Warning: This story contains spoilers from the “Friends: The Reunion” special on HBO Max.
Hey, Joey — how you doin’?
In a harrowing incident that was kept hush-hush for decades, a 1996 episode of “Friends” took a turn when star Matt LeBlanc took a “cringe-worthy” fall while filming — and paramedics had to rush him to the hospital in excruciating pain.
During the much-hyped “Friends: The Reunion” special — which hit HBO Max Thursday — series creator David Crane revealed that production ground to a halt on the Sept. 26, 1996, episode “The One Where Nobody’s Ready” when LeBlanc — as lovable lunkhead Joey Tribbiani — suffered his show-stopping injury.
In one scene, roommates Chandler (Matthew Perry) and Joey fight over a chair, and, during their war of (nit)wits, Joey runs and jumps onto it to claim it for himself. That’s when things went painfully awry.
“I somehow tripped — and my shoulder came out of the socket,” LeBlanc, 53, explained in the special.
To make matters worse, they were shooting a “bottle episode,” meaning one that is set entirely in one location — in this case, Monica and Rachel’s apartment — and required all of the main stars at all times.
“It happened to be the one episode where it was just the six of them, all in it — so we couldn’t film other scenes,” said Crane of the episode, which chronicles Ross’ increasing anxiety as the gang takes too long to get ready for an important function at his museum later that evening. It was supposed to be an “easy,” budget-saving one since it all took place in one location and required no guest stars.
“So what started out to be the simplest ‘Friends’ episode ended up taking the longest amount of time to shoot,” Crane added in the behind-the-scenes special.
Because LeBlanc’s injury would take time to heal, the creators wound up writing LeBlanc’s newly present arm-sling into the show; in later episodes, kid-at-heart Joey’s onscreen reason for the injury was that he had a mishap while jumping on his bed.
It turns out the cast may have jinxed LeBlanc, too. It was revealed in the special that they used to huddle before filming each episode — but mysteriously they neglected to do so before filming that one.
Maybe they were on a break.
Because of the unfortunate incident, that episode may not be high on LeBlanc’s list of favorites. But former soccer pro David Beckham — who is a huge “Friends” fan and was a guest star on the special — said it is his fave episode from the series.
“It’s one of those episodes that when I’m away [from my family] or feeling a little bit low, I put it on,” Beckham, 46, shared onscreen. “And it makes you smile almost to the point of crying.”
BTW: Getting his shoulder ripped out of its socket wasn’t LeBlanc’s only gnarly injury during his early time with “Friends.” He also recounts going drinking with a friend the night before his big callback audition.
LeBlanc blacked out, fell face first into the toilet and hit his nose, causing “a huge chunk of meat to come off my nose,” he said. “[I thought], ‘Oh my god, i have to go in for the big callback’ and it’s a big ugly scab on my nose, and [co-creator] Marta Kauffman said ‘What happened to your face?’ I told the truth — and got the job.”
The reunion featured LeBlanc, Perry, 51; Jennifer Aniston, 52, Courteney Cox, 56, Lisa Kudrow, 57, and David Schwimmer, 54, who dished about life on- and off-set of the legendary NBC sitcom, which aired from 1994 to 2004. Among the other tidbits revealed was a lingering real-life lust between Aniston and Schwimmer, who played lovebirds Rachel and Ross.
“Friends: The Reunion” is now streaming on HBO Max.