Fans had a lot of feelings when two of the Friends’ main characters, Joey (Matt LeBlanc) and Rachel (Jennifer Aniston), fell for each other. And a new book about the hit show claims that the cast was not pleased, either.
“When [creators Marta] Kauffman and [David] Crane first approached the cast in Season Eight with the idea of Joey falling in love with Rachel, everyone balked,” writes former PEOPLE writer Kelsey Miller in I’ll Be There for You: The One About Friends, which was published Tuesday.
“LeBlanc said it felt incestuous (especially uncomfortable after so many years of cultivating a brotherly bond with the female characters),” she adds.
“Everyone knows that Ross and Rachel are supposed to be together, and we’ve spent 10 years keeping them apart,” LeBlanc explained during the special Friends Final Thoughts, which is also cited in the book.
Executive producer Kevin S. Bright confirmed how uncomfortable LeBlanc was with the plot twist in a recent interview with Digital Spy.
“In the beginning, Matt LeBlanc did not want to do that story,” Bright said. “He was very firmly against it, saying that he’s Ross’ friend, and that the type of friend that Joey is would never go and take someone else’s girlfriend.”
But Crane argued that, while a risk, it “would pay off in story dividends, like Rachel’s pregnancy,” Miller writes. LeBlanc went on to earn his first Emmy nomination for his acting prowess in season 8, and Miller argues that LeBlanc’s “performance was so wrenching that it almost distracted from the ickiness of the story itself.”
By season 9, Rachel was crushing on Joey, and the actors once again “hesitated,” Miller explains.
“Aniston wanted it to be made clear that Rachel was not in love with Joey, but was just attracted to him,” the author writes. “It had to be a crush, and it had to be more funny than emotional, otherwise, this arc would go from risky to unwatchable.”
Aniston confirmed this in an August 2017 interview with Elle when she argued that Joey and Rachel were never meant to be.
“I think there was a moment when Joey and Rachel got together that maybe it could happened, but it didn’t. It was Ross and Rachel all the way,” she said. “I just don’t think Joey and Rachel could have made it. I think it was more physical than emotional with them. They were friends with benefits, and they left it at that.”
According to the book, that attraction allowed the writers to keep Rachel and Ross apart “just a little bit longer.”
“Kauffman and Crane understood that the Joey-Rachel relationship would end before it really began,” Miller writes. “They would never have sex or say the L-word; that would be too much to recover from. Once they actually hooked up, the characters (like the audience) would be too weirded out, and preoccupied with Ross.”