Jennifer Aniston as Rachel Green
|First appearance||"The Pilot"
|Last appearance||"The Last One, Part 2"
|Created by||David Crane
|Portrayed by||Jennifer Aniston|
|Occupation||Waitress at Central Perk
Assistant at Fortunata Fashions
Buyer and personal shopper
(at Bloomingdale's [seasons 3–5])
Executive at Polo Ralph Lauren
|Family||Dr. Leonard Green
(1999; divorced, 2004–present; partner)
(daughter, with Ross; b. May 16, 02)
(stepson, via Ross)
(sister in law, via Ross)
Rachel Karen Green is a fictional character, one of the six main characters who appear in the American sitcom Friends. Portrayed by American actress Jennifer Aniston, the character was created by show creators David Crane and Marta Kauffman, and appeared in each of the show’s 236 episodes during its decade-long run, from its premiere on September 24, 1994 to its finale on May 6, 2004. Introduced in the show's pilot as a runaway bride who reunites with her childhood best friend Monica and relocates to New York City, Rachel gradually transforms from a spoiled, inexperienced daddy's girl into a successful businesswoman. During the show's second season, the character becomes romantically involved with friend Ross, with whom she maintains a distinct on-again, off-again relationship throughout the entire series.
The role of Rachel was originally offered to actresses Téa Leoni, the producer's first choice, and Courteney Cox, both of whom declined, Leoni in favor of starring on the sitcom The Naked Truth and Cox in favor of playing Rachel's best friend Monica on Friends. At the time an unknown actress, Aniston auditioned for the role of Rachel after turning down a position as a permanent cast member on the sketch comedy show Saturday Night Live. After first acquiring the role and before Friends aired, Aniston was temporarily at risk of being recast because she had also been involved with another sitcom, Muddling Through, at the time, which ultimately got canceled and allowed Aniston to remain on Friends.
Critical reception towards Rachel has remained consistently positive throughout Friend 's decade-long run, with The A. V. Club attributing much of the show's success to the character. However, some of her storylines have been criticized, specifically her brief romantic relationship with friend Joey during season ten. Rachel's popularity established her as the show's breakout character, who has since been named one of the greatest television characters of all-time, while the character's second season haircut spawned an international phenomenon of its own. Named the "Rachel" after her, the character's bouncy, layered shag was imitated by millions of women around the world and remains one of the most popular hairstyles in history, in spite of Aniston's own resentment towards it. Meanwhile, the character is considered Aniston's breakout role, credited for making her the show's most famous and successful cast member, and for her subsequent film career. For her performance as Rachel, Aniston won both an Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series and a Golden Globe Award for Best Performance by an Actress In A Television Series - Comedy Or Musical.
In season one, Rachel debuts in the pilot episode of Friends as a runaway bride who is distraught after abandoning her fiancé, Barry (Mitchell Whitfield), at the altar. Having no one else to contact in New York, she locates her high school best friend Monica (Courteney Cox), who agrees to let Rachel reside with her in her apartment while she attempts to reorganize her life. Rachel meets and befriends Monica’s friends Phoebe (Lisa Kudrow), Joey (Matt LeBlanc) and Chandler (Matthew Perry), while reuniting with Monica's older brother Ross (David Schwimmer), who has secretly harbored a crush on her since high school. Having previously relied on her parent's money with a sole goal of marrying wealthy, Rachel attempts to reinvent herself as an independent young woman by acquiring a waitressing job at Central Perk, a coffeehouse where her new friends socialize regularly.
As season one concludes, Rachel finally confesses her love for Ross only after he has already begun dating another woman. However, Ross eventually chooses Rachel over his girlfriend Julie (Lauren Tom), and the couple dates for the remainder of the second season. However, their relationship begins to rapidly deteriorate during the third season after Rachel quits her job at the coffeehouse and accepts one in fashion, with which she becomes increasingly preoccupied, while Ross grows jealous of her companionship with her coworker Mark. Their relationship ends abruptly when they summarily break up and immediately regret it.
Shortly after the break up, Ross and Rachel are extremely hostile, although the anger subsides within the span of two episodes. They continue to harbor romantic feelings for each other, reuniting on several occasions only to break up again, establishing a distinct love-hate banter and on-again, off-again relationship. In season four, Rachel indirectly results in the abrupt ending of Ross' marriage to Emily, which ends in divorce after Ross accidentally utters Rachel's name while exchanging their vows; Ross ultimately chooses his friendship with Rachel over his relationship with Emily. In season five, Ross and Rachel drunkenly get married while vacationing in Las Vegas, which they eventually get annulled in season six. One of these reunions results in Ross and Rachel drunkenly conceiving a child in season seven as Monica and Chandler's wedding approaches. Rachel gives birth to a girl in season eight, naming the child Emma Geller-Green – the first name of whom is given to Rachel as a gift from Monica – in honor of Ross.
During the ninth season, Ross and Rachel live together while raising Emma, until Rachel eventually moves in with Joey, for whom she develops romantic feelings in season ten, the show's final season. The couple mutually ends their relationship quickly after realizing they would much rather be friends. Rachel gets a job in France, but is conflicted as to whether her not to leave due to her feelings for Ross. Rachel ultimately decides to stay and reignite her relationship with Ross, getting off the plane at the last minute.
Conception and writing
After their short-lived television series Family Album was canceled by CBS, writers David Crane and Marta Kauffman pitched Friends under its original title Insomnia Cafe – only one of several ever-changing working titles – to then-NBC president Warren Littlefield as a sitcom about "that special time in your life when your friends are your family," loosely basing it on their own experiences as young people living in New York, while the characters themselves were inspired by their own real-life friends. Rachel is the youngest of the six friends. While critics and audiences initially tended to perceive Monica as the lead character when Friends first aired, Rachel was given the pilot's most prominent storyline. Before deciding that Rachel and Ross would be an item for the entire series, the writers had originally intended for the show's defining couple to be Monica and Joey. However, after the success of the pilot, in which Rachel and Ross' relationship was first hinted at, Crane and Kauffman realized that "the whole series hung on Ross and Rachel, and finding all the wonderful roadblocks for them to be with each other." Crane admitted that it was a challenge to keep audiences "invested in this relationship so that in the finale we could pay it off once and for all."
After Rachel and Ross drunkenly get married in season five, actor David Schwimmer, who portrays Ross, felt that having his character divorce her – which would become his third divorce – was taking it "a step too far." The actor explained to The Telegraph, "The whole arc of the relationship was weird then ... because for him to be able to move on enough to marry someone else and then go back to being in love with Rachel later just went a bit too far." The Rachel-Joey storyline only came to fruition so late during the series because the writers wanted to delay Rachel and Ross' reunion. Crane explained that briefly coupling Rachel and Joey during season ten "was for the greater good" "because "It was inappropriate." The cast initially protested the idea, fearing that their characters would ultimately become unlikeable and audiences would either "resent Joey for going after a pregnant woman, or resent Rachel for rejecting him, or resent Ross for standing between the two of them." Meanwhile, the writers also approached the storyline involving Rachel's baby tentatively, worrying about how they would treat it because "we don't want it to become a show about a baby" while "On the other hand, we don't want to pretend that there isn't one."
When it finally came time to write the finale, "The only thing [Crane and Kauffman] absolutely knew from very early on was that we had to get Ross and Rachel together," deciding, "We had dicked the audience around for 10 years with their 'will they or won’t they,' and we didn’t see any advantage in frustrating them" any longer. However, at one point, the writers had considered ending the series with Ross and Rachel in "a gray area of where they aren’t together, but we hint there’s a sense that they might be down the road." However, they ultimately relented in favor of giving the audience what they want.
Rachel is portrayed by actress Jennifer Aniston, who auditioned for the role after declining a position as a cast member on the sketch comedy show Saturday Night Live. Her decision was initially ridiculed by both close friends and actor Adam Sandler. Actress Téa Leoni, who at the time was being referred to as "the next Lucille Ball", was offered the role of Rachel as the studio's first choice, but she declined in favor of accepting a starring role on the sitcom The Naked Truth. Although Leoni's show was canceled after only three seasons, Bradford Evans of Splitsider determined that the actress' decision has not harmed her career as a television or film actress. Actress Elizabeth Berkley also auditioned for Rachel before garnering a role on the teen sitcom Saved by the Bell. Other actresses who auditioned for the role include Denise Richards, Melissa Rivers, Nicolette Sheridan, Parker Posey and Jami Gertz. Originally, the Friends producers had wanted to cast actress Courteney Cox as Rachel, who Crane and Kauffman were particularly drawn to because, like the character, the actress "had this cheery, upbeat energy." In addition to this, Cox was the most famous cast member at the time amidst a cast of young, relatively unknown actors. However, the actress lobbied in favor of playing the character of Rachel's best friend Monica, the role in which she was ultimately cast. At the same time, though unbeknownst to each other, Aniston was being considered for the role of Monica, but wanted to play Rachel instead. At one point, Cox had begun to regret her decision to play Monica until her own character finally began to receive stronger storylines.
Friends was the fifth sitcom Aniston had starred in, each of the previous four having been unsuccessful and canceled prematurely. Feeling vulnerable and defeated after experiencing so many cancellations, Aniston had begun to doubt herself and personally approached Littlefield for reassurance on her career, who encouraged the actress to audition for Friends. Crane and Kauffman had worked with Aniston prior to this. However, casting her as Rachel posed a challenge for the network because, at the time, the actress was simultaneously starring in a developing CBS sitcom called Muddling Through, in which Aniston portrays "a woman whose mother returned home after two years in jail." The network was initially unwilling to release the actress from her contract, which required Aniston to balance both roles simultaneously, according to her "doing this back-and-forth from Sony [Muddling Through] to Warner Bros [Friends] for two weeks." Meanwhile, NBC risked having to recast the role of Rachel, find a replacement for Aniston and reshoot episodes if CBS' series proved successful, which would have potentially cost the network millions of dollars. However, Crane and Kauffman continued to fight for her, while Littlefield remained confident that Muddling Through would fail. Essentially, the producers of Friends hoped that Muddling Through would be canceled before Friends premiered, while Aniston feared that Muddling Through would be the more successful of the two shows in spite of her slight preference towards Friends. During this time, Aniston was forced not to participate in Friends-related promotions and photoshoots; the network excluded her in case she would need to be replaced. Director James Burrows admitted that Aniston had been cast "in second position." The producers had already begun auditioning other actress for the part, while Aniston also received phone calls from close friends warning her, "I'm auditioning for your part in Friends." Muddling Through was canceled after only three months and ten episodes, only two weeks before the pilot of Friends was scheduled to air, which ultimately allowed Aniston to keep her role on the show, becoming its second youngest cast member. Meanwhile, Crane appreciated Aniston's interpretation of the character because "in the wrong hands Rachel is kind of annoying and spoiled and unlikable," crediting the actress with "breathing life into a difficult character."
Crane and Kauffman strongly envisioned Friends as an ensemble comedy, and Warner Bros. initially marketed the show accordingly by having the cast appear in their entirety for all interviews and photoshoots. Elizabeth Kolbert of The New York Times explained that each of the show's main characters "are essentially of equal importance." Crane preferred it this way because "utilizing six equal players, rather than emphasizing one or two, would allow for myriad story lines and give the show legs." The only reason Aniston is credited first during the show's title sequence and opening credits is because the actors are organized alphabetically; Aniston precedes the other five last names. The ensemble format is also credited with preventing jealous conflicts among the cast, specifically between Aniston and Cox as the former gradually began to overtake Cox as the show's most prominent cast member. Famously, the Friends cast became the first in television history to negotiate as a group for equal salaries, refusing to return to work until their increased demands of $100,000 per episode were met during season three, which eventually grew to $1 million per episode by the show's final season. By that time, Aniston had surpassed Cox and become the show's most famous cast member due to having inspired an international hair trend and successfully transitioning into film, combined with her high-profile relationship with her then-husband, actor Brad Pitt, and was initially hesitant to return to Friends to complete its tenth and final season. She explained in an interview with NBC's Matt Lauer, "I wanted it to end when people still loved us and we were on a high. And then I was also feeling like, ‘How much more of Rachel do I have in me?’” However, the actress eventually agreed to complete the tenth season of Friends. In anticipation of the series finale in 2004, Aniston admitted to NBCNews.com that she did not want the show to end, lamenting, "I'm just terrified. I don't want it to end at all."
Reception and legacy
Critical reception towards Rachel has remained generally positive throughout the show's ten-year run. Writing for The A. V. Club, John Reid holds Rachel responsible for the success of pilot, explaining, "The story of this group of friends must start with a stranger coming to town, and Rachel is the perfect stranger for this plot." Reid also believes that Rachel initiated character development in the five other main characters, describing her arrival as "a catalyst for all of them to grow, because unlike the rest of them, Rachel is interested in finding meaning for her life." Also writing for The A. V. Club, Sonia Saraiya was pleased with Rachel and Ross' first romantic encounter because, for the first time, "Rachel displays a moment of true empathy for another human being." Saraiya went on to describe Rachel as "as a model for women coming of age in the 1990s—the popular, pretty girl dissatisfied with where those illusions have taken her but also unwilling to embrace the more aggressively 'feminist' career-woman strategy." The Los Angeles Times' Bob Shayne admitted his physical attraction towards Rachel, joking, "my feelings for Rachel, I say with some embarrassment, mirror those of Gunther," while citing each character as identifiable. The character did, however, generate some mild controversy in 1996 in response to her role in the second season episode "The One Where Dr. Ramoray Dies", in which Rachel and Monica fight over a condom. Meanwhile, TVLine criticized Rachel's storyline in season one's "The One With the Evil Orthodontist" for impulsively sleeping with her ex-fiancé, Barry, admitting, "Sometimes, Rachel's bad choices are funny. Other times, they're downright cringeworthy." TVLine also panned the character's arc in season four's "The One With the Fake Party".
Rachel would go on to become the show's breakout character, and is often revered as one of the greatest characters in television history. Us Weekly ranked Rachel the most beloved television character of the past 20 years, citing her as "one of TV's most endearing personalities," while Entertainment Weekly ranked the character sixth on a similar list. AOL TV ranked Rachel among television's hundred "Greatest Women" at number 23, with author Kim Potts penning, "Rachel became one of viewers' favorite 'Friends' because she grew from what could have been a one-note character ... into a more independent, caring pal." CBS News placed Rachel and the cast of Friends at number 31 on its list of the "50 greatest TV characters." BuddyTV ranked Rachel the 15th funniest female character in sitcom history, ahead of Monica who was ranked 19th. Similarly, ChaCha collectively ranked Rachel, Monica and Phoebe 11th, 12th and 13th on the website's list of the "Top 16 Female TV Characters of All Time".
Aniston's performance in Friends has been praised since her first appearance in the pilot. Entertainment Weekly 's Ken Tucker wrote that the actress provides Rachel with "prickly intelligence." Howard Rosenberg of the Los Angeles Times felt that she show's "crisply written dialogue" is "adroitly executed by the show's strong ensemble cast," citing Aniston among them, while The Baltimore Sun 's David Zurawik described her and her co-stars as "very strong." In 2002, Aniston won the Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series. In 2003, the actress won the Golden Globe Award for Best Performance by an Actress In A Television Series - Comedy Or Musical. This achievement occurred only after the Friends cast unanimously decided to submit themselves for the lead actor categories after having agreed to compete exclusively in the supporting actor fields during the show's first seven seasons. According to The Inquisitr News, Rachel is "the role that would end up launching [Aniston's] success."
According to Katherine Hassel of the Daily Express, "Ross and Rachel’s on-off relationship was at the heart of the show." Meanwhile, The Wire 's Joe Reid wrote felt that the show's second season "was really the only time Ross/Rachel was truly great," continuing, "Ross and Rachel on a break in season three was fun until it wasn’t." William Keck of Emmys.com wrote that Rachel's entrance in the pilot and subsequent relationship with Ross set "the stage for a ten-year courtship that would captivate audiences the world over." About the finale in which Rachel and Ross reunite, Crane admitted that he is "really proud that we were able to sustain the Ross and Rachel relationship over ten years."
Rachel's brief romantic relationship with Joey during season ten drew strong criticism. The cast themselves resented the idea, fearing that the Rachel-Joey arc would make their characters unlikable. Entertainment Tonight Canada ranked "The One After Rachel and Joey Kiss" as one the series' 10 worst episodes at number five, with author I. P. Johnson writing, "The whole Joey/Rachel storyline always felt wrong and a little desperate," concluding, "Jeers for even conceiving this romantic plot; cheers for abandoning it." Bustle also cited the episode as one of the show's worst, panning it as "the most nonsensical idea to ever be."
Rachel, and by extension Aniston, have both become fashion icons. BuzzFeed organized a list of every costume the character wore during the first season of Friends, among them her wedding dress, while noting her extensive use of denim. Author Brice Sander also determined that Rachel is responsible for popularizing the mullet dress. PopSugar ranked Rachel and Friends 15th on the website's list of the "50 TV Shows That Changed the Way We Dress", noting her "impressive" resume and wardrobe. InStyle ranked Friends the 36th most fashionable show of all-time, citing the costumes of Rachel, Monica and Phoebe. StyleCaster ranked Rachel among "The 50 Most Stylish TV Characters Of All Time" at number 28, writing, "While her hair might have gotten the bulk of the attention ... Rachel's wardrobe deserves some of the spotlight too." Similarly, Elle included Rachel in the magazine's list of "The 50 Best Dressed Women on TV".
Named after the character, the "Rachel" refers to a bouncy layered shag inspired by the way in which Aniston wore her hair between 1994 and 1996, during the second season of Friends. Imitated by several women, the hairstyle initiated a global phenomenon, becoming one of the most popular and requested hairstyles in history. Marie Claire estimates that 11 million women donned the hairstyle during the 1990s, while the Daily Express determined that the haircut was most popular among British women.
Aniston's hairstylist, Chris McMillan, created the cut while he was stoned, and she wore the hairstyle during Friends' first and second seasons. It immediately became very popular among women as "The Rachel", Despite her association with the cut, Aniston disliked the hairstyle.Aniston found maintaining the hairstyle without McMillan's help difficult, stating "I'd curse Chris every time I had to blowdry. It took three brushes—it was like doing surgery!" and that she would rather shave her head than have to wear it for the rest of her life.
The hairstyle is recognized as one of the greatest and most iconic of all-time, with Redbook ranking it the fourth most iconic. US Weekly ranked the "Rachel" the 17th most iconic hairstyle in history. Glamour ranked the "Rachel" fourth on the magazine's list of "The 100 Best Hairstyles of All Time". The Huffington Post determined that it is among "The Most Famous TV Hairstyles Of All Time". Meanwhile, Glamour dubbed it among "The very best hair to have graced the small screen," while ranking it television's most memorable hairstyle in another. Calling the "Rachel" one of the best television hairstyles, Sarah Carrillo, writing for Elle, believed that its popularity "helped make 'Friends' the phenomenon it was." Observing that Friends did not spawn significant catchphrases, Tom Jicha of The Baltimore Sun attributes the hairstyle to the show's legacy, writing, "the only cultural trend it ignited was mass imitation of Jennifer Aniston's hair style."and has become associated with the character of Rachel Green. In the second season episode "The One with the Lesbian Wedding", Rachel complains that her overbearing mother (Marlo Thomas) is trying to pattern her own life after hers, lamenting, "Couldn't she just copy my haircut?"
At the beginning of the third season (1996) Aniston switched to a more traditional long-haired look, but The Rachel remained popular. In 2010, six years after the show's end, a survey found the cut as the most popular among British women.
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Dubbed the "Rachel," after the name of her character, Rachel Green, on NBC's long-running hit sitcom Friends, the popular hairstyle helped Aniston emerge as the breakout star of the show's ensemble cast.
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