Why was Jennifer Grey recast on Friends?

Jennifer Grey explains why her role was recast after starring as Rachel's former best friend in a single episode of Friends

Jennifer Grey on Friends
(Image credit: NBC)

Although it's been nearly two decades since the last episode of Friends aired on NBC, old and newer fans of the uber popular sitcom still talk about each character and the various storylines that kept the world entertained for ten whole seasons. Even celebrities who appeared in cameos on the series seem to still think about their various roles.

Case in point: Jennifer Grey. Chatting with MediaVillage about Dirty Dancing (and why she still cries when watching it) and more, the 63-year-old actress, who is working on a Dirty Dancing sequel, reminisced about the time she appeared on the first season of Friends as Mindy Hunter, Rachel Green’s former best friend, who was actually having a secret affair with Barry, Rachel's then-fiancé.

As Friends obsessives noticed years ago, Jennifer only took on the role for a single episode and was then replaced by another actress, Jana Marie Hupp.

Jennifer has finally broken her silence over her decision not to reprise the part, specifically noting how she enthusiastically joined the cast at first because a big fan of the show but eventually opting to step down given how things turned out on set. 

Jennifer Grey

(Image credit: Lou Rocco / Contributor)

"I was a fan of the show, and I got the call to do it," Jennifer said to MediaVillage. "Then when I did it, I had such bad anxiety because they kept changing the script. It's very hard to be a guest star because you're not a part of it, and you're really trying to figure it all out. They were trying to figure out what the character was, what the scene was, and it was changing, and changing, and changing. It all made me so anxious that I could barely do it."

As her panic over the continuous changes increased, Jennifer opted to step down - but she still remembers the experience fondly, especially given what she learned from it all. 

"I didn't know at the time what was going on with me but I had a lot of performance anxiety and I just didn't understand at that time that I needed help in the anxiety department," she said on the record. "Everything you do in life, especially the hard things, the really painful, difficult things, are usually the things that are the most instructive and helpful. In life, I always learn more from things that you feel like a failure at, and the successes, you don't learn as much, although, they might be fun. But it's all a part of life."

What's more, producers actually asked her to come back as Mindy during the Friends season two finale, but the actress turned the opportunity down.

"They got someone else to play the role. It makes me sad that I would say no to continuing on Friends [...] because of my anxiety," said Jennifer. "The truth is, I wished I had people to help me navigate that kind of fear. But I couldn't be there until I was there." 

We’re not surprised about Jennifer’s candid disposition towards discussing the topic. The actress, has, in fact, made a name for herself in Hollywood circles in part because of her honesty surrounding all sorts of experiences.

Jennifer Grey

(Image credit: Frazer Harrison / Staff)

Last year, for example, Jennifer opened up about her hair thinning journey to the delight of all of her fans.

"I always had the greatest hair," Jennifer said to E! News last November. "During the pandemic, I started feeling my hair was losing a little bit of its zip - it had no skip to its step. It started feeling like a shell of its former self and I was like, 'What is going on?' The quality of my hair had declined. It was a little more dry, breakable and fine."

She went on to decribe the shame she felt at the physical changes she was enduring. "I felt really bad about myself," she admitted, "because I thought it was more subtle than it was."

Eventually, she met with a hair specialist who explained to her where her hair was thinning. Jennifer said that Lars Skjoth, the founder of hair loss treatment Harklinikken, "showed me parts of my hair that were still robust and then, he showed me the hairline and temples, where it was receding."

The expert then recommended some of the best hair thickening products and gave Jennifer a regime to follow to help her hair - a routine she still follows.

Although we ardently wish Jennifer had opted to pursue the hilarious role of Mindy on the beloved Friends, we are happy that her decision allowed her to open up and be honest about how stress and anxiety can affect people’s moods and career choices - whether within Hollywood or outside of it. 

Anna Rahmanan

Anna Rahmanan is a New York-based writer and editor who covers culture, entertainment, food, fashion and travel news. Anna’s words have appeared on Time Out New York, the Huffington Post, Fortune, Forbes, Us Weekly, Bon Appetit and Brooklyn Magazine, among other outlets.