"We didn’t know it was going to be the huge phenomenon it turned into, but we knew it was great, and we were all so desperate to be in it," The Simpsons alum recalled

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When it came to landing a part on the iconic TV show Friends, things worked out well for Hank Azaria — despite the fact that he saw himself possibly playing a different lead role.

While appearing virtually on The Late Late Show Thursday, The Simpsons alum, 57, revealed to host James Corden that he auditioned not once, but twice, to score a spot on Friends in the role of loveable Joey Tribbiani, which ultimately went to Matt LeBlanc.

"I auditioned for Joey, and didn't get it, and I was like, 'No, no, I have to go back, I have to try again,'" he recalled. "So I bulled my way back in for a second time and they were very kind and watched my audition, and then threw me out. Spoiler alert, I didn't get the role of Joey."

"Twice! I read that script," Azaria said. "Matthew Perry is actually a very dear friend of mine, and so we all read the script. We didn't know it was going to be the huge phenomenon it turned into, but we knew it was great, and we were all so desperate to be in it."

Hank Azaria Really Wanted to Play Joey on 'Friends'
Credit: The Late Late Show with James Corden
Friends -- Hank Azaria, Lisa Kudrow
Credit: NBCU Photo Bank/Getty

But things ended up in the actor's favor after he was later cast in the recurring role of David, the scientist boyfriend of Phoebe Buffay (Lisa Kudrow).

Joking, Azaria said producers "were kind enough to have me back" to guest star as David, which he enjoyed.

Impressed, Corden, 42, called Buffay's beau "a brilliant character" and said he couldn't imagine Friends being cast any other way.

"That's the amazing thing about the cast of that show, once you've seen that show, you really just can't imagine anybody else in those roles at all," the host said. "It was like maybe the most perfect piece of casting in television."

Bantering back, Azaria argued he wasn't so sure.

"I don't know, I used to imagine myself as Joey quite a lot!" Azaria said.

Listen to more of PEOPLE's cover story interview with the Friends cast below on our daily podcast PEOPLE Every Day.

friends
Credit: Reisig & Taylor/Getty


Friends Reunion
Credit: Mark Seliger

In this week's exclusive PEOPLE cover story, costars LeBlanc, Perry, Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, and David Schwimmer opened up about filming the "emotional" special 17 years after the hit show wrapped.

"I was flooded with 10 years of irreplaceable memories," Cox, 56, tells PEOPLE exclusively in this week's cover story.

"It's funny, when we do get together, it's like no time has passed," says LeBlanc, 53. "We pick up right where we left off."

Joking about filming the special, Aniston, 52, adds, "Oh God, how are we going to get through this alive, without just crying our faces off?"

Friends: The Reunion premieres May 27 on HBO Max.