Friends continues to be one of the most beloved sitcoms of all time, but the show has faced its scandals. Friends instantly catapulted its six stars, Jennifer Aniston (Rachel Green), Courteney Cox (Monica Geller), Matthew Perry (Chandler Bing), Lisa Kudrow (Phoebe Buffay), Matt LeBlanc (Joey Tribbiani), and Davis Schwimmer (Ross Geller) into the spotlight when it debuted in 1994, many of whom continue to work steadily in Hollywood to this day. And as the series ran for ten seasons, it attracted a plethora of impressive guest stars over the years. The show’s high profile even intimidated some of those guest stars, including Reese Witherspoon, who played Rachel Green’s sister on Friends. Witherspoon told Aniston in a joint interview with the Associated Press, « Did you know they asked me back and I said I can’t do it? » As for why she wouldn’t come back, Witherspoon explained, « I was too scared. »
Friends was undoubtedly an amazing platform for the actors that appeared on it. However, not everyone has been blessed with incredible luck since the show ended. Here, we take a look at some of the Friends actors who have hit rock bottom since the series came to an end.
Charlie Sheen’s low point was a whole lifestyle
Charlie Sheen played a former lover of Phoebe Buffay on Season 2 of Friends, but his real life has been a little less romantic. According to USA Today, the Wall Street star started making headlines in 1990 when he checked into rehab for alcohol addiction. A few years later, Sheen testified in the 1995 trial of Hollywood madam Heidi Fleiss (per The Los Angeles Times) that he « ordered call girls » from her on « at least 27 occasions, » spending in excess of $50,000.
Since then, Sheen regularly found himself on the wrong side of the tabloids, involving many instances of alleged violence and threats of violence against women. By the Daily Beast‘s count, at least six women have accused Sheen of abuse and/or threats, including his ex-wives Denise Richards and Brooke Mueller, both of whom claimed Sheen threatened to kill them multiple times during domestic disputes.
2011 was Sheen’s professional low point, when he was infamously fired from his fortune-making role on Two and a Half Men. The sacking followed Sheen’s highly public downward spiral which included, but was not limited to « trashing the Plaza Hotel in NYC, coke binges, on-set failures because of drug fatigue, and diatribes against [show] creator Chuck Lorre, » as the network detailed in its letter of termination (via TMZ). Sheen’s response? « This is very good news, » he told TMZ, adding, « I never have to put on those silly shirts for as long as this warlock exists in the terrestrial dimension. » Alrighty.
Matthew Perry hid his addictions
Prior to landing his role as Chandler Bing on Friends, Matthew Perry had appeared in a number of small movie and television roles. But the incredible popularity of NBC’s sitcom meant that Perry became an overnight star, along with his five costars. But it seems that being thrust into the spotlight had its ups and downs for Perry. The star went on to have « a history of stints in rehab in 1997 and 2001, » per Page Six, which started after he became addicted to painkillers « following a jet ski accident in 1997, » via People. In an interview with ABC News in 2013, Perry revealed, « Mostly it was drinking … and opiates. » He continued, « I think I was pretty good at hiding it. »
Speaking with Larry King in 2002, Perry also admitted, « I got into a serious problem with painkillers, a painkiller called Vicodin. And that was mostly just to not drink as much as I was. I was getting too hungover, so I tried other things that would try to balance me out. » But while filming the comedy Serving Sara with Elizabeth Hurley, the actor had an epiphany that he was drinking too much and, as he told King, he « checked into a treatment center in L.A. and went about the path of desperately changing my life. » Though it has since closed, the actor also helped to found a sober living facility in his old Malibu home for men struggling with addiction.
Alec Baldwin left a thoughtless little voicemail
30 Rock star Alec Baldwin played Phoebe’s boyfriend in two Season 8 episodes of Friends. And while the actor is now happily married to Hilaria Baldwin, his personal life hasn’t always been smooth sailing. Baldwin was previously married to actress Kim Basinger, until she filed for divorce in January 2001. Of the split, Basinger’s father Don told People, « Alec has this kind of anger where he reaches down for something that hurts, something that may have happened a year or two ago, and then abuses Kim with it. … But it’s when it started happening in front of Ireland that Kim finally said, ‘Well, I’m not going to put up with that.' »
As such, one of Baldwin’s lowest points has to be the infamous voicemail he left Ireland that was leaked in 2007. Per TMZ, the actor « unleashed a volcanic tirade of threats and insults on his 11-year-old daughter, Ireland, calling her a ‘thoughtless little pig.' » In an interview with Good Morning America in 2017, Baldwin said of the incident, « It’s a scab that never heals, ’cause it’s being picked at all the time by other people. And … I think my daughter, that’s hurt her in a permanent way. »
By 2019, it would seem, Baldwin was still struggling with rage. The New York Times reported that Baldwin « agreed to take an anger management course » after pleading guilty to assaulting a man in a disagreement over a parking spot in Manhattan.
Why did Winona Ryder disappear?
Winona Ryder appeared in Season 7, Episode 20 of Friends, which originally aired in April 2001. Prior to her portrayal as Melissa Warburton, Rachel’s college friend, the actress was an ’80s and ’90s Hollywood darling, but her career took a nosedive in the early ’00s. Per The New York Times, Ryder was convicted of « grand theft and vandalism » in 2002, after stealing more than « $5,500 worth of designer goods » in December 2001 from Saks Fifth Avenue in Beverly Hills, Calif. However, she wasn’t convicted of « commercial burglary » as there was no proof that she’d « gone into the store intending to steal. »
After the incident, Ryder disappeared from the spotlight for a while. In 2016 she told Porter (via The Independent), « Psychologically, I must have been at a place where I just wanted to stop. » And as for why she took a break from Hollywood, Ryder explained, « A lot of people had the perception that I just disappeared in the 2000s. And I did, but only from that world. » In fact, the actress is adamant that the arrest gave her a chance to refocus her life. Per Ryder, « But it allowed me time that I really needed, where I went back to San Francisco and got back into things that … I just had other interests, frankly. »
A state trooper found out who Reese Witherspoon was
Legally Blonde icon Reese Witherspoon played Rachel’s sister, Jill Green, in two episodes of Season 6 of Friends. Her character even dated Ross. But the usually squeaky clean actress had a run-in with the law in 2013 when her and her husband Jim Toth were pulled over for a traffic stop. Per The Guardian, Toth was arrested « for driving under the influence of alcohol, » while Witherspoon was arrested for « disorderly conduct » as she pulled some serious diva moves and wouldn’t stay in the car when ordered to by the state trooper. The publication noted that Witherspoon reportedly told the officer, « Do you know my name? » and « You’re about to find out who I am. »
Witherspoon later lamented (via The Guardian), « I clearly had one drink too many and I am deeply embarrassed about the things I said. It was definitely a scary situation and I was frightened for my husband, but that is no excuse. I was disrespectful to the officer who was just doing his job. I have nothing but respect for the police and I’m very sorry for my behavior. » Luckily for Witherspoon, the high-profile incident didn’t affect her career too badly, and she recently teamed up with Friends costar Jennifer Aniston on Apple TV+ series, The Morning Show.
Brad Pitt bottomed out because of the bottle
Jennifer Aniston’s then-husband, Brad Pitt, made a guest appearance on Season 8, Episode 9 of Friends, which originally aired in November 2001. However, the couple announced their split in January 2005, and Pitt was linked to his Mr. and Mrs. Smith costar Angelina Jolie soon after. Jolie and Pitt tied the knot in 2014, and the couple continues to coparent six children together. However, Jolie filed for divorce from Pitt in September 2016, shortly after an alleged incident that took place on a private jet. According to People, The L.A. County Department of Children and Family Services and the FBI investigated the actor, with a source alleging that Pitt « was drunk, and there was an argument between him and Angelina. » The source continued, « There was a parent-child argument which was not handled in the right way and escalated more than it should have, » which is why authorities were notified. Pitt was cleared of all child abuse allegations in November 2016.
The incident was somewhat of a wake-up call for Pitt who told The New York Times in 2019, « I had taken things as far as I could take it, so I removed my drinking privileges. » The publication noted that the Ad Astra actor « spent a year and a half in Alcoholics Anonymous, » after Jolie filed for divorce. The BBC reported in December 2018 that Jolie and Pitt had reached a custody agreement regarding their six children.
Sean Penn’s anger has taken him to dark places
Actor Sean Penn appeared in two episodes of Season 8 of Friends, playing a guy who dated both Phoebe and her twin sister Ursula. However, Penn has been plagued by multiple allegations of violence throughout his personal life. In 1985, the actor allegedly attacked two journalists with a rock after they tried to photograph him with his then-fiancée Madonna. One of the journalists told the Los Angeles Times of the incident, « He went for us like a madman … He just went for us straight off. He went berserk, like a whirlwind. » In 1987, Penn was sentenced to 60 days in jail « for reckless driving and for punching an extra on the set » of Colors, per the Los Angeles Times.
In 2009, Penn was filmed kicking a photographer, allegedly breaking his camera. And although Madonna has since defended her ex-husband and said that he never abused her during their time together, a slew of newspaper articles claimed otherwise throughout their marriage. Per The Guardian, the singer shared testimony in a defamation lawsuit filed by Penn in 2015 and said, « While we certainly had more than one heated argument during our marriage, Sean has never struck me, ‘tied me up’ or physically assaulted me, and any report to the contrary is completely outrageous, malicious, reckless and false. »
Was Gary Oldman wrongly accused of abuse?
Award-winning performer Gary Oldman guest-starred during Season 7 of Friends, as an actor working with Joey Tribianni. However, the celebrated star has been accused of domestic abuse by ex-wife Donya Fiorentino, with whom he shares two children. According to the New York Daily News, Fiorentino alleged in court papers, « I tried to dial 911. Gary grabbed the phone receiver from my hand, and hit me in the face with the telephone receiver three or four times. Both of the children were crying. » She emotionally told the Mail on Sunday in 2018, « He stole my children and ruined my life. » She continued, « I would like Gary to stand up and take responsibility for his actions. Will he? Who knows? He has always denied everything. »
However, in 2003, Oldman was awarded full custody of the couple’s two sons, with the Daily Mail reporting, « a judge found Oldman to be the better parent and reduced Fiorentino’s visiting rights. » One of the couple’s sons has since defended his father and issued a statement (via Variety) which said, « I was there at the time of the ‘incident,’ so I’d like to make this radiantly clear: it didn’t happen. Anyone who says it did is lying. »
A different hit show cause Freddie Prinze Jr. to hit bottom
Former teen heartthrob Freddie Prinze Jr. famously played the « manny » hired by Rachel and Ross in Season 9, Episode 6 of Friends. When the actor secured a role in Season 8 of 24, which aired in 2010, it seemed as though he was making a welcome return to primetime TV. However, Prinze Jr. told ABC News of his experience on the show, « Kiefer [Sutherland] was the most unprofessional dude in the world. That’s not me talking trash, I’d say it to his face, I think everyone that’s worked with him has said that. » Prinze Jr.’s sting on 24 was so bad that he revealed, « I just wanted to quit the business after that. So, I just sort of stopped. »
While his disappearance from the spotlight was partly self-imposed, Prinze Jr. also faced some personal challenges. E! News reported in 2014 that the I Know What You Did Last Summer actor was « recovering from spine surgery, » and that « doctors made an incision on his neck and he received stitches and a brace, which he called a Robo-Neck. » Sarah Michelle Gellar’s husband appears to have bounced back from his TV and health disasters though, and released a cookbook featuring recipes « inspired by his Puerto Rican heritage and New Mexico upbringing » called Back to the Kitchen, per Parents. And according to GQ, Prinze Jr. « keeps busy with voice acting (as a key player in the Star Wars universe), » and he’s also « an occasional contributor » for WWE.
David Arquette battled addiction after Friends
Courteney Cox’s former husband, David Arquette, appeared in a 1996 episode of Friends as a boyfriend of Phoebe’s sister Ursula who gets the twins mixed up. But Cox and Arquette’s romance started shortly before that on the set of the iconic horror movie Scream. The couple married in 1999, had a daughter together, named Coco, and separated in 2010. Arquette decided to phone in to Howard Stern’s radio show and told the host (via Fox News) that he’d had a fling with « waitress and aspiring actress Jasmine Waltz. » He said, « I did have sex with her one time, maybe twice… my sexual encounter made me feel pretty manly. » However, according to Arquette, he didn’t cheat, as « part of the terms of our separation was that I was allowed to see other people and so was she. »
Arquette has since married Christina McLarty, with whom he has two children. But the actor admitted to continuing to struggle with sobriety after becoming a part-owner of Hollywood nightclubs Bootsy Bellows and Hooray Henrys. In 2014, he told RumorFix, « It’s hard, it’s hard. If you want to be sober and [enjoy] the nightlife, good luck. Go to a lot of meetings. » Since disappearing from acting, Arquette has returned to professional wrestling after being the WCW World Heavyweight Champion in 2000. His sister, Patricia Arquette, revealed on The Ellen DeGeneres Show in 2019, « He’s older now, he had a heart attack, and now he’s wrestling. »
Sarah Ferguson’s post-Friends foibles
Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York, had an iconic cameo in Season 4, Episode 23 of Friends, which aired in 1998, when the cast traveled to London for Ross’ wedding to Emily. However, in 2010, Ferguson found herself on the brink of bankruptcy, and was caught up in a bribery scandal with the News of the World, after reportedly accepting money in exchange for an introduction to her ex-husband Prince Andrew. Of the scandal, she told Oprah Winfrey, « There aren’t really very many words to describe an act of such gross stupidity … I think this is the key to the whole of my life now. It’s like I’m stripped bare. »
The duchess’ financial problems got even more complicated when her ex-husband, Prince Andrew, reportedly turned to Jeffrey Epstein for assistance. The Telegraph reported in 2011 that the « convicted paedophile gave £15,000 to the duchess’s former personal assistant, Johnny O’Sullivan, after the duke allegedly made a personal appeal to him to help his former wife with her financial troubles. » As everyone now knows, Prince Andrew’s friendship with Epstein has continued to cause an even bigger scandal for the royal family. The Duchess of York has since made a return to the spotlight following her appearance at Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s wedding in May 2018.
Selma Blair vs. multiple sclerosis
Cruel Intentions star Selma Blair appeared in Season 9, Episode 10 of Friends as one of Chandler’s co-workers who tried to seduce him. However, Blair has faced some major health issues in recent years. And to be clear, if Blair hit rock bottom, it was through no fault of her own. In October 2018, the actress revealed in an Instagram post that she’d been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. She wrote, « I am disabled. I fall sometimes. I drop things. My memory is foggy. »
Blair also revealed the professional fears she had after being diagnosed, telling People, « I was expecting to be fired that day … I was fully expecting [the producers] to say, ‘Okay, we need to talk to the people who are in charge and we’ll get back to you. We wish you well and we’re so sorry.' » Instead, the team on the Netflix series Another Life worked around Blair’s condition and ensured that she could continue working. Still, the actress’ deteriorating health had a huge impact on her both personally, as a single mom, and professionally. She explained to Vanity Fair, « I also never thought I’d get this bad, to tell you the truth. » In 2019, Blair started an aggressive treatment plan of « stem cell transplants and chemotherapy, » per USA Today, which the actress hopes will reboot her immune system. Blair’s ongoing honesty and strength continues to inspire people all over the world who are living with chronic illnesses.