In its 10 years on the air, “Friends” had quite a lot of actors on set. Unfortunately, many of those talented individuals are no longer with us today. While the six actors who made up the main cast of “Friends” — Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matthew Perry, David Schwimmer, and Matt LeBlanc — are still alive and still taking Hollywood by storm, the same can’t be said for several of the many guest stars who made an appearance on the show during its long tenure on television.
The “Friends” actors we’ve lost over the years may not have had the biggest roles on the show, but many of them were huge stars in their own right. From famous faces who had small cameos on “Friends” to memorable guest stars who had a huge impact on the lives of the main gang, here are some of the actors from “Friends” who we have sadly lost.
Paul Gleason played Phoebe's boss in an alternate reality on 'Friends'
In the episode “The One That Could Have Been,” the “Friends” gang imagines what things would have been like had their lives gone a bit differently. In this imagined reality, the carefree massage therapist Phoebe is a corporate hotshot working in the finance industry. Paul Gleason played Jack, her boss in the alternate reality, who confronts Phoebe after she turns up to work in spite of having been fired.
Gleason didn’t get a lot of screen time so you may not remember him from “Friends,” but there are lots of films you’ve likely seen him in. Gleason’s career spanned decades, with credits dating back to an uncredited role in the 1962 film “Panic in Year Zero!” By the time the actor appeared in the 2000 “Friends” episode, Gleason was an established star who you may recognize from films like “The Breakfast Club” and “Die Hard.”
After Gleason’s turn in “Friends,” he appeared in several shows and films including “The Giving Tree,” “Not Another Teen Movie,” “National Lampoon’s Van Wilder,” “Dawson’s Creek,” and “Malcolm in the Middle.” He died in 2006 from mesothelioma, as noted by The New York Times.
Beverly Garland's 'Friends' character shared her poker skills on the show
“Friends” fans will remember the episode “The One with All the Poker,” in which Ross and Monica’s Aunt Iris teaches Monica, Rachel, and Phoebe how to play poker. The cardshark Aunt Iris was played by Beverly Garland in a guest role, but TV viewers may also remember the actress from her extensive list of credits in shows like “My Three Sons,” “Scarecrow and Mrs. King,” “Port Charles,” and “7th Heaven,” as well as several films including “Where the Red Fern Grows,” “Sixth and Main,” “It’s My Turn,” and “Death Falls.”
Per the Los Angeles Times, Garland died in 2008 at the age of 82, four years after she ended her acting career with her final episode of “7th Heaven.” A decade after her passing, Garland gained another acting credit in “The Forsaken Westerns,” which consists of never-before-aired episodes of western TV shows as well as unaired pilots.
Audra Lindley answered some questions about Phoebe's past on 'Friends'
While we hear Phoebe talk about her grandmother, Frances, a lot on “Friends,” we only actually see her once, in the episode “The One with Phoebe’s Dad.” In her sole appearance on the show, Frances answers some questions about Phoebe’s roots.
Audra Lindley played this important figure in Phoebe’s life. Lindley may have only appeared in one episode of “Friends,” but she was far from a newcomer to the screen in that episode. Lindley’s career dated back to a handful of uncredited roles in the 1940s, but really took off in the 1950s when she appeared in productions such as “Lux Video Theatre,” “Lights Out,” “Modern Romances,” and “Kraft Theatre.” Other notable credits over her decades-long career include parts in “Another World,” “Doc,” “The Love Boat,” and “Three’s Company.” Lindley’s final role was an arc on the TV show “Cybill,” with her last appearance being in 1998 — just three years after she was on “Friends.”
Lindley died at the age of 72 just weeks after filming her last TV appearance, as noted by The Washington Post.
Jack Ong's 'Friends' character worked at the museum with Ross
Jack Ong was only in one scene of “Friends,” but it was a noteworthy one. The actor played Andrew, a scientist who works alongside Ross at the museum. Ong had a few lines during the scene in “The One With Phoebe’s Uterus,” in which Ross breaks down social barriers at work.
At the time of Ong’s appearance on “Friends,” he’d been acting for more than two decades, but hadn’t landed many large roles. Most of his TV appearances, like his part on “Friends,” were guest spots on shows such as “Hunter,” “Days of Our Lives,” “Chicago Hope,” “Life with Roger,” and “Beverly Hills 90210.” Ong’s final television appearance was playing Mr. Yi on “General Hospital” from 2011 to 2012.
Ong stepped back from acting after that, but continued to lead a busy life before he died from a brain tumor in 2017 at the age of 76. Per his obituary on Legacy, the actor had a background in public relations and marketing, was an accomplished photojournalist and community organizer, and also served his church as a pastor.
Gretchen Wyler had a memorable guest appearance on 'Friends'
Gretchen Wyler’s “Friends” character, Mrs. Burkart, shows Monica one of the downsides of running your own business in the episode “The One with the Dirty Girl.” Monica, with the help of Phoebe, caters a funeral for Mrs. Burkart’s late husband but has trouble getting her payment from the widow. Phoebe eventually has to confront her to get the money owed.
Wyler’s impressive pipes can be heard in the episode. Per her 2007 obituary in The Hollywood Reporter, the Broadway veteran was in some pretty big productions on The Great White Way including “Guys and Dolls, “Silk Stockings,” “Damn Yankees,” “Bye Bye Birdie,” and “Sly Fox.” Wyler also had a long resume of film and television credits including roles in “Charlie’s Angels,” “Private Benjamin,” “Dallas,” “Santa Barbara,” “MacGyver,” “Who’s the Boss?,” “The Marrying Man,” and “Designing Women.” Her final television appearance was in a 2002 episode of “State of Grace.” She died five years later of breast cancer at the age of 75.
'Friends' was one of Danny Dayton's final TV appearances
In the early seasons of “Friends,” Joey, Chandler, Rachel, and Monica have a grumpy older neighbor named Mr. Heckles. While Mr. Heckles dies on the show, the actor who played him, Larry Hankin, is still with us. Sadly, Danny Dayton, who played Mr. Heckles’ attorney, Buddy Doyle, is not. Dayton appears as Doyle in a scene from “The One Where Heckles Dies” in which he reveals that Mr. Heckles left all of his possessions to Rachel and Monica – aka “the noisy girls who live in the apartment above mine.”
The 1995 appearance on “Friends” was one of Dayton’s final acting parts, as he died of emphysema just a few years later in 1999 at the age of 75. Dayton had a long and successful career that included such notable credits as “Guys and Dolls,” “Wonder Woman,” and “All in the Family.” As noted by his obituary in The New York Times, Dayton was also an accomplished director who won three Clio awards for his commercial work.
Phoebe helped the wife of Phil Leeds' character find peace on 'Friends'
Phoebe’s free-spirited nature on “Friends” often makes her seem a bit out of touch with reality to the rest of the group. One of the best examples of this is in the episode “The One with the Lesbian Wedding,” in which Phoebe believes she’s carrying the spirit of a client who died while she was giving her a massage. Her friends think she’s imagining things, but Phoebe is insistent and meets with the woman’s widower, Mr. Adelman, to see if her client had any unresolved business left on Earth.
Mr. Adelman was played by Phil Leeds, an actor who racked up over 100 credits throughout his career, starting with an appearance on the show “Front Row Center” in 1949. Leeds’ impressive list of credits also includes roles in “The Odd Couple,” “Barney Miller,” “Night Court,” “Roseanne,” “Boy Meets World,” “Everybody Loves Raymond,” and “Ally McBeal.”
Leeds died of pneumonia in 1998 at the age of 82, noted the Los Angeles Times, just two years after his guest role on “Friends.”
Charlton Heston gave Joey some acting advice on 'Friends'
Charlton Heston is one of the more famous guest stars to have appeared on “Friends,” and that’s truly saying something considering the number of venerated names that appeared on the hit series. The Hollywood veteran appeared as himself in the episode “The One with Joey’s Dirty Day.” In the episode, Joey works on a film with Heston and gets caught in the actor’s dressing room where Heston gives him some acting advice.
Heston was a Hollywood legend who needed no introduction when he appeared on “Friends.” Some of his iconic films include “The Ten Commandments,” “Antony and Cleopatra,” and “Planet of the Apes.” Heston’s long acting career ended in 2003 with the film “My Father,” although he’s credited with one more appearance after his death, 2010’s “Genghis Khan: The Story of a Lifetime.”
Heston died in 2008 at the age of 84 of Alzheimer’s Disease, as noted by The New York Times.
Buck Kartalian's appeared on 'Friends' as Joey's tailor
Buck Kartalian had a creepy but memorable turn on “Friends” as Joey’s tailor, Frankie, in “The One with Ross’s New Girlfriend.” In the episode, Joey sends Chandler to Frankie for a new suit, and Chandler is shocked when Frankie measures his inseam a little too thoroughly. Making the whole thing even creepier is that Joey reveals he’s been going to Frankie since he was a kid, and that he thinks “cupping” is part of how the inseam is supposed to be measured.
Kartalian had a long career dating back to the 1950s. His dozens of credits include roles in “The Untouchables,” “Here Come the Brides,” “Planet of the Apes,” “Cool Hand Luke,” “The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas,” “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” and “How I Met Your Mother.”
Kartalian’s final acting credit is in 2006’s “Cattle Call.” After that, he seems to have retired from show business, but lived for several more years. As noted by The Hollywood Reporter, Kartalian lived to the ripe old age of 93, dying of natural causes in 2016.
Alice Drummond portrayed Ross and Monica's grandmother on 'Friends'
Considering that Alice Drummond’s “Friends” character is on her deathbed when we see her on the show, many people may not realize that the acting veteran was on the sitcom at all. Drummond appeared as Ross and Monica’s grandmother in “The One Where Nana Dies Twice,” in which Ross and Monica pay their respects to their deceased Nana. Drummond doesn’t even appear in the episode’s credits for the non-speaking role, although a 2016 obituary from news.com.au mentions the cameo.
Drummond may not have showed off her acting chops in her minor role on “Friends,” but she did flex them throughout her long career. Drummond’s many acting credits include roles in “Dark Shadows,” “Where the Heart Is,” “Another World,” “Ghostbusters,” “Night Court,” “Ace Ventura: Pet Detective,” “To Wong Foo Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar,” “Pieces of April,” “The Honeymooners,” and “Furry Vengeance.” Playbill noted that she was also an accomplished stage actress who was nominated for a Tony for her role in the Broadway play “The Chinese and Dr. Fish.”
Drummond retired from acting in 2011 and was 88 when she died in 2016.
Penny Santon stole this scene in 'Friends' as Joey's nonna
In case you forgot, “Friends” character Joey Tribbiani is Italian American and proud of it. One scene that really plays up his heritage is in the episode “The One Where Chandler Can’t Remember Which Sister,” in which Joey and Chandler have dinner with Joey’s family. At the dinner table, Chandler tries to figure out which of Joey’s many sisters is Mary Angela. Chandler’s attempts are thwarted by Joey’s nonna, who dominates the dinner table conversation with talk of her tiramisu.
Joey’s nonna was played by Penny Santon. She didn’t get much screen time, but her role did show where Joey’s love of food comes from. The small role was also one of Santon’s last; she only has two more credits listed after her “Friends” appearance. The veteran actress had a long career dating back to the 1950s that included roles in iconic shows like “Zorro, “Bonanza,” and “Laverne & Shirley.” She also appeared in some notable films, including “Funny Girl” and “West Side Story.”
According to an image of her tombstone on Find a Grave, Santon’s real name was Pierina della Santina and she died in 1999 at the age of 82.
Heathcote Williams' appearance on 'Friends,' helped Monica and Chandler get together
If you don’t remember Heathcote Williams’ appearance on “Friends,” you’re forgiven. He only appeared briefly, after all, but his character sets a lot in motion. Williams played a wedding guest at “The One with Ross’s Wedding: Part 2,” and kicks off the romance between Monica and Chandler when he drunkenly mistakes Monica for Ross’ mother. Chandler assures Monica that she is young and beautiful and, well, “Friends” fans know what happens next: They end up in bed together and eventually get married and start a family.
Williams appeared in many films and shows over his career including “The Tempest,” “The Odyssey,” “The Legend of 1900,” “Lover’s Prayer,” and “Dinotopia,” but acting wasn’t his only claim to fame. Per Williams’ 2017 obituary in The Guardian, the “Friends” actor was also a celebrated writer whose work included plays, pamphlets, and poems. Among his many other accomplishments were fire-eating, discovering a species of wasp, and helping found the newspaper Suck. He died at the age of 75 “after an extended period of ill health.”
Robin Williams brought his comedic skills to an episode of 'Friends'
It’s hard to pinpoint which of the many guest stars on “Friends” was the most memorable, but Robin Williams is certainly a contender. The legendary funnyman had a long list of credits and is beloved for films like “Mrs. Doubtfire,” “Jumanji,” “Aladdin,” and “Hook,” as well as shows such as “Mork & Mindy” and “The Crazy Ones.”
Williams appeared on “Friends” in the episode “The One with the Ultimate Fighting Champion” as Tomas, a man who sits in the area at Central Perk usually reserved for the main gang, and talks about his fear that his wife is cheating on him. Things hit a climax when Tomas’ confidante, Tim (played by Billy Crystal), confesses he’s the one having an affair with Tomas’ wife. Tomas is only on screen for about a minute, but it’s a minute that fans will never forget.
Williams died in 2014 from suicide. Vanity Fair noted that an autopsy revealed Williams had Lewy body dementia, which “has an associated risk of suicide.”
If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
Ron Glass' arc on 'Friends' was just one of his many TV roles
One of the running jokes on “Friends” centers on Ross and his chaotic love life. The show opens with him in the midst of a divorce, and he proceeds to get married two more times on “Friends.” Enter Ron Glass, who played Ross’ lawyer, Russell, in “The One Where Ross Hugs Rachel” and “The One Where Joey Loses His Insurance.” Even Russell is shocked when Ross gets married yet again, and gives him advice on how to have his third marriage, to Rachel, annulled.
Glass was a prolific actor with a long list of credits. Some notable roles include parts in shows such as “Barney Miller,” “The New Odd Couple,” “Rhythm & Blues,” “Teen Angel,” and “Firefly.” Glass was also an accomplished voice actor, whose voice you may have heard in a number of shows including “Rugrats” and “The Proud Family.”
Per NPR, Glass died at the age of 71 in 2016.
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