‘Friends’ ended 20 years ago: Matthew Perry’s request, Jen Aniston and Brad Pitt’s farewell party — and more series finale facts

Two decades have passed since “The Last One.”

The series finale of “Friends” aired 20 years ago, on May 6, 2004.

And all these years later, the show is still beloved.

The “Friends” cast in the final episode that aired May 6, 2004
The “Friends” cast in the final episode that aired May 6, 2004

“Friends,” which ran for 10 seasons, was about a group of six friends living in New York City.

The cast included Jennifer Aniston as Rachel Green, Courteney Cox as Monica Gellar, Lisa Kudrow as Phoebe Buffay, David Schwimmer as Ross Gellar, Matt LeBlanc as Joey Tribbiani, and Matthew Perry as Chandler Bing.

Perry died at 54 on Oct. 28, 2023. He was found submerged and unresponsive in a hot tub at his Los Angeles home. A number of prescriptions were found in his system including ketamine, which was ruled as the cause of his death.

The “Friends” cast came together to mourn Perry after his tragic passing.

Perry played Chandler Bing ©NBC/Courtesy Everett Collection
Perry played Chandler Bing ©NBC/Courtesy Everett Collection

On the 20-year anniversary of the sitcom’s end, creators Marta Kauffman and David Crane did an interview on “Today” where they revealed that some parts of the script for the finale leaked before the episode aired.

“Oh my God, we tried so hard to keep it a secret,” Kauffman said. “We were desperate to keep it a secret and it got out. And it was an inside job.”

Here are more fun facts about the “Friends” series finale that even super fans of the show might not know.

Matthew Perry wanted to say the final line

In his 2022 memoir, “Friends, Lovers, and the Big Terrible Thing,” Perry revealed that he asked Kauffman to give him the final line of the series.

“No one else will care about this except me,” the actor wrote in his book, published one year before his death.

Kudrow, Perry, and LeBlanc in “Friends” ©NBC/Courtesy Everett Collection
Kudrow, Perry, and LeBlanc in “Friends” ©NBC/Courtesy Everett Collection

Perry’s wish was granted, as the Season 10 finale ended with Chandler and Monica saying goodbye to their empty apartment alongside Rachel, Phoebe, Joey and Ross.

Rachel suggests they all go grab a final cup of coffee before Chandler and Monica leave New York City and go to live in the suburbs with their children.

“Sure,” Chandler responds. “Where?” As dedicated viewers know, the group would always meet up at their local Central Perk coffee place.

The cast cried

Filming the final episode of “Friends” was extremely emotional for the six main stars.

“I don’t think we’ve ever taken more time in hair and makeup in between scenes,” Aniston said during an interview with Oprah Winfrey. “Also, that fact that we kept crying all our makeup off, over and over again.”

Schwimmer revealed that he kept his composure until the cast did their pre-show ritual huddle.

“I started to lose it. That was the moment I was dreading,” he said.

The cast of “Friends” ©NBC/Courtesy Everett Collection
The cast of “Friends” ©NBC/Courtesy Everett Collection

Special guests were on the set

The “Friends” producers invited people outside the main cast to witness the taping of the final episode.

Hank Azaria and Maggie Wheeler, who played Phoebe’s ex, David, and Chandler’s ex, Janice, respectively, were both there. So was David Arquette, who was married to Cox at the time.

Wheeler told People that “the energy” on set during the final episode “was just incredible.”

Brad Pitt, who made a guest appearance during Season 8 while he was still married to Aniston, did not attend the final taping because he didn’t want to be spoiled by the show’s ending.

“He [Brad] said, ‘Don’t tell me anything!’ ” Crane said in an interview.

The cast’s family and friends were also on set for the finale.

There were multiple wrap parties

The cast of “Friends” during an iconic Thanksgiving episode ©Warner Bros/Courtesy Everett Collection
The cast of “Friends” during an iconic Thanksgiving episode ©Warner Bros/Courtesy Everett Collection

The cast and crew of “Friends” threw three big parties to celebrate the show’s end.

Aniston and Pitt hosted a dinner party at their home Jan. 19, 2004, three days after the first part of the finale finished production.

The night before filming officially wrapped Jan. 22, the cast and the crew got together at Sole in West Hollywood.

The third party took place Jan. 24, the day after production on the series concluded, at the Park Plaza Hotel in NYC. The Rembrandts performed the show’s theme song, “I’ll Be There For You,” at the celebration.

The ratings were huge

More than 52.5 million viewers tuned in live to watch “The Last One.” The episode was the most watched entertainment telecast in six years, as well as the most watched overall series finale in US TV history, behind the finales of “M*A*S*H,” “Cheers” and “Seinfeld.” The series finale is the second most watched “Friends” episode, behind “The One After the Superbowl” which scored 52.9 million viewers.

Rachel and Ross were always going to end up together

Aniston as Rachel Green, and Schwimmer as Ross Gellar, in “Friends” Warner Bros
Aniston as Rachel Green, and Schwimmer as Ross Gellar, in “Friends” Warner Bros

After being on and off as a couple since Season 1, Rachel and Ross got back together during the series finale. Rachel was supposed to move to Paris for work, but Ross chased after her and confessed his love for her at the airport. Rachel got on the plane — but then she got off the plane, and surprised Ross at his apartment, where they kissed.

“The only thing we absolutely knew from very early on was that we had to get Ross and Rachel together,” Crane said in an interview with Entertainment Weekly in 2014. “We had dicked the audience around for 10 years with their ‘will they or won’t they,’ and we didn’t see any advantage in frustrating them.”