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Friends Alum Tom Selleck Reveals Why He Was ‘Scared To Death’ While Guest-Starring On The Show

Tom Selleck as Richard Burke on Friends.
(Image credit: HBO Max)

Out of the 235 episodes of Friends that aired on NBC, it’s almost hard to believe that Tom Selleck’s Richard Burke was only in 10 of them. Monica’s boyfriend was such an integral part of the sitcom as the super sexy, much older, eye doctor whose pool Monica used to pee in. Richard was the apex of cool, with his amazing mustache and fancy car and gentle charm, but it turns out Tom Selleck wasn’t so breezy when it came to crashing the set of the six iconic actors’ show, as he recently revealed that he was “scared to death” during his guest appearances.

How can that possibly be? Richard was so smooth that Chandler tried to grow a mustache to be like him. Some fans even think Monica should have ended up with the ophthalmologist rather than Chandler (who, in turn, obviously would have accepted his true soul mate — Janice). Tom Selleck opened up on The Kelly Clarkson Show about how nerve-racking it was to come into a cast whose rapport was already so well-established, such as the one on Friends, especially not having sitcom experience:

I was scared to death. I had done Taxi a long time before, but I hadn't done a sitcom. And so, I was really nervous. Courteney helped a lot. Courteney's a big help. But that group's an incredible group of friends. They obviously became friends in life as well as on the show. And it shows. It was a wonderful place to work.

It would make sense that Courteney Cox would be the one to take Tom Selleck under her wing, so to speak (which is a pretty amusing mental image), since she was his scene partner during most of his time on the show. By the time Richard came into the series in Season 2, the six main actors were likely already a well-oiled machine, so I can see how that would be an intimidating setting for anyone, even a veteran like Tom Selleck. Everybody must have thought he did better at the table reads than he did, because he said Richard was originally only supposed to be in three episodes.

In his short time on Friends, Richard was part of quite a few classic scenes. In “The One Where Dr. Ramoray Dies” in the second season, when Monica and Richard were getting ready for sexy time in the bedroom next to Rachel and Ross, the roommates hit a major snag in their plans when they realized there was only one condom left. At the time that was a difficult plot to get approved, the creators once told Vanity Fair, as they weren’t allowed to show the condom wrapper.

In “The One Where Joey Moves Out,” Richard and Monica unsuccessfully tried to navigate her father’s birthday party without Jack and Judy Gellar finding out that their daughter was the “twinkie in the city” Richard had started dating. And their breakup provided one of my personal favorite Friends quotes in “The One With the Jam,” when Monica declares: 

I needed a plan. A plan to get over my man. What’s the opposite of man? Jam!

Alas, it wasn’t in the cards for Monica and Richard, and that’s okay because it led to some actually really cute moments between Monica and Chandler. Tom Selleck’s time on Friends — while terrifying — influenced the way he said he treats guest stars on Blue Bloods now, since he knows what a daunting environment that can be to go into. If you want to relive the Richard Burke era of Friends, all 10 seasons are available for streaming with an HBO Max subscription. Be sure to also check out our 2022 TV Schedule to see what new and returning shows are premiering soon. 

Heidi Venable
Heidi Venable

Mom of two and hard-core '90s kid. Unprovoked, will quote Friends in any situation. Can usually be found rewatching The West Wing instead of doing anything productive.