The Sweet Reason This Royal Agreed to Make a Cameo on Friends
Friends is known for many things — “The Rachel,” a habitual emphasis on the word “be,” a running gag about an overweight and unattractive neighbor who roams his apartment in the nude — but one of the sitcom’s most consistent tropes is its A-list guest stars.
Essentially anyone with any sort of ‘90s cachet appeared on Friends — from Julia Roberts to Ben Stiller. But the show's stint in London at the end of season 4 allowed for the most on-the-nose cameos of all.
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Originally, the creators weren’t sure if filming in London would be feasible, what with the cost of transporting not only the cast and crew, but their equipment as well. According to Saul Austerlitz’s book Generation Friends: An Inside Look at the Show That Defined a Television Era, the answer was presented in the form of Virgin Group founder Richard Branson, who volunteered 75 first-class tickets in exchange for an appearance in “The One with Ross’s Wedding.”
Branson made a brief cameo as a souvenir salesman who convinces Joey to buy an over-the-top Union Jack top hat.
While wearing the touristy accessory, Joey runs into another national treasure: Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York. In a pre-iPhone world, Joey whips out his camcorder to document the moment, filming himself standing next to Fergie, who says she finds his hat “kind of dashing.”
It was a cultural moment prompted in part by Ferguson’s daughters, Princess Beatrice and Princess Eugenie, who were said to be big fans of the show. In I’ll Be There for You: The One About Friends, Kelsey Miller writes that while the royal had been “coaxed into the appearance by her daughters,” it actually helped relieve some of the animosity toward her in Britain. “At a time when Fergie-bashing had become a national pastime, Friends was a welcome relief,” she said.
According to Comedy Central, Fergie was so nervous ahead of her scene that Matt LeBlanc ran lines with her and Matthew Perry (who wasn’t in the scene) stood by for support while they filmed. Sounds like they really were there for her, too.