Maggie Wheeler portrayed her Friends character, Janice, with a nasally voice and iconic laugh, and it turns out that her costar Matthew Perry inspired Janice’s signature cackle. Before Chandler (Perry) married Monica Geller (Courteney Cox) in the classic sitcom, he had an on-again-off-again relationship with Janice, who appeared in 19 episodes throughout the series. In addition to her famous laugh, Janice was known to exclaim her catchphrase, “Oh. My. God!” whenever she ran into her former boyfriend. The friends generally found her irritating, making her appearances on the show rather comical.
It’s been 17 years since the final season of Friends premiered on NBC, wrapping up the storylines of six best friends navigating love and life in New York City. Created by Marta Kauffman and David Crane, Friends had a successful run during its broadcast and even became more popular in its time on Netflix until January 2020. Now, a Friends reunion special has released on HBO Max, titled “The One Where They Got Back Together.” Amid guest appearances, table reads, and behind-the-scenes clips, the principle cast members — Jennifer Aniston, David Schwimmer, Matt LeBlanc, Lisa Kudrow, Cox, and Perry — all sat down on the famous orange sofa to relive their memories from the show.
Wheeler shared some new details about her character’s obnoxious yet endearing mannerisms during a special appearance in the long-awaited Friends reunion episode. Moments after a blooper clip aired and the cast joked about Kudrow having a loud laugh while in character as Phoebe, Wheeler popped out from the side of the stage. “Oh. My. God! I can’t believe you didn’t say me!” she exclaimed in Janice’s recognizable tone. After greeting her former castmates and sharing a special hug with Perry, Wheeler sat down on the arm of the sofa near Aniston and answered some questions from host James Corden about her recurring role in the series.
When it came to Janice’s iconic laugh, Wheeler has her costar to thank for the inspiration. Perry’s portrayal of his Friends character Chandler included countless one-liners and sarcastic humor, and Wheeler knew that her character needed something to help her make it through their scenes. She had an epiphany once they were on set together. “Matthew Perry is so funny, and the minute I set eyes on him and he opened his mouth I thought, ‘Oh God, I’m gonna lose it, I’m gonna crack up. This character needs a laugh because I’m not gonna be able to get through a single scene with this guy,”‘ Wheeler explained. “And I just looked and he and I went [Janice’s laugh] and that was it. It was just born at the moment.”
Before the role of Janice on Friends was officially hers, Wheeler felt an instant connection to the character. Though previous rumors claimed she auditioned to play Monica, she denied this and noted that she only auditioned for Janice [via Digital Spy]. The script had called for a fast-talking New Yorker, which wasn’t much of a stretch for Wheeler with her Manhattan upbringing. “I thought, ‘I know her, I grew up there, I just – she lives in me, that’s it,'” said Wheeler, switching into her character’s voice. This assurance helped her land the part, and her portrayal of Janice in Friends remains her most well-known role to date.