Friends has not had a new episode since 2004, but it has never really been off the air. For nearly three decades, the hit sitcom has been like a soft bed and warm blanket for its fans’ exhausted minds. Its characters date many people over the course of the show, but Deadline reports that James Burrows, one of the show’s directors, wrote that Ross’s girlfriend Emily was written off sooner than intended because she was not funny enough.
“You need someone who gets laughs. Sometimes you start an arc and it ain’t working out, so you have to get rid of that person. If it’s a day player, it’s a quick goodbye. If there’s chemistry, the writers go to work to figure out some way of keeping the actor.”Friends director James Burrow discussing Helen Baxendale as Emily
In his memoir, Directed by James Burrows, the director described the actress who portrayed Emily, Helen Baxendale, as “nice, but not particularly funny”. He elaborated, stating that it was really a matter of chemistry.
Ross and Emily were no Ross and Rachel; David Schwimmer and Jennifer Aniston had proven to have excellent chemistry together, which made for some of the show’s funniest and most romantic moments. Burrows describes David Schwimmer’s scenes with Baxendale as “clapping with one hand”.
“You need someone who gets laughs. Sometimes you start an arc and it ain’t working out, so you have to get rid of that person,” Burrows writes. “If it’s a day player, it’s a quick goodbye. If there’s chemistry, the writers go to work to figure out some way of keeping the actor.”
Friends introduced Emily in season 4. Rachel is meant to take Emily Waltham, a woman visiting New York from London, to the opera as a favor for her boss. When an opportunity to meet with her crush at a club comes up, Rachel convinces Ross to take Emily instead.
Though Burrows does not have a glowing review for Emily as a character, she does bring an interesting dynamic to Friends.
From there, Ross and Emily fall in love fast – too fast, as far as the rest of the friends are concerned. Ross and Emily rush into marriage, but as they fall for each other, Rachel’s feelings for Ross reignite.
The season culminates with Ross and Emily’s marriage in London. The two-part finale ends with one of TV’s biggest facepalm moments when Ross accidentally calls Emily “Rachel” during their vows. Season 5 picks up immediately after, but Emily is rarely present, only communicating with Ross over the phone throughout the season.
Emily appeared in 14 episodes of Friends. In contrast to Burrows’ comments, previous reports indicate that Helen Baxendale became pregnant between filming for seasons 4 and 5. Unable to travel between England and the United States for filming, she was written out of the show more quickly and with fewer appearances than originally intended.
Even if the character did not turn out as originally imagined, Friends would not be the same without Emily Waltham.
Though Burrows does not have a glowing review for Emily as a character, she does bring an interesting dynamic to Friends. She serves as an anti-Anniston, a foil to Rachel who never feels quite right. The sensation that the chemistry between her and Ross is off gives the audience the same anxiety about the relationship that Rachel feels, making for a compelling storyline.
Ross’s divorce from Emily marks his second in the series, and it brings his character to the brink. Ross spends Season 5 of Friends dealing with rage brought on by the immense stress in his life, which leads to him losing his job at the museum.
Emily’s 14 episodes are few compared to the show’s impressive 236 episodes total, but her brief time has a big impact on the trajectory of the sitcom, especially for Ross. Even if the character did not turn out as originally imagined, Friends would not be the same without Emily Waltham.