The Stunning Transformation Of Lisa Kudrow

Over the past few decades, Lisa Kudrow has proven herself to be one of Hollywood's funniest leading ladies. After landing the role of the quirky Phoebe Buffay in the hit series "Friends" in the '90s, Kudrow shot to fame alongside her five co-stars. Since the show's finale in 2004, Kudrow has appeared in numerous successful TV shows and films, including her shows "The Comeback" and "Web Therapy," along with cameo roles in films like "Easy A," "Bad Neighbors," and "Booksmart." In addition to her long, successful career, Kudrow has had a long, happy marriage to her husband, French advertising executive Michel Stern. in 1994, the pair welcomed a son, Julian.

As of this writing, Kudrow has multiple projects in the pipeline, and it's clear that her career is still going strong. Curious to learn more about Kudrow's journey from the San Fernando Valley to the heights of Hollywood? Here is the stunning transformation of Lisa Kudrow.

Lisa Kudrow was a happy, funny, and confident kid

Lisa Kudrow was born in 1963 and raised in the San Fernando Valley. Her father had moved to California from Brooklyn and her mother had originally come from Cleveland. When speaking to the Archive of American Television, Kudrow explained that she had inherited a lot from her parents. "I think I'm a mixture of the two of them, you know, my father, he's a good performer ... also he's an artist ... and my mother is just the classiest lady that I'd ever encountered." She added, "I had always aspired to be like my mother." 

As Kudrow went on to explain, she was always "very confident" and funny as a kid — although she said her two oldest siblings, a brother and sister, didn't always agree — and she had a "really happy" childhood. She also spent a lot of her time alone, using her imagination to create fantasy worlds to play in. It's no wonder she eventually gravitated towards a career as a performer!

Lisa Kudrow wanted to be an actor but studied biology

As a young girl, Lisa Kudrow had dreams of becoming an actor. As she told the Archive of American Television, she spent her early years acting for her family and taking drama classes. In fact, after coming home from nursery school, Kudrow would come home and perform audiobooks that they had played for the kids at school. "I really loved attention," she said. She also took acting classes in summer school as a kid after fifth grade.

However, after falling in love with acting as a child, Kudrow decided she would pursue biology when she got to college with the plan of becoming a doctor. "I really loved biology ... and I thought, 'Okay, so I'll be a doctor like my father,'" she recalled. As she explained, she imagined that her future children would respect her more if she were a doctor rather than an actor. Eventually, however, she began to miss acting and even found herself practicing her comedy skills — that was when she realized she wanted to be an actor.

Lisa Kudrow didn't find immediate success

After deciding to pursue acting once again, Lisa Kudrow joined an improv group called The Groundlings. There, she met Conan O'Brien, who was also a student at the time. As Kudrow explained in an interview, O'Brien ended up inspiring her. Then, Kudrow started auditioning for roles. One of her first auditions was for the show "Larry Sanders." However, as she later told Jimmy Kimmel, she blew the audition by making a joke that nobody in the room even understood. 

It turns out Kudrow had her fair share of rejection in her early days as an actor. However, she got through it all by keeping a positive mindset. "Every audition you don't do well in, the job you didn't get, you get into trouble when you start looking at it as failure," she explained to the Saturday Evening Post. "I try to be happy for everything that happens, the good and the bad. Otherwise I wouldn't be right here."

Lisa Kudrow got her start on Mad About You

Right when Lisa Kudrow began to worry she'd never make it as an actor, she landed the role that set everything in motion — Ursula in "Mad About You." "I was starting to run out of money," she told the Archive of American Television. Then, the producers of "Mad About You" called her agent at the last minute asking her to be a guest star that same day. Even though Kudrow's agent didn't want her to do it, she decided to take the part. "I thought, 'Well, 'Mad About You' is a great show,'" she said. 

After Kudrow nailed the tiny part, she was given a five-episode arc on the show. And then she ended up appearing in 24 episodes of the show between 1992 and 1999 — her character in "Mad About You" was later written into "Friends" as Phoebe's twin sister, Ursula.

As Kudrow explained, it was done by the network producers because "Mad About You" and "Friends" initially aired one after the other on Thursday nights.

Lisa Kudrow took a life-changing role in Friends after missing out on a role in Frasier

Everything changed for Lisa Kudrow in 1994 when she landed a leading role in the sit-com "Friends" as Phoebe Buffay. However, as Kudrow later revealed to SiriusXM, landing the role wasn't exactly easy. In fact, Kudrow had recently been cast as Ros in "Frasier" but had been recast by director James Burrows. Burrows ended up directing "Friends," too, and Kudrow almost lost the part in "Friends" as well. She even had to do a "special audition" for Burrows, she explained.

Luckily, she passed the test and landed the role. Once she had the part, she also had to find the character. She decided that the only way Phoebe could be funny, even with her very traumatic past, was if she kept the character upbeat. As she told the Archive of American Television, she realized Phoebe couldn't "feel sorry for herself at all" and didn't realize how strange her story was. "That to me was what informed the whole character," she said. 

Lisa Kudrow shot to fame after Friends came out, but she struggled to 'be a celebrity'

As soon as "Friends" came out, Lisa Kudrow and the rest of the cast instantly shot to fame. As she told Candis Magazine, it took some getting used to. "When Friends first took off, I thought my job was to be a celebrity and I started thinking, 'Hmmm, should I go to this party or to that one? Should I leave now or for a few minutes more?' And I tried it and I hated it — really, hated it," she said (via The Sun).

Luckily, she had five other people to help her get through it. "There were six of us who were put in the spotlight together, right?" she later told The Sunday Times. "Yet it was still challenging, even though we had each other to bounce off. I know fame can be hard, even if that's what people seek out."

Ever since then, Kudrow has lived her life in the spotlight, but she has never tried to be a celebrity again. Instead, she focuses on her work. "I don't see it as love. It's not love," she said to The Guardian of the public. "People admire sometimes what you do. But I know what people are like. Especially with women, it's like: 'Ooh, she doesn't look that good, she's not ageing that well.' A lot of commenting on how you look. All the time."

Lisa Kudrow married Michel Stern in 1995

In the '80s, Lisa Kudrow met Michel Stern when he was seeing her roommate. "They were dating when we first met," she said to the Daily Mail. "But I'm freakishly polite, so I saw him and went, 'Well, he's the perfect man and it's all ruined because now they're together and I can't (make a play for him).'" Although the two didn't date then, they happened to meet again at a party — long after he and the roommate split up — and a new romance began. Kudrow and Stern married in 1995 in France. 

As Kudrow explained to Glamour in 2014, the pair took a practical approach to marriage. "When [Michel and I] decided to get married, we understood: We're not promising to love each other forever, because you can't do that, but we are promising to work on whatever problems come up. We're committed to our marriage working," she said. "It turns out, after you have a history, there's such a bond, and love takes another shape. But, oh, I don't want to jinx it — I'm superstitious!"

As of 2023, the couple are still going strong so it's safe to say she didn't jinx it.

Lisa Kudrow struggled with body image issues and comparing herself to her female Friends

After Lisa Kudrow rose to fame as Phoebe in "Friends," she soon started looking at herself in a new light. "You see yourself on TV and it's that, 'Oh my God, I'm just a mountain of a girl," the actor said on the podcast "WTF with Marc Maron" (via Today). Kudrow went on to explain that she couldn't help but compare herself to her two petite co-stars, Jennifer Aniston and Courtney Cox. "Like, my bones feel bigger," she said.

Kudrow forced herself to diet and became, as she put it, "too thin." She also found that she became sick far more frequently.

Even in 2015, Kudrow was still conscious of her weight. "Sometimes if I feel I've put on weight I cut back on pasta, bread and cookies," she told The Guardian. "But if I know I'm not on camera for a while I really treat myself." However, Kudrow has worked toward self-acceptance.

Lisa Kudrow had her son in 1998

In 1998, Lisa Kudrow gave birth to her son, Julian. She was actually pregnant with him while filming "Friends." In fact, the unborn Julian even made it into the pre-show cast huddle. "When I was pregnant, then they would say, 'Have a great show, love you love you — love you, little Julian!'" she once said to People, adding, "So sweet, they included my little fetus in the huddle."

Once Kudrow became a mother, a lot changed for her. Although she continued acting, she took her son into consideration with each job. "For me the guilt is I do not need to be working, but I do like it a lot," she told Glamour in 2014. "So I try to make it all as 9-to-5 as possible. I stopped doing out-of-town films years ago."

Kudrow and her husband, Michel Stern, never had other children. "I feel bad only because he alone will have to deal with his parents when they're old," she said on the show "Bethenny." However, she added that Julian was very happy as an only child.

Lisa Kudrow starred in a few films during her time on Friends

Although the '90s and early 2000s were dominated by "Friends" for Lisa Kudrow, the actor also made time for a few films when she wasn't playing Phoebe. In 1996, she starred as Linda in "Mother," a comedy that also starred Debbie Reynolds. In 1997, Kudrow played Michele in the cult classic "Romy and Michele's High School Reunion," a film about two unpopular high school friends who plan to prove themselves at their reunion.

"At its core are these friends, and everyone can identify with not fitting in, and making the mistake of lying in order to fit in — and what a lame lie! Just plain old stupid," she recalled to The Daily Beast, adding that she had no idea the film would be so popular.

Then, in 1998, Kudrow starred in "The Opposite of Sex," alongside Christina Ricci and Martin Donovan. "With 'The Opposite of Sex,' I loved the script, and I didn't care how big or small the part was: I wanted to be part of it," she later told Interview Magazine. "And it was the same with [the 2003 film] Wonderland." Clearly, Kudrow kept busy!

Friends came to an end in 2004

In 2004, after 10 seasons, "Friends" came to an end. Looking back on the show in 2015, Lisa Kudrow told Express, "It was the best experience, and an unusually good one in TV. We all got along, the producers were great and it was wonderful being involved. I was extraordinarily lucky." She went on to reveal that she was thrilled to have played Phoebe for so long and didn't even mind that people still recognized her for the role.

Not only was "Friends" a great experience for Kudrow, it also transformed her career. "I didn't care if I became completely irrelevant, because 'Friends' gave me a huge gift," she told Vulture in 2014. "Whatever I'm putting my name on is something that I want to do." And that's exactly what she did. In the years that followed "Friends," Kudrow went on to make several passion projects. 

Lisa Kudrow created her own shows, The Comeback and Web Therapy

One year after "Friends" came to an end, Lisa Kudrow spearheaded her own comedy project with HBO's "The Comeback," which she created alongside "Sex and the City" producer Michael Patrick King. The show followed an aging actor who takes part in a reality show as her fame slips away. Although the show wasn't picked up after its first season in 2005, it was renewed for a second season almost a decade later in 2014.

A few years later, she created another show called "Web Therapy." This show featured a Zoom-like setup and followed a virtual therapist. As she told the Archive of American Television, the show had been Kudrow's answer to her agent's demands she do a web series. "They were mostly just sitcoms that didn't work out that got chopped up into five-minute segments to air online," she said. However, because "Web Therapy" was "about being online," Kudrow felt more comfortable saying yes. The show even ended up winning a few Webbies.

Lisa Kudrow appeared in a number of films throughout the 2010s

Lisa Kudrow's career continued to grow. In 2010, she played the guidance counselor in "Easy A." Then, in 2014, she played Dean Carol Gladstone in "Bad Neighbours," alongside the likes of Seth Rogen, Rose Byrne, Zac Efron. She also reprised her role in the sequel two years later.

In 2016, she took on a less comedic role in "The Girl on the Train" alongside Emily Blunt. As Blunt later explained to Jimmy Kimmel, Kudrow's character was called Monica and her character was called Rachel — for "Friends" fans, this obviously will all sound pretty familiar. When extras on set began freaking out when they heard the names, they ended up changing Kudrow's character name to Martha (via Entertainment Tonight).

In 2017, Kudrow appeared in "Table 19," an Anna Kendrick-led comedy. A couple years later, she starred in "Booksmart," Olivia Wilde's directorial debut. Kudrow played the mother of Kaitlyn Dever's character. While the aughts may have been all about "Friends" for Kudrow, the 2010s were all about her film roles.

Lisa Kudrow produced Who Do You Think You Are

One of Lisa Kudrow's biggest passion projects in recent years would have to be the reality show "Who Do You Think Are?" which ran on TLC and NBC from 2010 until 2022. Kudrow initially saw the British version of the show while working in Ireland. "When I saw this show, it personalized [genealogy] while personalizing history," she told The Daily Beast. "You were able to get an inkling of your family as human beings — the things that they endured, the things that they saw, and the things that they overcame. The stories are all really emotional." Kudrow even learned a few things about her own family's history when she appeared on the show herself.

Production was interrupted by the pandemic and eventually shelved, but we're sure we'll be seeing plenty more of Kudrow in the years to come.