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Maggie Wheeler reveals how she created Janice’s iconic laugh on the Friends reunion special

She became one of Friend’s most popular guest stars thanks in part to her character Janice’s instantly recognizable cackle.

So it was only fitting that Maggie Wheeler would make a surprise appearance on HBO Max’s Friend’s reunion special that was released Thursday.

The 59-year-old actress popped in with series stars Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Matt LeBlanc, Lisa Kudrow, Matthew Perry and David Schwimmer to reminisce on her time working on the classic sitcom.

Can’t miss her: Maggie Wheeler, 59, made a surprise appearance on Thursday’s Friends reunion while slipping into character as Chandler Bing’s longtime on–off girlfriend Janice; still from the Friends reunion

The cast set up a perfect entrance moment when they joked about how Lisa Kudrow had the loudest laugh on set when she was in character as Phoebe, before showing a behind-the-scenes clip of her breaking out into laughter at an inopportune moment.

Naturally, Maggie Wheeler’s Janice didn’t want to be upstaged in the laughter competition, so she entered from the side of the stage. 

‘My God, I can’t believe you didn’t say me!’ she shouted in Janice’s abrasive, nasal voice.

Janice took a seat on the arm of the sofa the cast was sitting on while wearing a black blazer over a black floral blouse and showing a touch of gray. 

Can't be beat: The cast set up a perfect entrance moment when they joked about how Lisa Kudrow had the loudest laugh on set, though no one could upstage Maggie's Janice; still from Friends

Can’t be beat: The cast set up a perfect entrance moment when they joked about how Lisa Kudrow had the loudest laugh on set, though no one could upstage Maggie’s Janice; still from Friends

Not to be forgotten: 'My God, I can't believe you didn't say me!' she shouted in Janice's voice as she took a seat on the sofa arm; still from the Friends reunion

Not to be forgotten: ‘My God, I can’t believe you didn’t say me!’ she shouted in Janice’s voice as she took a seat on the sofa arm; still from the Friends reunion

My boy! She shared greetings with the principle cast, including a sweet hug with Matthew, to whom she played his long-time on–off girlfriend

My boy! She shared greetings with the principle cast, including a sweet hug with Matthew, to whom she played his long-time on–off girlfriend

She shared greetings with the principle cast, including a sweet hug with Matthew, to whom she played his long-time on–off girlfriend. 

Host James Corden’s first question to Maggie was how she crafted the popular character, which wasn’t much of a stretch for her.

‘You know, I got the audition sides across my fax machine and it says fast-talking New Yorker, and I thought, [in Janice’s voice] “I know her. I just — she lives in me, that’s it.”’

The actress spoke in a notable lower, mellifluous voice, but she could instantly switch into Janice’s craggy higher-pitched voice. 

A natural: She said the part called for a 'fast-talking New Yorker,' and everything else came naturally. 'I know her. I just — she lives in me, that’s it'

A natural: She said the part called for a ‘fast-talking New Yorker,’ and everything else came naturally. ‘I know her. I just — she lives in me, that’s it’

Old pals: She shared greetings with the principle cast, including a sweet hug with Matthew, to whom she played his long-time on–off girlfriend; still from the Friends reunion

Old pals: She shared greetings with the principle cast, including a sweet hug with Matthew, to whom she played his long-time on–off girlfriend; still from the Friends reunion

Even though she instantly knew what voice she wanted to use for Janice, it wasn’t until she was onset with her main costar Matthew Perry that the classic laugh came to her.

‘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,”‘ she admitted.

‘And I just looked and him and I went [Janice’s laugh] and that was it. It was just born in the moment,’ she continued.

‘Thank you, Matthew, for inspiring that. And anyway everybody, oh my God, the Friends reunion, and I get to be a part of it!’ 

Inspired: It wasn't until she was onset with her main costar Matthew Perry that the classic laugh came to her; still from Friends reunion

Inspired: It wasn’t until she was onset with her main costar Matthew Perry that the classic laugh came to her; still from Friends reunion

Can't hold it in: '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,"' she shared

Can’t hold it in: ‘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,”‘ she shared

Big moment: She made a laugh to cope with Matthew being so funny. 'And I just looked and him and I went [Janice's laugh] and that was it. It was just born in the moment,' she revealed; still from Friends

Big moment: She made a laugh to cope with Matthew being so funny. ‘And I just looked and him and I went [Janice’s laugh] and that was it. It was just born in the moment,’ she revealed; still from Friends

Maggie was already an established actress at the time of her Friends appearances, having been featured in films and TV shows going back to the early 1980s.

She would go on to become one of the most popular Friends guest stars, appearing in 19 episodes, with at least one appearance per season throughout the show’s run from 1994 to 2004.

Since her Friends success, the actress has kept up a steady stream of guest roles on popular series, both comedic and dramatic.

She had a starring role on the first season of Ellen DeGeneres’ sitcom Ellen, which started the same year as Friends, though she was reduced to a guest actor in subsequent seasons.

Maggie was also a popular recurring character on Everybody Loves Raymond, and played a recurring character on the FX animated spy comedy Archer.

TV fixture: Maggie also had a starring role on the first season of Ellen and was a popular guest star on Everybody Loves Raymond and Archer; seen in 2016 in London

TV fixture: Maggie also had a starring role on the first season of Ellen and was a popular guest star on Everybody Loves Raymond and Archer; seen in 2016 in London


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