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Season of Change

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Michelle Tauber, Samantha Miller, Mike Neill Reporters: Rachel Biermann, Sean Daly, Julie Jordan, Marisa Laudadio, Brenda Rodriguez, David Walstad, Pamela Warrick, Lynda Wright in L.A., Kelly Williams in Chicago and Amy Bonawitz in New York City

The year is 2013. Courteney Cox Arquette Arquette, once best known as Monica on Friends, has been crowned the new Martha Stewart. Her TV sibling, David Schwimmer, is an acclaimed director. Lisa Kudrow, who played flaky Phoebe? She’s PTA president of her son’s high school, while Matthew Perry (a.k.a. Chandler) recently completed The Whole 19 Yards. Then there’s the pitter-patter of little Pitts echoing in the Hollywood Hills, where Jennifer Aniston is keeping house with the sexiest husband alive, Brad Pitt. As for Matt LeBlanc, well, he’s still playing Joey Tribbiani.

Far-fetched? No more so than the real-life rocket ride experienced by the Friends over the past decade. Before the NBC series about love, life and lattes became a grande-size hit after its 1994-95 debut season, the cast was largely unknown—not to mention poor. LeBlanc has joked that he auditioned for the series with $11 to his name.

A decade later the super sextet have moved on—and up—with Emmys, marriages, kids and movies. Now, as the show enters its 10th and—they swear—final season, the Friends cast is readying for a teary-eyed goodbye. “It’s bittersweet,” says Schwimmer. “We’re all having a great time now, but I think we’re definitely going to be feeling some sadness.” With just 18 new episodes this season, the cast will wrap filming in January (the finale airs in May). In the meantime, People takes a look at how our Friends have changed—and where they go from here.



The TV flops Ferris Bueller and Muddling Through


Married to Brad Pitt since 2000


Giving birth to daughter Emma (on-again, off-again love Ross is the dad)


Gearing up a production company with Pitt; an untitled comedy with Ben Stiller in ’04

Just because you couldn’t see Brad Pitt at the Emmy awards in L.A. on Sept. 21, don’t assume he wasn’t there. In fact he was—just um, not for anyone’s eyes but his wife’s. Although her famous husband was a plane ride away filming the epic Troy in Los Cabos, Mexico, “I actually have a picture of him,” Aniston said after the ceremony, “on my underwear.”

How’s that for keeping the flame alive? Three years after their extravagant Malibu wedding, the Pitts have established themselves as Hollywood’s most blissfully-in-love golden couple—and Aniston, 34, has emerged as Friends‘ biggest breakout talent, earning critical acclaim (in 2002’s The Good Girl) and box office success (this spring’s $242 million-grossing Bruce Almighty). But to truly appreciate how far she has come, consider that prior to landing the role of material girl Rachel, Aniston’s most memorable big-screen turn was playing second fiddle to a demonic elf in 1993’s Leprechaun. Even Aniston herself marveled at her change of fortune when Friends bowed 10 years ago. “It’s a range of emotions,” she said at the time,” from excitement to fear to ‘Am I fooling everybody?'”

A decade later, the Emmy-winning star is now ensconced in the $13.5 million Beverly Hills mansion she 1 and Pitt recently renovated—though this summer she has spent most of her free time visiting Pitt on the Troy shoot in Malta and Mexico. Until he returns later this month, “any time I have off, I go to Mexico,” says Aniston. “It’s good for me, ’cause I love chips and guacamole.”

Of course, when the Pitts finally are reunited, the big question is: When will they start a family? In the past, Aniston has said that she wanted to wait until the completion of Friends, and with the series about to wrap, the wait may soon be over. Though Aniston, who is known as the weepiest and most sentimental Friend, may want to consider stashing tissues now. “We’re sad,” she told Ellen DeGeneres last month. “We’ve all cried. We don’t know what it’s going to be like. Like we didn’t know what it was going to be like when we started, we have no idea [what it will be like at the end]. We’re all gonna be blithering idiots.”



Starred on Family Ties and in movies such as Ace Ventura: Pet Detective


Married David Arquette in 1999


MOMENT Tying the knot with Chandler (Matthew Perry) in the seventh season


Joining Arquette to produce Mix it Up, a home-improvement show, for cable’s WE

The difference between Friends and real life? “Monica cleans because she needs things to be perfect,” Cox Arquette, 39, says of her neatnik alter ego. “I am cleaning because people are coming over and I don’t want the sawdust from the drill to be on the couch.” Now the serial home renovator (she has owned seven homes in 10 years) is putting her hobby to work producing Mix It Up, a series premiering Oct. 22 on Women’s Entertainment network that will help couples meld diverging decor tastes. Her coproducer is her husband, whose quirky passions (like a bobblehead-doll collection) didn’t exactly fit with her sleek style. Is mixing love and work stressful? “Stress and relationships go hand in hand anyway,” says David, 32. “But for us, it brings us closer, if anything. It makes me feel good seeing her enjoying herself so much.”

Not that she won’t miss Friends. “It’s going to be very emotional,” Cox Arquette says of taping the final season. Strike that: “It’s gonna be awful.” Fortunately, she’ll leave with a solid movie resume (including the Scream flicks) and close pals, especially Aniston and Kudrow. And a rewarding marriage with plans for a family. “Someday he is going to make the most amazing father,” she says of Arquette. “They have complete trust and they make each other laugh, and they were friends first,” says a friend of the couple’s. “They approach things differently, but when they have to come to a compromise, they both agree. They always come together in the same place.”



Played dumb on Married…with Children


Wed Melissa McKnight in May; expecting a baby


Kissing Rachel in last season’s finale


His own Friends spinoff, Joey

There are perks to that sky-high salary. When it comes time for diaper duty, LeBlanc joked before the Emmys, “I’m going to hire someone to do my part of that.” Unlikely. LeBlanc, 36, who’s expecting a baby with model McKnight, 38, in March, is already a hands-on parent to Tyler, 12, and Jacquelyn, 8, McKnight’s children from her previous marriage. “He’s completely a dad to them,” says a friend. With the coming addition, “he’s very excited.” He’s almost as pumped about Joey, a better bet than the Married spinoffs (anyone remember Vinnie & Bobby?) he graced before Friends. So far, “I know I’ll be in it, but that’s about it,” LeBlanc said. Meanwhile, the lowest-key Friend blows off steam dirt-biking at his ranch north of L.A. Says his pal: “He doesn’t need to be out in the spotlight.”



Played Ursula, the ditzy waitress (and Phoebe’s twin sis), on Mad About You


Married to French ad exec Michel Stern; they have one son, Julian, 5


Being a surrogate mom for her brother’s triplets


This fall’s Wonderland with Val Kilmer

Like her free-spirited alter ego, Lisa Kudrow is terrible at keeping secrets—which is why she has no idea how Friends will end. “The smartest thing is, ‘Don’t tell me—it’s too easy for me to blab,'” she says. Still, Kudrow is pleased with the evolving maturity of Phoebe, who looks to be settling down with Mike (Paul Rudd). “I’m happy to see her straightening out,” says Kudrow.

Phoebe may have taken a while to grow up, but not Kudrow, 40, who says that when the show wraps she is looking forward to “commitments with my son’s school.” She also plans to continue working. With big-screen hits (’99’s Analyze This) and misses (this summer’s Marci X) under her belt, she hopes to do more films—”any story that’s told well”—but not TV. “The TV audience knows me as Phoebe,” she says. “It’s hard for them to swallow me as another character.”



A guest appearance on NYPD Blue and the sitcom flop Monty


Dating Playboy model Carla Alapont, 25, for more than a year


Ross’s long-anticipated first kiss with Rachel

WHAT’S NEXT? Producing and directing in film, TV and theater

Yes, Ross has been very, very good to him-$1 million-an-episode good. But for David Schwimmer, playing lovelorn paleontologist Ross Gellar for the past nine years has not been without exasperation. Like, for instance, when he turned up at Northwestern University in May to raise money for Lookingglass Theatre, a Chicago company he helped found pre-Friends. Before he could make his speech, the students began pelting him with questions about Jennifer Aniston‘s kissability and Matt LeBlanc’s wedding. “There was kind of a tension in the air,” says Chris Jones, a Chicago Tribune arts reporter who has known Schwimmer for almost 10 years. “He wanted to be seen as himself, and there was a faction that night that saw him as a character.”

It’s a problem that’s not likely to go away anytime soon—which is why, perhaps, Schwimmer aims to focus on more behind-the-scenes work. “I hope to be directing, acting, producing,” Schwimmer, 36, said at the Emmys. Not that the star, who has directed Friends and will likely do the same with LeBlanc’s spinoff Joey, plans to ditch his alter ego entirely: “I’ll probably bring the character to [Joey].”



Guest appearances on Beverly Hills, 90210, Growing Pains and Who’s the Boss?


Dating fashion student Rachel Dunn


Waking up in the same bed with Monica after Ross’s wedding


The Whole Ten Yards with Bruce Willis

Until two years ago, it was hard to read about Perry without encountering words like trouble, rehab, even car crash. Now the operative words are mature, hardworking—and happy. Perry, 34, who guest-starred on The West Wing in April, just wound up a London stage stint with Minnie Driver in Sexual Perversity in Chicago—and took time to root for old pal Jennifer Capriati at Wimbledon. He’s shooting a sequel to The Whole Nine Yards, his 2000 odd-couple guy movie. His romance with Rachel Dunn, whom he took to the private post-Emmy Friends party, is approaching the one-year mark. As for his up-and-down history, “he is completely past that,” says a friend, “and is looking and feeling terrific.”