In the pantheon of endearingly irritating sitcom characters, one name that ranks among the greats is Janice Litman, the nasal, narcissistic New Yorker who served as an occasional love interest for Matthew Perry’s quippy Chandler Bing (and David Schwimmer’s sad sack Ross Geller, briefly) on NBC’s Friends. Though never a regular, Janice returned to Friends again and again in appearances that spanned nearly a decade, making her machine-gun laugh and “Oh! My! God!” catchphrase staples of the series. Recently, Maggie Wheeler, the actress who brought Janice to life, chatted with Uproxx about the show and her infamous character. While Janice is just one of the many parts Wheeler has played over the course of a long and prolific career, it’s the role for which she’s best-known and most frequently recognized. And Wheeler, a Friends fan herself, is more than fine with that. “I’m glad the character made such a mark,” she says.
As Wheeler sees it, the success of the character can be attributed to good timing, casting, and writing. The actress had recently been dumped from Ellen DeGeneres’ ABC show These Friends Of Mine when the Friends script showed up via her fax machine. As a native New Yorker, Wheeler felt she knew who this woman was, because she had “encountered so many people like Janice I could just read her on the page.” But the actress takes every possibility in the interview to give full credit to the writers. They’re the ones, after all, who came up with the much-imitated catchphrase. It was Wheeler’s task “to find a slightly different way to say it” every time.
For Friends aficionados, the article is full of interesting behind-the-scenes tidbits and insights. Janice’s signature laugh, for instance, was Wheeler’s way of breaking up during a scene while staying in character. And why didn’t she ever hook up with the third male friend, Matt LeBlanc’s Joey? “I don’t think Joey ever considered it for a moment, and I’m not sure Janice was even that interested,” Wheeler opines.