All the Sexual Tension Between Ross and Rachel Was Real

There were lots of surprises on the Friends reunion, but one revelation from David Schwimmer and Jennifer Aniston will have fans swooning.

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(Image credit: Getty Images/ Hulton Archive)

Fans of Friends have been eagerly anticipating the cast reunion special for more than a year now (17 years to be precise), anxious to hear behind-the-scenes secrets and see if the stars still have their same chemistry. The bloopers were hilarious and the cameos were fine (there's only one good version of 'Smelly Cat' and it's Lisa Kudrow's—sorry Lady Gaga), but there's one revelation that will shock and excite fans most: It wasn't just the characters Ross and Rachel who were crushing on each other hard during those early seasons—David Schwimmer and Jennifer Aniston had a thing for each other in real life!

Towards the end of the nostalgia fest, reunion host James Corden asks what he calls a "cheeky question:" Because they were all young, attractive people, Corden says it's "inconceivable to me that there weren't off-screen romances...." What follows is an awkward pause coupled with Aniston and Schwimmer making knowing eye contact. "David?" Aniston prompts, seemingly checking if it's okay to reveal their decades-old secret.

Schwimmer goes on to say he had "a major crush on Jen" in the first season. But unlike his alter-ego Ross, who had to wait a whole year with his love unrequited, Aniston says that the crush "was reciprocated." Alas, Schwimmer wasn't her lobster. "It was like two ships passing because one of us was always in a relationship, and we never crossed that boundary, you know, we respected that." Although Matt LeBlanc (Joey) interjects "Bullshit"—they are comedians after all, gotta get a laugh—Aniston shuts that rumor down. "Honestly, I remember saying one time to David, 'It's gonna be such a bummer if the first time you and I actually kiss is going to be on national television.'"

ross and rachel

(Image credit: Courtesy of HBO Max)

Later Schwimmer and Aniston reminisce about how they would cuddle together when there was downtime on set. "We would spoon and fall asleep on the couch," says Aniston. Could they BE any cuter? (You'll want to watch the reunion to see the adorable behind-the-scenes footage.) Apparently, Schwimmer and Aniston thought they were good at hiding their feelings. Ha! "We knew, we knew," says Matthew Perry (Chandler), with Courteney Cox (Monica) chiming in: "We knew for sure." (I'd like to make a "They don't know we know they know we know" joke here, but I'm not sure it quite works.)

Schwimmer seems at least a little bit heartbroken that it was "a situation that we couldn't, we couldn't do anything about it," but Cox points out that perhaps it made their characters' storyline and their performances even better. "How great though, ultimately," she says, "because if you had and it didn't work out, it would have not probably been as great."

As usual, Monica is right. That iconic scene in the coffee shop (Season 2, episode 7, 'The One Where Ross Finds Out') is Ross and Rachel's—and Schwimmer and Aniston's—actual first kiss. Says Aniston, "We just channeled all of our adoration and love for each other into Ross and Rachel."

Danielle McNally
Executive Editor

Danielle McNally is a National Magazine Award–winning journalist. She is the executive editor of Marie Claire, overseeing features across every topic of importance to the MC reader: beauty, fashion, politics, culture, career, women's health, and more. She has previously written for Cosmopolitan, DETAILS, SHAPE, and Food Network Magazine