Emily’s sudden departure from Friends was explained by someone on the set. The popular, long-running sitcom about the love adventures of a group of six friends living in New York City follows the ups and downs between the characters of Ross (David Schwimmer) and Rachel (Jennifer Aniston). However, Ross’s affair and subsequent marriage to Emily (Helen Baxendale), the granddaughter of Rachel’s boss, became an obstacle to their union, although the couple quickly divorced and Emily left the series after Ross accidentally said Rachel’s name during the wedding, in the last episode of the fourth season. .
According to Deadline, longtime Friends director James Burroughs wrote about Emily’s motives for leaving in his autobiography, Director James Burroughs. According to the director who directed the second episode of 14 in which Baxendale appears, the actress was in danger of being replaced because “she was sweet but not particularly funny.” She claimed that Baxendale did not fit well with the Friends cast and had no chemistry with Schwimmer, describing her performance as “one-handed applause” because any love interest Ross “had to be as funny as Rachel”. Here is his full quote:
“He was cute, but not particularly funny. Schwimmer had no one to play with. It was like clapping with one hand. In sitcoms and romcoms, funny looks are just as important as chemistry. We found that every new Ross girl should be as fun as Rachel.”
It is often not possible to replace an actor due to filming time or other logistical considerations. You need someone who will make you laugh. Sometimes you start a storyline and it doesn’t work, so you have to get rid of that person. If this is a one-day actor, you say goodbye quickly. If there is chemistry, the writers struggle to find a way to keep the actor.
Emily’s involvement with Friends, while abruptly ending, was still the longest of Ross’ long-term relationships, with the exception of Rachel. Among Ross’ other major novels, Charlie was the second longest with eight episodes, followed by Julie and Mona, both with seven episodes. However, Emily’s presence for 14 episodes is still less than that of an outsider who joined the group of friends, Phoebe’s husband Mike, who was present on the show for 16 episodes.
However, out of those 14 episodes, only 10 had Baxendale and Schwimmer having romantic chemistry. These episodes range from the meeting between them, when Ross agrees to accompany his boss’s niece Rachel at work, in episode 14 of the fourth season, to the disastrous climax of their marriage in episode 24 of the fourth season. Although she appeared on screen in three episodes of the fifth season and voice-over in an extra episode, all of those episodes focused on settling scores in their relationship and exploring the acrimony of their short-lived marriage.
It’s unknown if Emily left Friends because of her chemistry with Ross or just because of the average number of guest stars. However, Burroughs’ quote provides insight into the backstory that led to Ross and Emily’s relationship. While her departure may have been swift, she left behind one of the most enduring relationships on the show: Chandler and Monica, who had their first romantic encounter in London at Ross’s wedding.