Any true Friends fan is dedicated enough not to utilize Netflix’s “skip intro” function when another episode of the beloved ’90s sitcom starts playing during a routine binge. Watching the opening credits sequence is as much an integral part of the show’s enjoyment as one of Chandler’s seemingly effortless quips. We all know when — and exactly how many times (four!) — to clap along with the gang, and who turns off the lamp at the end. But what we didn’t know until now is why exactly they all end up in the fountain.
“To my best recollection, that wasn’t a scripted thing,” Greg Grande, the series’ set decorator, tells EW. “It was more impromptu. As [the actors] got later into the evening, they had more fun with the back and forth. They were just happy to hang out and have a few cocktails, probably. I don’t want to say who started it, but one of them did and they ended up inside the fountain. And that was some of the best footage. It was kind of an impromptu, wonderful moment.”
Shot on the Warner Bros. backlot after a long day of rehearsals, the now-iconic opening went late into the night, but that didn’t deter the up-and-coming actors. “They were young back then,” Grande says of Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc, Matthew Perry, and David Schwimmer. “So there was lots of fun and laughter.”
Prior to the cast collapsing on the couch, playing around with umbrellas, and of course clambering into the fountain, Grande’s task was to figure out the furniture. “My job was just to make sure the sofa and the a lamp ended up there,” he says. “Those two elements are part of the main pieces that I’d dressed for Central Perk, the hangout. We used the actual sofa we had found for the coffee place, and if you notice in season 1, in the first few episodes, there was a Tiffany lamp in that Central Perk set. So that’s what that lamp in the opening represents. What you see there is actually part of the main set.”
We might never have had the chance to grow familiar with the couch/fountain/lamp setup had the head of NBC at the time had his way. “He called me the day after the pilot aired with the title sequence and said, ‘I want that title sequence gone,'” explains the show’s executive producer Kevin S. Bright. “He said, ‘It says we’re young, we’re hip, we’re dancing in the fountain and you can’t dance with us. What I want you to do is just do clips like Laverne & Shirley.’ So the compromise, as you saw for many years, was there were some clips but half of it was the original title sequence. The way we did it, this should’ve been the title sequence for the whole series; you never should’ve seen another one.”