Why Did Friends Have to Create a Second Sister for Rachel?

Jennifer Aniston’s Rachel Green on Friends suddenly had a second sister, played by Christina Applegate, because there were tensions between Aniston and Reese Witherspoon, who originally played Rachel’s sister on the show.

A familiar concept in the world of comic books is the idea of a retcon, which stands for “retroactive continuity.” The term initially simply meant that continuity was added to an ongoing story after the fact. So, for instance, when Batman was introduced, we just knew that the rich playboy, Bruce Wayne, dressed up like a bat and beat up bad guys (throwing them from roofs, knocking them into vats of acid, Batman was hardcore when he debuted). It was only six issues into his regular feature in Detective Comics that we learned his parents were murdered in front of his eyes when he was a kid, and that he trained himself to fight crime. And then, one day, a bat crashed through his window and he had some thoughts on crooks and their stance on superstitions. Revealing that backstory is a retcon in the original sense. Nowadays, however, we use the term retcon more to describe contradictory reveals of information. So if a Batman story were to reveal that his parents didn’t actually die — THAT is what we call retcons nowadays.

Long-running TV series almost always use family members for the classic version of retcons, as you will regularly meet a never-before-mentioned sibling as a guest star. But sometimes, these siblings are also retcons in the modern sense. Like a character not having a sibling, but, whoops, now they do. This was what happened to Rachel Green (Jennifer Aniston) on Friends. She had one sister, who showed up for a story arc, but then suddenly she had a second sister for a whole other story arc. So… what happened there?

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What Happened to Rachel’s Younger Sister, Jill, on Friends?​​​

Reese Witherspoon debuted as Rachel’s younger sister, Jill, in the Season 6 episode, “The One With Rachel’s Sister.” Jill was first mentioned all the way back in Season 2’s “The One With The Two Parties.” From the context of that episode, it was pretty clear that Rachel only had one sister (who was younger than Rachel, as their separated parents got into a fight at her graduation). Jill finally showed up in Season 6, where she was played by movie star Reese Witherspoon. Jill was extremely spoiled, fought with her sister, and even tried to date Rachel’s ex, Ross Geller, to mess with Rachel. Witherspoon was initially reported to appear in a six-episode arc, but she left after just two episodes.

Christina Applegate Played Amy, Rachel’s Other Sister on Friends

Three seasons later, Friends introduced Rachel’s other sister, Amy (Christinia Applegate), in an episode titled, naturally, “The One With Rachel’s Other Sister.” While Jill was spoiled and still relatively sweet, Amy was actively combative throughout her guest stint. Applegate even returned to the show in Season 10 for an episode, but Reese Witherspoon never reappeared.

The legend at the time was that Witherspoon and Aniston did not get along, leading her stint to be cut short. From an old Buzzfeed “20 Things You Didn’t Know About Friends” list, “Reese Witherspoon was signed up for around six episodes, but apparently Jennifer Aniston disliked her and asked the producers to fire her.” Is that really what went down?

Did Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon Have a Falling Out?

Now, can I tell you definitively that something didn’t go down behind the scenes? No, I cannot. And, heck, these people are actors; they obviously know how to convince you that they’re someone that they’re not. But, at the same time, for something like this, you really have to give something more definitive than unsourced claims that have popped up over the years.

In addition, the two have discussed being friends for decades after Witherspoon’s appearance on Friends in 2000. In 2011, Witherspoon recalled her time on Friends, and noted about Aniston, “In all my enthusiasm, I completely forgot something very crucial — that I had never been on television ever before in my entire life and I never really had been in front of a live audience before ever in my entire life. I panicked. I totally froze. It became immediately clear to me that I had no idea what I was doing, and I was completely out of my league.” She then said Aniston came over to her and told her, “‘Don’t try to be perfect, just be yourself.” That was over a decade ago!

Heck, at the Oscars in 2015, Witherspoon even pinched Aniston’s butt while Aniston was speaking to Ryan Seacrest on the red carpet… That’s not something people do to each other when there is a feud between them. A few years back, when the two were doing press for their Apple+ TV series, The Morning Show (I won’t say that people don’t do TV shows together when they’re feuding, as that’s actually normal), Witherspoon gave her side of why she never returned to Friends, (and it fits neatly with what she talked about back in 2011).

She turned to Aniston and said, “Did you know they asked me back, and I said I can’t do it? I was too scared.” Aniston replied, “How doth you say this? You got scared?” Witherspoon continued, “Yeah, they asked me to come back and I was like, ‘I’m too nervous’.”

Witherspoon pointed out on an appearance on The Graham Norton Show that she hasn’t done a TV show with a live audience since those two Friends episodes. She did, however, host Saturday Night Live twice, but that show uses cue cards. She also noted to Aniston in that same first interview that those SNL appearances frightened her as well, as does any public speaking.

As to Witherspoon’s original arc, if she really hated the experience, that could explain why she only did two episodes instead of six. The episode following Witherspoon’s second appearance was also the first of a two-parter that showed an alternate reality of what life would be like if the characters on Friends hadn’t actually become friends. Jill really wouldn’t fit into that plot anyway, so it might just have been a combination of Witherspoon not wanting to do more episode and the show not really needing her.

By the time that the Season 9 arc involving Amy Green came about, even if Witherspoon didn’t have a problem with the live audience, she was in the midst of filming two movies. For Season 10, that’s the easiest one to explain, as Witherspoon was very pregnant at the time (Amy Green explains Jill’s absence as her having gotten fat, a nod to Witherspoon’s pregnancy).

I’m going with the legend as…

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