When Helen Baxendale made her “Friends” debut in 1998, it came with a level of fame and public scrutiny that she hadn’t yet experienced, even though she had already starred in the successful British dramas “Cardiac Arrest” and “Cold Feet.”
“You couldn’t walk down the street to buy a pint of milk. In fact, you couldn’t go anywhere,” Baxendale told the Daily Mail. “It was impossible to mix with the crowd, and do what ordinary people do,” she continued, noting how she and her friends and family were hounded by the paparazzi during that time, though not nearly as badly as the main stars of “Friends.” “I saw it as a gilded prison. It was something I wasn’t prepared for.”
Baxendale admitted that she might have sustained that level of fame had she stayed in the United States. “I didn’t want to live in America, when all my circumstances were leading me back to Britain,” she said. Indeed, she had to be written out of “Friends” earlier than anticipated because she became pregnant with her first child.
Instead, Baxendale carved out a career for herself in England, taking on lead roles in series like “Kidnap and Ransom” and BBC One’s “Noughts + Crosses.” She also went on to have two more children. “I don’t regret it for a minute,” she continued. “To me there are many aspects of being ambitious. Yes there is your career, but there are also many other ambitions. There is this perception that TV is glamorous and it is the pinnacle of your existence — I don’t think it is.”