She'll be there for him: Helen Baxendale and David Schwimmer in Friends
A Friend indeed
It took HELEN BAXENDALE just five years to go from playing Scotland's theatres to snogging David Schwimmer in Friends. America just can't get enough Brits.
Words: Peter Ross
The British are coming. Not content with invading Uncle Sam‘s pop charts and movie industry. the cream of Blighty’s arty types are taking US TV in a storm of stiff upper lips. famous reserve and amusing regional accents. First Jane Reeves provided an earthy. Yorkshire foil to the ﬂouncing Crane brothers as Daphne in Frasier. then Alex Kingston swapped her Mall Flanders bodice for a surgeon's mask in ER. Even the ultimate American sitcom has brought in a Brit — Helen Baxendale has joined Friends.
Fans of the astronomically successful show will have to wait till quite far into the series before Baxendalc. who is currently pregnant. makes her big entrance as Ross's English girlfriend. However. the very first episode — ‘The One With The Jellyfish' — picks tip a number of plot lines left dangling at the end of series three's cliffhanging climax. Will Ross and Rachel get back together“? Will Chandler and Monica get it on‘.’ How will Phoebe react to the revelations about her mother? Will Joey grow a brain ‘.’
Baxendale. who once trod the boards at Glasgow's Citizens‘ Theatre before going on to star as Dr Claire Maitland in BBC Scotland's Cardiac Arrest. joins Friends as love interest for monkey-loving geek. Ross. She plays Emily. the niece of Rache ‘s new boss. In the episode titled ‘The One With Joey‘s Dirty
86 THE lIST 9—23 Jul 1998
'It becomes difficult to truly act unless you try something new. Friends is my something new.’
Day". Rachel does her boss a favour and agrees to visit the opera with Emily. but persuades Ross to take her place instead. Romance ensues.
Baxendale has been drafted in to give a boost to Friends. which has lost some of its plZLl/J. since Ross and Rachel finally snogged. Stateside critical reaction has been mixed for Baxendale's performance. with some TV pundits bemoaning a lack of on-screen magic between the actress and David Schwimmer. who plays Ross. However. Baxendale remains upbeat and it is likely that she will feature in series five.
‘Most of my scenes have been with David. who has been very supportive. He's a very committed actor.‘ she says. ‘()n some sets you find there's no professional chemistry. but it works well between David and I.
‘The cast have been nice and caring. People imagine that they spend the entire time leaping around. making each other laugh. but they‘re all pretty relaxed. Funnily enough. they're all a lot smaller than I thought. Jennifer Aniston is tiny.‘
Baxendale remains admirably unfazed at having landed a part in one of television's most popular and culturally significant shows.
‘I never had a master plan for my career.’ she says. ‘It takes me wherever it takes me. The problem is that you become established in one kind of part and people assume you must be like that character. It becomes difficult to act — truly act — unless you try something new. Friends is my something new.‘
However. such calmness shouldn't be mistaken for complacency. Baxendale was as surprised as anyone when a chill-out trip to California led to such a dream job offer.
‘One moment. I am simply here on holiday. and the next thing I know. the studio is shipping me off to Mexico so that I can get a visa quickly] she says. ‘We drove up to the border. parked the car and walked across. We felt like drug smugglers.‘
The fourth series of Friends starts on Channel 4, Fri 10 Jul, 9pm.
Celebrity sofa surfing. This issue: Marsali Stewart.
Favourite TV show?
I'm a big fan of Richard and Judy, but only when it's the genuine article 7 not when they have stand-ins When Richard gets on a roll it’s telly magic Favourite TV snack?
Pretty much anything Within easy reach Current top TV snacks are pizza, Jammy Dodgers and, obViously, chocolate in any shape or form
Which TV personality makes you want to be physically sick?
Jeremy Beadle. Why? Why is he on TV7 Who was the first telly person you ever had a crush on?
The lead guy in the sCi-fi series l/ root the alien)
Greatest TV moment of all time? Archie Gemmill's goal against Holland, 1978
Who would be on your dream Top Of The Pops?
EIVIs, SteVIe Wonder, The Verve Favourite soap opera?
Brookside ~ they’ve done it all bar alien ViSitation, though I suspect Sinbad is part Martian.
What have you got on top of your TV set?
A SCUIpture of a hamster carved from a coconut. Everyone thinks it’s horrible It IS.
What was the last video you rented? When We Were Kings
What's the best ever TV theme tune? Ski Sunday.
I Marsali Stewart presents Up For It, BBQ, dai/y, 8.35am.