- Matthew Perry said “Friends” costar David Schwimmer suggested they renegotiate for pay equality.
- “It was a decision that proved to be extremely lucrative down the line,” Perry said in his memoir.
- By the final season, the six main cast members were making more than $1 million per episode.
Matthew Perry said that “Friends” costar David Schwimmer suggested that the six main cast members collectively renegotiate their contracts to get equal pay.
In his memoir released on November 1 and titled “Friends, Lovers, and the Big Terrible Thing,” Perry, who starred as Chandler Bing on “Friends,” recalled Schwimmer (Ross Geller) going to him while on the set during season one with the idea to renegotiate.
Perry said that Schwimmer was a standout during the show’s first season and leveraged his popularity to benefit himself and his costars.
“During that first year — David’s year — he showed up one day at my dressing room,” Perry recalled. “He had brought an original hangdog expression to his character and was just damn funny. He was also the first one of us to shoot a commercial, be on ‘The Tonight Show,’ buy a house, get his own movie. He was the hot guy that first year, and rightly so. He had been hilarious.”
Perry said that Schwimmer told him, “When we renegotiate our contracts, we should do it as a team. We should all get paid the same amount.”
“He was by far the one in the best position to negotiate,” Perry wrote in his memoir. “I could not believe what he was saying. Needless to say, I was thrilled. I was perfectly happy to take advantage of his generosity of spirit.”
Perry credited Schwimmer with carrying the cast financially through the show’s 10 seasons, which ran from 1994 to 2004 on NBC
“It was a decision that proved to be extremely lucrative down the line,” Perry said.
“His decision served to make us take care of each other through what turned out to be a myriad of stressful network negotiations, and it gave us a tremendous amount of power,” he added.
The “17 Again” star said that he was paid $22,500 for the pilot of “Friends,” which is consistent with a 1996 report from the New York Times.
He said that by season eight, the cast — comprised of Perry, Schwimmer, Jennifer Aniston (Rachel Green), Courteney Cox (Monica Geller), Lisa Kudrow (Phoebe Buffay), and Matt LeBlanc (Joey Tribbiani) — was making $1 million per episode.
By the 10th and final season, the stars were earning $1,100,040 an episode, and we were asking to do fewer episodes,” Perry said.
According to Variety, the cast earned at least $2.5 million each when they reunited for an unscripted special for HBO Max in 2021.
“We had David’s goodness, and his astute business sense, to thank for what we had been offered,” he added. “I owe you about $30 million, David.”
Perry reiterated his gratitude for Schwimmer in the last chapter of his memoir, thanking his costar for “making us stick together when he could have gone it alone and profited more than all the rest, and deciding we should be a team and getting us a million bucks a week.”
Aniston, Cox, and Kudrow spoke about the importance of equal pay in an interview for “The Howard Stern Show” in June 2021.
“We’re all doing the exact same amount of work,” Aniston said. “I wouldn’t have felt comfortable knowing I was making more.”
“We all felt that way,” Cox added. “I thought it was the most important thing — as we all did — that we all were equal in every single way. That was the first time that people had all stuck together in a cast. I think it was scary, probably, for productions after that.”
Kudrow said that the core cast members were supportive of each other and didn’t harbor any animosity or competitiveness.
“We didn’t engender bitterness or rivalry within each other,” she said. “We were nothing by support for each other, especially the girls, but also the guys — all six of us.”