From 1994-2004 Friends was one of the single most popular television shows in the world. The six main characters lived lives in New York City that everyone wanted to follow, and it was a show that almost any actor would jump to appear in.
The sitcom made Jennifer Aniston a household name and made sure that none of the main cast would ever need to work again—though we’re glad they all still do. Because it was such an it show, appearing in it was always a good career move for actors, and for 10 years it brought our attention to more promising talent. Here are ten actors whose careers got started on Friends.
10 Aisha Tyler
Before she showed up on Friends as Charlie Wheeler in season nine, Aisha Tyler had done a couple of small parts here and there on shows like Curb Your Enthusiasm and CSI: Miami. Her tenure as Charlie Wheeler for nine episodes was a big run and had an interesting arc.
As the scientist who would only date Nobel Prize winners, she started as a love interest for Ross, dated Joey, and then turned back around to date Ross. She had great chemistry with the entire cast, and it’s a shame she didn’t stick around longer. After Friends, Tyler appeared on several episodes of 24, was in The Boondocks, and since 2009 has been the voice of Lana Kane on Archer.
9 Christine Taylor
In 1997, Christine Taylor showed up as Phoebe’s “bald friend” Bonnie. When Phoebe sets up Ross with Bonnie, who is no longer bald, it sets off a crisis of confidence and jealousy for Rachel, who had broken up with Ross.
Taylor had already played small brief roles in a few episodes of big shows like Blossom (1 episode in 1992), Ellen (2 episodes in 1995), and Seinfeld (1 episode in 1997), but her career really picked up after she shaved her head (again) while dating Ross. She played Matilda Jeffries in Zoolander in 2001, a role that she’s still known for. She also has a recurring role as Sally Sitwell in Arrested Development.
8 Michael Vartan
French-American actor Michael Vartan appeared in Friends as Richard Burke’s son Tim in one episode in 1997. After meeting her at his father’s optometry practice, he went on one date with Monica, causing the rest of the group to denounce her attraction to him as sick.
Since then, he went on to play opposite Drew Barrymore in Never Been Kissed (1999) as her teacher Sam Coulson. He later starred in Alias from 2001-2006 as Sydney Bristow’s handler and ongoing love interest Michael Vaugh. He also shows up in Bates Motel and is one of the main characters in Hawthorne.
7 Rachael Harris
Rachael Harris has a brief but hilarious and memorable role in season 8, “The One Where Rachel Has a Baby.” Harris plays one of the women who arrives at the hospital after Rachel but has her baby first. Her husband is played by Tim Dekay, who went on to star in White Collar, and the couple delightfully overshares the whole birthing experience.
Before she showed up as Julie, Harris had a brief role on Sister, Sister as Simone. Since then, she’s made appearances in The West Wing, Reno 911!, and New Girl. Her biggest roles have been in The Hangover (2009), 23 episodes of Suits, and as one of the main characters of Lucifer.
6 Jim O’Heir
Blink and you might miss him! In season ten, O’Heir shows up in a brief role at the adoption agency that Monica and Chandler used to adopt their twins. And big surprise: He’s messing up the paperwork there too. His mistake leads to a big problem where Anna Faris’s character thinks Monica is a pastor and Chandler is a surgeon.
O’Heir had a lot of small roles before this, including shows like Just Shoot Me! and 3rd Rock From The Sun. However, O’Heir is probably best known for his role as Garry/Jerry/Larry/Terry Gergich/Gengurch on Parks & Recreation. He also appeared in Bad Times at the El Royale (2018) and Seeking a Friend for The End of the World (2012).
5 Rebecca Romijn
In a 1997 episode of Friends, Rebecca Romijn appeared as Cheryl, a beautiful paleontology doctoral student, otherwise known as The Dirty Girl. Her apartment looks like it should be condemned by the Department of Sanitation, but she’s so insanely beautiful that Joey insists Ross “do it in the mess.”
Two years later, Romijn went on to make several appearances in Just Shoot Me! then played Mystique in X-Men (2000), X2: X-Men United (2003), and X-Men: The Last Stand (2006). In 2006 she also began starring in Pepper Dennis as the titular character, then played Colonel Eve Baird, one of the main characters in The Librarians on TNT.
4 Scott Adsit
Comedian Scott Adsit had been performing on the main stage of Chicago’s The Second City from 1994-1998. He made the leap to television with small, mostly unnamed, parts in the late 90s. He appeared on Friends as simply “the Director” of a movie Joey auditions for in 2001. After this brief appearance, he went on to play Pete Hornberger in all seven seasons of 30 Rock.
He generally plays straight man to the other characters and is often the only voice of reason on the show. Since 30 Rock ended, he’s made appearances in Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Veep, and voices Baymax in Big Hero 6: The Series.
3 T.J. Thyne
Friends is one of T.J. Thyne’s earliest credits. In 1998, he was in “The One Hundredth,” an emotional episode when Phoebe finally gives birth to her brother’s triplets. Thyne played Dr. Oberman, a labor and delivery doctor who tries to help Phoebe in the delivery room after her actual doctor falls and hits her head in the shower.
Thyne is shouted out for looking too young to be a fully trained doctor. After that brief appearance, Thyne showed up in a lot of big shows including Walker, Texas Ranger, Angel, The O.C., and 24. In 2000, he played Stu Lou Who in Jim Carrey’s How The Grinch Stole Christmas. He’s most famous, however, for playing lovable conspiracy kook Jack Hodgins on Bones from 2005-2017.
2 Paget Brewster
Friends is Paget Brewster’s first big credit on IMDB. She appeared as Kathy, a woman in an acting class with Joey. She dates Joey for a while but ultimately falls for Chandler, who she always had more in common with.
She sticks around on Friends for six episodes and is the flashpoint for such hilarious moments as when Monica teaches Chandler about erogenous zones. (“Seven!”) Since then Brewster has worked a ton. You probably know her from her huge role as Emily Prentiss on Criminal Minds, but she’s also worked on Huff, Love & Money, the DuckTales reboot, and American Dad!, to name a few.
1 Emily Procter
She shows up as Annabel in a 1995 episode of Friends, playing across Matt LeBlanc as one of Joey’s brief love interests. She works in the mall with him, and the two end the one episode she appears in walking arm-in-arm into the mall hallway sunset. She continued to do small roles in the late nineties, including two episodes on Just Shoot Me! before finally getting her first big recurring role.
She was brought into The West Wing in 2000 to play Republican lawyer Ainsley Hayes, who is first noted for being beautiful and blonde but turns out to also be brilliant, incisive, and is one of the few able to put Sam Seaborn in his place. She appears in 12 episodes from 2000-2006. During that time she also began playing the lovable Calleigh Duquesne for a whopping 232 episodes of CSI: Miami.