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EXCLUSIVE: Aisha Tyler was operating under "sheer terror" the entire time she played Charlie on FRIENDS

''You were always trying to keep your nose above water.''

By Anita Lyons
During its heyday (and let's face it, the years beyond) FRIENDS was by far the most popular television show on the planet - catapulting its stars to a level of fame that no one could ever anticipate.
And while it changed the life of its core cast, for its guest stars, playing a part on the show meant living up to the expectations of the world.
Actress Aisha Tyler, who played Ross' (David Schwimmer) girlfriend Charlie Wheeler on the hit series, went from being relatively unknown to a bonafide star, after a nine-episode character arc.
During a recent visit to Australia for OZ Comic Con, Aisha revealed to Now to Love that joining the cast of the hit series was "terrifying".
"It was the most popular show in the world," she admitted. "And you're just trying not to suck really. That was your main motto: 'don't suck, don't suck!' and 'don't vomit'."
Aisha had only signed on to play Ross' "third girlfriend" after that break with Rachel, for four episodes, but due to the popularity of their relationship, it became nine.
"It obviously went well," she said, "but I don't think I had any sense that I was 'killing it' at the time.
"Everybody loved those six people and a lot of times, you would tell a great joke and it wouldn't land because people were so focused on the "friends" so you kind of always trying to keep your nose above water on that show.
David Schwimmer and Aisha Taylor on the set of FRIENDS. (Source: NBC)
While it may have been a lot of pressure to join such a juggernaut show, Aisha revealed that the cast couldn't be anymore, well, friendly.
In fact, between takes, everyone would do "cross-word puzzles and other kinds of puzzle books" to pass the time.
"The cast was very kind," she said. "I think they knew how much pressure there was on people that came in from the outside. So they really went out of their way to make you feel at home and to ask how you were doing and to let you know that they were there if you needed help or had questions.
The show saw many guest stars who were successful in their own right, however, according to Aisha, many would walk onset and "melt down".
"Everybody was just so good," she said. "And there were actors that would just come in and really have a hard time delivering a joke.
"So, from a cultural standpoint, it was a really pleasant place to go to work, but you know, it was just awful because you were operating under the veil of sheer terror almost the entire time."
Aisha played Charlie, a paleontology professor who first dates Joey (Matt LeBlanc) and then Ross. (Source: NBC)
Aisha's character "dinosaur girl", as Phoebe (Lisa Kudrow) used to call her, was well-received by audiences, because for the first time, Ross' had a girlfriend who "celebrated" him and his profession.
"In my memory, it was the first time we weren't making fun of Ross for being a palaeontologist," she said.
"I think it was fun for people to lean into his nerdiness and he finally had someone who thought it was cool and who made it fun and sexy alongside him."
For obvious reasons, the majority of Charlie's scenes were with Ross and to this day, Aisha still regards David as one of the most talented actors she has worked with.
"I think people really marvelled at what David did," she said. "He was extraordinary and he could make even a single word like 'pivot' - it's one of the most infamous words from the show - and a lot of other people couldn't come up with things like that - and make that into its own joke. He's a really great actor."
WATCH NEXT: The infamous "Pivot" couch scene from FRIENDS. Story continues...
During it's ten-year run, FRIENDS averaged 25 million viewers a week - and for Aisha, her life would never be the same.
"It was a massive break for sure," she admitted.
"There was a moment during my first episode, where we were doing a curtain call in front of the live audience and I was next to Matthew Perry and he goes: 'You know, get ready for your life to change.' And he was absolutely right. It did change everything."