Before Lisa Kudrow was nominated for 30-ish Emmy, Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild Awards, before she took home a wheelbarrow full of statues including a Teen Choice life-size surfboard for Choice Hissy Fit in a major motion picture, before she created and starred in her own critically acclaimed television shows, she was just Phoebe from Friends.
But before that, before she was Phoebe nestled in a love-headlock with America’s favorite boundary-challenged neighbors, before she landed on one of the most popular and longest-running series with the least realistic New York City apartments of all time, she was cast as Roz on Frasier. And, after an excruciating pilot episode where she felt the role crumbling like sand through her fingertips, she got fired. Then she got to watch Peri Gilpin step into the spotlight she could still feel warming her own skin and kick butt like she was genetically engineered for it by the scientists at NBC.
If, at that moment, someone would have said to her “buck up, little Lisa Kudrow. You are going to be on a new show that is going to be just as iconic as Frasier, lauded by critics and cafe latte fans alike,” she would have called you a dirty liar and smacked you with her bulky 1994 Motorola cell phone. No way would she ever believe that her face would grace countless magazine covers, action figures and lunch boxes and that she would be buddies with the girl Bruce Springsteen pulls up on stage in his “Dancing in the Dark” music video. “Almost Roz” was her legacy, and there was nothing left do to but mournfully embroider it onto pillows sighing wistfully into an old age of untapped potential and tiny, threaded needles. And yet, fame and success was right there, peeking over the horizon, waiting for the darkest darkness before dawning all over Lisa Kudrow’s front lawn.
One year later, Friends hit the airwaves and shot Kudrow and company into our eyeballs and hearts, launching their careers and a generation of women attempting a hairdo that never looked the way it looked on Jennifer Aniston.
That gave pre-Phoebe just enough time to cry hysterically and swim in a Jack Daniels bathtub of self pity before she dared to hope that maybe the boat she missed was not the only one in the ocean. Then, she got back in the water and kept rowing.
You never know what’s behind the next wave, you don’t know that the current won’t bang you around some hard curves before delivering you to shore. Lisa Kudrow could never have foreseen triumph following so quickly from despair, the same way she could never have predicted voicing Wanda Pierce, TV executive/30 year coma survivor/cartoon owl on Bojack Horseman, but that happened too.
Keep rowing. It’s the only way to get where you want to go. And if you miss a few boats of your own on the journey, remember, it’s a great big ocean.