How Danielle Steel helped cast Jennifer Aniston in 'Friends.' Seriously.
Have you heard the Friends story, “The One About How Jennifer Aniston Was Cast?” In a recent interview with The Hollywood Reporter, long-time NBC scheduler, Preston Beckman, explained that back in the ’90s, they kinda sorta plotted to steal Aniston away from another show and snag her for Friends. And they did so with the help of legendary author Danielle Steel. Even though Steel might not even realize how big of a part she played in casting our favorite ’90s sitcom.
Beckman worked in scheduling for over 30 years — and his job was to simply figure out when shows should air on TV, which sounds like one of the best jobs ever. It’s actually a lot more complicated than that, but Beckman made it easy. He also knew how to program shows against each other, and in the case of Friends and Aniston, he knew exactly what he was doing.
Aniston wasn’t attached to star in Friends at the very beginning, and was instead in a CBS show called Muddling Through, and that had a 6-episode order. Beckman didn’t want them to order any more episodes, because they wanted to cast Aniston.
“We heard that they were putting the show on Saturday nights while we were in a current meeting,” Beckman explained to THR, “I remember [NBC entertainment chief] Warren Littlefield turns to me and said, ‘Kill it!’ So I did. The first one or two weeks that it was on, I put original Danielle Steel movies against it. We wanted to make sure they weren’t going to pick up more episodes just to be spiteful.”
Nothing can compete with an original Danielle Steel movie on TV. Everyone knows that. The ratings for Muddling Through never took off, the show was canceled, and NBC was able to hire Aniston away to star in Friends. And the rest, as they say, is history.
(Image via NBC)