In their original contracts for the first season, cast members were paid $22,500 per episode. The cast members received different salaries in the second season, beginning from the $20,000 range to $40,000 per episode. Before their salary negotiations for the third season, the cast decided to enter collective negotiations, despite Warner Bros.’ preference for individual deals. The actors were given the salary of the least-paid cast member, meaning Aniston and Schwimmer had their salaries reduced. The stars were paid $75,000 per episode in season three, $85,000 in season four, $100,000 in season five, $125,000 in season six, $750,000 in seasons seven and eight, and $1 million in seasons nine and ten, making Aniston, Cox, and Kudrow the highest paid TV actresses of all-time. The cast also received syndication royalties beginning in 2000 after renegotiations. At the time, that financial benefit of a piece of the show’s lucrative back end profits had only been given out to stars who had ownership rights in a show, like Jerry Seinfeld and Bill Cosby.
Series creator David Crane wanted all six actors to be equally prominent, and the series was lauded as being “the first true ‘ensemble’ show.” The cast members made efforts to keep the ensemble format and not allow one member to dominate; they entered themselves in the same acting categories for awards, opted for collective salary negotiations, and asked to appear together on magazine cover photos in the first season. The cast members also became best friends off-screen, and guest star Tom Selleck reported sometimes feeling left out.
The cast remained good friends after the series’ run, most notably Cox and Aniston, with Aniston being godmother to Cox and David Arquette’s daughter, Coco. In the official farewell commemorative book Friends ‘Til the End, each separately acknowledged in interviews that the cast had become their family.