberts was a joy. She hadn't been in front of a live audience since she did Agnes of God onstage when she was 15," he said. "The first night, she held my hand so tightly before she went on that I thought she was going to break my knuckles. Her performance anxiety was extraordinary."
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