Forgotten Friends stars – tragic death, heartbreaking illness and Hollywood fame

The popular American sitcom Friends aired on NBC for an entire decade from 1994 to 2004 and followed the lives of six reckless adults in New York.

Tuning in for a weekly dosage in 90s was the norm for most households who were eager to witness the chaos unfold between the group of twenty-somethings.

While many viewers wanted to follow their favourite characters – Rachel Green (Jennifer Aniston), Monica Geller (Courteney Cox), Phoebe Buffay (Lisa Kudrow), Joey Tribbiani (Matt LeBlanc), Chandler Bing (Matthew Perry) and Ross Geller (David Schwimmer), the programme also became quite the one-stop-shop for A-list appearances too.

As ratings continued to grow so did the large list of celebrities who were keen to feature in an episode or two.

While the focus remained mainly on the famous six Friends each episode, the show simply wouldn't have been the same without the reappearance from some key regulars.

Here, Daily Star glances back at some of the forgotten stars from Friends and what they are up to now.

Paul Stevens (Bruce Willis)

Bruce Willis's Friends cameo is up there with some of the funniest moments ever on the programme.

In the episode, Ross Geller is his usual awkward-self when he tries to win over his girlfriend Elizabeth's intimidating Dad – Paul Steven's, who is played by the famous actor Bruce.

Things became more interesting when Rachel ended up dating Paul which led to the disastrous but laugh-out-loud funny double date scene.

Fans were literally left with jaws on the floor when the award winning Hollywood actor turned up on the sitcom.

Bruce is best known for his roles in the Die Hard franchise, Armageddon, Pulp Fiction and The Sixth Sense – to name a few.

Earlier this year the prestigious star announced he would be stepping away from the film industry due to a tragic health diagnosis – aphasia.

Bruce's wife Emma Heming Willis and ex-wife Demi Moore both released statements to confirm the news on Instagram, stating that his condition had "impacted his cognitive abilities."

Gunther (James Michael Tyler)

Gunther was the much loved Central Perk coffee house manager who gave Rachel Green – played by Jennifer Anniston – her first real job as a waitress in the early episodes.

The actor was famed for his sarcasm and punchy one liners that really used to be a hit with audiences far and wide.

Tragically James Michael Tyler who played Gunther on the NBC programme lost his battle with cancer in October 2021.

Tyler died peacefully in his Los Angeles home at age 59, after being diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer in 2018, which had later spread to his bones.

Paying tribute to her on-screen coffee house boss, Jennifer said at the time of his death: "Friends would not have been the same without you.

"Thank you for the laughter you brought to the show and to all of our lives. You will be so missed #JamesMichaelTyler."

Janice Hitman Goralink (Maggie Wheeler)

How could we possibly not mention the bumbling loud-mouthed lover of Chandler Bing – simple, we couldn't.

Every fan of the sitcom would immediately know that Janice Hitman Goralink was in the vicinity as soon as her catchphrase "Oh My God," was expressed followed by her nasally laugh.

Over the ten-year spanning-period, Maggie Wheeler who is best know as he character Janice landed herself in a whopping 19 episodes over the ten seasons.

While Maggie's role wasn't a main part, her character still had a way of showing up at the most inappropriate of times, making her a vital part of the Friends tribe.

Maggie went on the star in Everybody Loves Raymond, The remake of The Parent Trap film in 1998 and The Addams Family in 2019.

Will Colbert (Brad Pitt)

Brad Pitt, who was already a huge movie star at the time of his appearance on Friends, played the very memorable role of Will Colbert.

In the hilarious ThanksGiving special, Will catches up with some of his old school friends Monica, Ross and it would seem his arch enemy Rachel – played by Jennifer.

It materialises that Will was once bullied by Rachel over his weight when they were teens and he still has some hang ups about it, exposing the "I Hate Rachel Green Club" of which he was a founding member along with Ross.

At the time of Brad's cameo, he and Jennifer Aniston were one of Hollywood's most prestigious couples – with the pair in the midst of a happy marriage.

However, their relationship wasn't meant to stand the test of time and the couple divorced in 2005.

Jill Green (Reese Witherspoon)

Reese Witherspoon took on the role of playing Rachel's spoiled sister Jill – who had left home to make it on her own – with the help of her dad's credit card.

During her surprise visit, Jill hits it off with Ross – who is her sister Rachel's on and off boyfriend.

Rachel is coming to terms with the fact she still has feelings for Ross but hasn't managed to tell him yet before her sister Jill swoops in.

Luckily for Rachel nothing romantic goes down for the pair as Ross ruins the moment after whipping out his fossil collection.

In an interview with Harpers Bazaar, Reese explained that she felt really nervous meeting and working with Jennifer.

She said: "[Jennifer] was so sweet to me. I was really nervous, and she was like, 'Oh, my gosh, don’t worry about it!'

"I marvelled at her ability to perform in front of a live audience like that with no nerves."

To this day Rachel and Reese remain close friends and have even reunited on-screens to film the award winning The Morning Show – a comedy drama which follows the lives of those working on a popular news programme.

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