Name: Lisa Kudrow
Friend: Phoebe Buffay
How We Were First Introduced: Returning home to California with a psychobiology degree from Vassar, Kudrow was set to learn the medical trade from her physician father. However, a comedian friend of her brother’s, Jon Lovitz, got her intrigued about showbiz. Soon, she was studying with The Groundlings improv group. And that led to her first big break, getting cast in the recurring role of ditsy waitress Ursula on “Mad About You.”
How She Got Hooked into “Friends”: Already in love with her “Ursula” work, NBC execs were looking for something bigger for Kudrow to do. Originally, before the decision was made to cast her as Phoebe, NBC brass tried hard to cast her as Roz on “Frasier,” but the producers decided the character would have to be tweaked too much to fit the quirky Kudrow, and the role went, fatefully, to Peri Gilpin.
Memorable Episode: By 1998, “Friends” had established itself as one of the two top comedies on TV, alongside “Seinfeld,” but serious Emmy love didn’t happen until Kudrow won the supporting actress trophy that year. The episode that put her over the top was “The One with Phoebe’s Uterus,” in which she agrees to help her half brother (Giovanni Ribissi) and his infertile schoolteacher wife have a baby (three, actually) as a surrogate mom.
Personal Life: Kudrow has been married to French advertising exec Michel Stern for 14 years and they have one son. In fact, her pregnancy with Julian in 1998 inspired the “Friends” scribes to write the successful surrogate story arc into the show. Notably, Kudrow could have ended up with Conan O’Brien – the pair dated in the early ’90s before O’Brien headed to New York to take over for David Letterman on “Late Night.”
Quote: “I think on network TV, I’m still Phoebe to people, and it would be hard to convince them otherwise in the bright lights of a sitcom.”
What They’re Doing Now: Kudrow stars in Summit Entertainment’s upcoming “Bandslam” alongside Gaelan Connell and Alyson Michalka. The film is set for release on August 14.