Jennifer Grey on Being a Friend of "Friends" and Why She Never Reprised the Role of Mindy

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It was during the latter part of the first season of Friends (1995) that Dirty Dancing star Jennifer Grey originated the role of Mindy Hunter, Rachel's backstabbing bestie/maid-of-honor who was having a secret affair with her fiance Dr. Barry Farber DDS (Mitchell Whitfield). After Rachel (Jennifer Aniston) leaves Barry at the alter in the series pilot, we discover Barry still went on their planned honeymoon to Aruba, only he substituted Mindy as a traveling companion. Fast forward to the season's 20th episode (The One with the Evil Orthodontist) and Rachel is invited by Mindy to be maid-of-honor at her and Barry's upcoming nuptials. Unsure if he's actually over Rachel, Barry invites her to dinner, only to open a floodgate of buried emotions -- and the two "rekindle" their flame. It's only after Mindy confides in Rachel that she believes Barry is cheating on her that Rachel confesses she is now "the other woman." Together they decide to confront the double-dipping doctor of dentistry at his practice.

When Grey was asked to originate the role for the Warner Bros. series, she was thrilled, although things didn't quite go the way she'd wished. "I was a fan of the show, and I got the call to do it," she told MediaVillage during an exclusive interview. "Then when I did it, I had such bad anxiety because they kept changing the script. It's very hard to be a guest star because you're not a part of it, and you're really trying to figure it all out. They were trying to figure out what the character was, what the scene was, and it was changing, and changing, and changing. It all made me so anxious that I could barely do it.

"I didn't know at the time what was going on with me," she continued. "But I had a lot of performance anxiety, and I just didn't understand at that time that I needed help in the anxiety department."

Grey did successfully complete the episode and in hindsight thanks the series for highlighting a serious issue. "Everything you do in life, especially the hard things, the really painful, difficult things, are usually the things that are the most instructive and helpful," she admitted. "In life, I always learn more from things that you feel like a failure at, and the successes, you don't learn as much, although, they might be fun. But it's all a part of life."

It was Grey's paralyzing anxiety that also prevented her from participating in what might have been another career milestone. "I always just [felt] like I wished I had the ability to do things," she shared. "Like when they asked me to do Saturday Night Live, I just couldn't. I said 'No.' I was just too scared.

The role of Mindy would be recast for later episodes of Friends with Jana Marie Hupp, but not before Grey was asked to reprise it. "When they asked me to come back, I said I couldn't," she recalled. "They got someone else to play the role. It makes me sad that I would say no to continuing on Friends or doing Saturday Night Live because of my anxiety. The truth is, I wished I had people to help me navigate that kind of fear. But I couldn't be there until I was there."

In 2010 Grey faced her performance anxiety head on by competing on season 11 of Dancing with the Stars, which she won. "When I look back at Dancing with the Stars, I'm like, 'Look what I did!' But at the time I didn't watch it because I was so busy learning the next dance that I never actually could see it. Eventually when I did look at it, it was thrilling to be able to say, 'I can't believe I did that.'"

Grey admits she doesn't get recognized too often for her contribution to Friends. Still, she is thankful to be a part of its legacy and be in the company of a very good friend of hers. "My best friend from high school, who is still my best friend, was also on the show," she revealed. "Yeah, Maggie Wheeler, who played Janis. That's my biggest connection with Friends -- Maggie!"

The fact the series garnered her best friend worldwide exposure is something Grey is thrilled about. "Oh, nobody's complaining," she laughed in closing. "It's such a weird thing to be an actor, and it's hard to make a living, make a career, to work, and to do what you love doing. We all appreciate all the gifts that come our way, and it is such an incredible honor every time we get to act."

You'll find more of Steve Gidlow's interviews with notable guest actors from Friends in our Friends of "Friends" archive.

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