Light spoilers for anyone who hasn't yet watched the Friends: The Reunion, so be warned!
For Friends fanatics who waited more than 15 years to see the cast back together again to talk about the good ol' days, HBO Max's recently released reunion special was tailor-made to hit all the pleasure points. From the too-quick cameos of returning faves like Maggie Wheeler to the 2.0 version of the trivia contest from "The One with the Embryos," it was largely the purest of delights. It all started off with some emotionally poignant notes featuring the cast members arriving at the immaculately crafted studio sets, but it turns out that opening came close to getting ruined before it started.
A big reason why Friends: The Reunion works so well is because of the vision of director Ben Winston, who had some very clear and present ideas about how to bring the beloved six stars together again. So before anyone - David Schwimmer, Jennifer Aniston, Lisa Kudrow, Matthew Perry, Courteney Cox, and Matt LeBlanc - arrived, Winston plotted to have things play out as audiences saw them, with the actors showing up one at a time, with each mini-reunion being recorded as it happened. But Winston's goals were in danger of being derailed after he realized each of the actor's trailers were all parked right next to each other, making it far more likely for the actors to bump into each other before appearing on camera.
In an interview with The Times, Ben Winston explained how he accepted that setback and figured out a way to work past it.
I was so upset. The point of the show is they haven’t seen each other. But it was too late to move them. We built tents around each of their doorways. And I texted the six of them and said, ‘Look, I know you want to see each other but I’m begging you: please stay in your own dressing room until you’re called to the stage. I really want to catch that moment.’
So in the end, capturing those quietly magical moments on the set came down to setting up physical makeshift barriers around the trailers, as well as metaphysical trust barriers with the various cast members. And those very same cast members apparently gave Ben Winston a good-natured hard time about the specificity of his requests, saying that they were all driving to the set together, and Matt LeBlanc joking that he was already lying in bed with David Schwimmer, likely a reference to Joey and Ross' sleeping preferences shown in the episode "The One with the Napping Partners."
Thankfully, it all worked out in a way that allowed Ben Winston to get his wishes, and his instincts were right on, given how impactful it was to see the cast members popping onto the sets with wistful appreciation for everything within Monica's apartment set. And the director was definitely appreciative that it all worked out, saying:
They mocked me for wanting that moment. But they did do what I asked. And you do get the feeling that they haven’t seen each other for ages. And it’s a really beautiful moment. I’ve never seen a bond like these six have.
Even at more than 90 minutes, Friends: The Reunion still felt like it was too short a celebration for an event of this magnitude. Could there BE any more magnitude? For anyone who hasn't yet watched, or can't wait to watch again, all Friends episodes plus the special are available to stream in full on HBO Max.