During its 10-year run on NBC, the six core cast members of Friends were visited by a number of soon-to-be-famous pals. Rebecca Romijn, Leah Reimini and Craig Robinson were among the future celebrities who made some of their earliest appearances on the hit NBC sitcom. While you might not remember seeing Romijn or Remini, Sherri Shepherd’s Friends debut is impossible to forget. The future co-host of The View had a scene-stealing role on the episode “The One With Phoebe’s Uterus,” which aired on Jan. 8, 1998. Shepherd played Rhonda, a brash tour guide at Ross’s museum who gives new employee Joey (Matt LeBlanc) the rundown on cafeteria politics.
Though she’s only in a handful of scenes, Rhonda makes an immediate impression with such lines as, “I shared my pudding with you, man!” That was the first time Shepherd said those words, but it’s far from the last time she’s heard them since. “People ask me to repeat those lines when I’m shopping for toilet paper,” the actress told Yahoo Entertainment during a recent interview. And because of the show’s long afterlife in syndication and on streaming services like Netflix, Rhonda’s finding new fans all the time. “I’m always meeting new fans who love my lines and recognize me from Friends. It’s amazing.”
Shepherd’s Friends appearance came roughly two years into her Hollywood career, which had previously included a regular role on the short-lived WB series, Cleghorne! and guest spots on sitcoms like Living Single. As she tells us, Friends wasn’t exactly known for having the most diverse cast. “There weren’t many black people on Friends,” she remembers. “I remember I was doing my scenes and the security guard was like, ‘Girl!’”
According to Shepherd, her one-episode appearance as Rhonda lodged itself in the minds of other black actresses as well. “Gabrielle Union told me, ‘I remember when you were on Friends and it inspired me! And Aisha Tyler remembered me.” (Both Union and Tyler would go on to appear on the series in 2001and 2003 respectively.)
The legacy of Rhonda shaped Shepherd’s future career as well. “It taught me on-set behavior,” she tells us. “It taught me that the goodwill — or the negativity — starts at the top and it works its way down.” Not that her experience with the six Friends was at all negative. “Everyone was so nice,” she raves. “Jennifer Aniston came and introduced herself. To have people come in and be nice make me feel like one of the cast, I will never forget that.” And even though the Friends creators have ruled out a reunion show, Shepherd is ready to suit up again as Rhonda. “I would petition! I would lay outside the doggone studio.” With a pudding snack pack, of course.
Friends is currently streaming on Netflix.
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