Actress Olivia Williams describes role on Friends as ‘harrowing’, ‘alarming’


Olivia Williams doesn’t have the most fond memories of guest-starring on Friends.

The British actress – who most recently appeared as Camilla Parker Bowles in the final two seasons of The Crown – played Joey’s love interest, a bridesmaid named Felicity, during the season four finale.

Describing it as a “harrowing” experience, Williams explained that she’d witnessed an “alarming” incident during filming, which was taking place in London at the time.

“I was taken to the studio in a shared car with a wonderful actress whose character, I think, was called ‘Old Woman’,” she told The independent.

Williams claimed that the actress was “distinguished” and “very good”, but that at one point, “a producer – who shall remain nameless – just yelled at her: ‘You’re not funny!’ And she didn’t come back the next day. So that was alarming.”

The star, who also appeared in The Sixth Sense and An Education, added that there was a strict adherence on set to the show’s “brand”.

“Oh, and Friends was a brand, and you had to fit the brand,” Williams added. “You go into hair and make-up and you’re told, ‘There’s a look here, this is what we do.’ And that involved, essentially, plucking off all of your eyebrows. Literally [I was begging], ‘Please don’t take my eyebrows off, I might need them in another job!’ But yes, that’s the sense in which it was harrowing.”

Friends director James Burrows has himself admitted that they held guest stars on the show to a high standard of comedy, taking a brutal swipe at Helen Baxendale in his memoir last year.

The British actress appeared throughout season four and part of season five as Ross’ girlfriend and later wife (then ex-wife), Emily Waltham.

“She was nice but not particularly funny. Schwimmer had no one to bounce off. It was like clapping with one hand,” he wrote in Directed by James Burrows.

“In sitcoms and any type of romantic comedy, the funny is just as important as the chemistry.

“ … 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.”