- Ross’ ex-wife Carol on Friends was played by two different actors, Anita Barone and Jane Sibbett, throughout the series.
- Jane Sibbett, who replaced Anita Barone, was initially offered the role of Rachel in Friends but turned it down.
- While Carol’s character on Friends was progressive for LGBTQ representation, some jokes and scenes involving her were problematic and aged poorly.
Ross’ ex-wife Carol on Friends had a significant recurring role, but she was actually played by two different actors over the course of the series. At the beginning of the series, Ross had just divorced Carol, his college girlfriend, who had recently come out and left him to live with her partner, Susan. Carol was introduced in Friends’ second episode, “The One with the Sonogram at the End,” when it was revealed that Carol was pregnant with Ross’ child, who would become his son Ben. However, the Carol introduced in that episode wasn’t the same as in the following episodes.
Carol was initially played by Anita Barone on Friends, who had previously appeared in the comedy series Carol & Company and in one episode of Seinfeld, where she played a chef who wanted Elaine Bene’s shoes. Barone had originally auditioned for one of the main characters in Friends but was offered the recurring role of Carol instead. After playing her in one and only one episode, Barone quit, wanting to pursue a more full-time role, and she was replaced by Jane Sibbett. Although never a main character, Ross’ ex Carol appeared in nearly 20 episodes of Friends, and Sibbett got significant attention for the role.
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How Jane Sibbett Replaced Anita Barone As Carol On Friends
Sibbet Was Initially Up For Another Role
Carol became a key part of the Friends ensemble who was a welcome addition to several episodes and that was largely thanks to Sibbet’s depiction of her. However, Sibbett almost had an even more iconic role in the series. Before Sibbett became the second actor who played Carol on Friends, she was actually initially offered the role of Rachel in Friends. The Friends actress revealed (via news.com.au):
“I asked them (agents) if they’d told the producers I was pregnant and they said, ‘Oh no, we thought we’d tell them later.’ And I said, ‘No, you’ve got to tell them now.’ So obviously they (producers) said it wouldn’t work out.”
While such a high-profile role would have been amazing for her career, Sibbet admits that she doesn’t have any regrets over not getting the part while praising Jennifer Aniston in the role:
“There’s no way anybody could have come close to what Jennifer Aniston did with Rachel. She was so perfect,”
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What Anita Barone Has Done Since Friends
She Remained A Sitcom Staple
While Anita Barone didn’t find the big lead role she was looking for after leaving her role as Carol on Friends, she acted steadily in the years after. The actor starred in the first season of The Jeff Foxworthy Show and the short-lived The War At Home. Among her most recent roles are Georgie Jones (CeCe’s mother) in Disney Channel’s Shake It Up and one episode of K.C. Undercover. She continues to appear in guest-starring roles on prominent shows, including the drama A Million Little Things and in two episodes of Curb Your Enthusiasm as a love interest of Larry David.
What Jane Sibbett Has Done Since Friends
Sibbett Remained Best-Known As Carol
Jane Sibbett has remained active in her career since her appearance as Carol Willick. However, most of her success happened during her time as Carol on Friends. In the 90s, Sibbett was a series regular on Herman’s Head and had a starring role in the Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen film It Takes Two opposite Steve Guttenberg and Kirstie Alley. Sibbett also had various appearances on ’90s favorites like Touched By an Angel, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, and The Nanny, as well as Ally McBeal. In the 2010s and 2020s, Sibbett had roles in the made-for-TV movies A Date by Christmas Eve as Didi Dougherty and List of a Lifetime as Dr. Elisabeth Boyer.
Though not a main character, Carol’s role on Friends was key as it showed her continued relationship with Ross as they raised a son together. Her relationship with Susan was also a good step towards representation and inclusion on mainstream TV. The characters are called a “positive example of a gay couple on television” by GLAAD. It’s unknown if Barone knew how frequent Carol’s appearances were going to be or if the character’s role grew as the series progressed, but even though she appeared in only one episode, it’s one change that fans of Friends haven’t forgotten.
Carol Was Progressive And Problematic At The Same Time
Groundbreaking Aspects Of The Character Were Overshadowed By Offensive Jokes
While Carol’s character on Friends was a great representation of the LGBTQ community in the ’90s, looking back reveals some uncomfortable aspects of the depiction. Things have changed a lot since Friends aired, and there are certain scenes with Carol that are problematic at best. Carol and Susan’s Friends wedding was certainly ahead of its time, and it was the first TV broadcast female same-sex couple wedding. However, some of the jokes that came from how these topics were handled turned out to be pretty toxic. The Susan and Carol actors were reportedly cast in their respective roles because they didn’t “look like” lesbians (via Metro).
The scene earlier on in the season where Ross goes in for Carol’s ultrasound hasn’t aged well, as he tries to discredit their relationship in every way possible. The episode’s humor completely overshadowed a historic TV wedding moment for the LGBTQ community, and other weddings, like the Ross and Emily wedding, ended up being far more memorable. Ultimately, the recasting of Carol on Friends was just one detail in the complex history of the character.
- Release Date:
- Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc, Matthew Perry, David Schwimmer
- Comedy, Drama, Sitcom
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- David Crane, Marta Kauffman
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- David Crane, Marta Kauffman
- Marta Kauffman