What Happened to Anita Barone, AKA the Original Carol on ‘Friends’?
Jane Sibbett and Anita Barone as Carol on Friends

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What Happened to Anita Barone, AKA the Original Carol on ‘Friends’?

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We’re in the midst of a Frienaissance here at Wetpaint, and while my colleague is devouring the classic ‘90s sitcom for the first time, I’m rewatching the entire series with him.

Though I’m not as familiar with the first season of Friends — I was six when it premiered, after all — I still consider myself somewhat of an expert on the show.

So I was shocked to discover Carol Willick, Ross’s ex-wife who divorced him after she came out as a lesbian, was initially played by a different actress than the one we all know and love.

Anita Barone as Carol

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Carol first appears in Season 1, Episode 2, AKA “The One With the Sonogram at the End,” and in that installment she was played by actress Anita Barone.

But when Ross’s baby mama reappeared in Season 1, Episode 9: “The One Where the Underdog Gets Away,” she had miraculously transformed into a different skinny blonde, actress Jane Sibbett, with no explanation. She was Aunt Viv’ed before Aunt Viv

Anita Barone in Friends Season 1, Episode 2
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(Interestingly enough, Carol’s lesbian lover, Susan, was always played by Jessica Hecht.)

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Why was Anita replaced and what has she done since leaving one of the most successful shows of all time, you ask?

Turns out the Missouri native called it quits on Friends because, according to Wikipedia, she wanted to pursue a more full-time role after originally auditioning for one of the three female leads.

Anita-Barone
Credit: IMDb    

Unlike the three ladies who did land the parts of Phoebe, Monica, and Rachel — Lisa Kudrow, Courtney Cox, and Jennifer Aniston, respectively — prior to her Friends audition Anita already had several small screen credits to her name, including an episode of Seinfeld

Jane Sibbett as Carol in Friends Season 1, Episode 9

In the early 1990s, she was a regular cast member of Carol & Company with actress Carol Burnett. 

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After leaving Friends Anita starred on The Jeff Foxworthy Show for the first season (1995–1996) and in The War at Home from 2005 to 2007. 

Her other, more recent television credits include, Curb Your EnthusiasmQuantum LeapEmpty NestChicago HopeCastleDo Not DisturbAlly McBealCaroline in the CityParty of Five and The Larry Sanders Show.

Jane Sibbett as Carol

The younger demo may know Anita as Officer Georgia Jones, the mother of Bella Thorne's character CeCe Jones, on Shake It Up.

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Jane ended up appearing as Carol in 15 episodes over Friends’s 10-year-run, so you could argue Anita should’ve stuck with the role, but we’re still happy with the way things turned out — even if the Friends creators did try to pull a fast one on us!