Friends fans surely remember Paolo, the smooth-talking Italian beau of Jennifer Aniston’s Rachel Green in the first season of the Emmy-winning comedy. The character, played by Italian actor Cosimo Fusco, appeared in four episodes of the NBC hit from 1994 to 1995, first appearing in the episode “The One With the Blackout” 25 years ago, per IMDb.
But what fans may not know about the suave Italian character is that nearly all of his lines were improvised by Fusco at the request of the show’s producers, People reported. During a recent interview on the Today show to commemorate the upcoming 25th anniversary of Friends, Fusco, now 56, gave the scoop on his surprising ad-libbed lines.
“I was asked to improvise. I was a little bit skeptical because my English then wasn’t as good as it is now, let’s face it. But I was told not to speak any English. ‘Just say whatever you want in Italian.’ I made up most of the Italian spoken by Paolo. When I’m standing by the window with Jennifer, and I say, ‘Look at the moon, look at the stars.’ … I just made up those lines.”
Fusco was also required to kiss Jennifer Aniston – not a bad gig for any actor of the era—but when asked what it was like to lock lips the future sitcom superstar, the actor described her as “a lovely, adorable young woman — a very talented actress.”
Friends Actor Who Played Rachel's Boyfriend Paolo Admits He Made Up Most of His Italian Lines https://t.co/MqlhrtY1ro
— People (@people) August 14, 2019
Friends fans may recall that Rachel dated Paolo early on, but his foolish attempt at making pass at her bestie Phoebe Buffay (Lisa Kudrow) sunk his relationship. The Paolo character popped up again in the show’s second season when Rachel slept with him because she was upset about Ross (David Schwimmer) dating a new girlfriend, Julie (Lauren Tom). Rachel eventually said goodbye to Paolo for good in 1995.
Fusco did more than ad-lib on Friends. The young Italian star was even able to get a script changed around due to a scene that he deemed “disrespectful.” Earlier this year, Fusco told The Guardian he had an issue with the original scene in which Paolo made a pass at Phoebe during a massage session. The scene was supposed to be a bit more sketchy than how it played out in the episode’s final cut.
“I had to be this greasy guy who was touching Phoebe’s a**. I had a problem with how it portrayed me, as if guys from Italy are like that. What they wanted me to do was quite disrespectful.”
Fusco went on to reveal that he was able to find a compromise with the Friends writers, so he felt comfortable shooting the final scene.
While he definitely made his mark on Friends, Fusco admitted that he does have some regrets on not capitalizing more on the success of the show. The actor revealed he was distracted by his personal life at the time and he didn’t have a publicist. The six main Friends stars would go on to unprecedented sitcom success, with each of them earning a whopping $1 million per episode by the end of the series’ 10-year run.
Still, Fusco knows his character — and his cleverly ad-libbed lines — will forever live on in syndication and on streaming sites.
“I can work in the most exquisite film, but the minute people find out I was Paolo, they’re like: “Oh my God!” the Friends star said.
You can see Cosimo Fusco talking about his stint on Friends in the video below.