Remember little Emma from Friends? She appeared in season nine as the living proof that perhaps Ross and Rachel were destined for each other after all. Still not ringing any bells? Well, Emma was actually the pair’s baby daughter! But now over ten years have passed since the show ended, and Emma is definitely not a baby anymore.
Friends was a huge TV phenomenon by any standards. It made the careers of its six main actors and was a huge stepping stone for many of its guest actors, too. That included any child actors who made appearances on the show.
Even people who weren’t huge fans of Friends might remember the Rachel-Ross baby storyline. After a one-off encounter, Rachel reveals she’s pregnant. As a result, the pair eventually move back in with each other. Their daughter Emma, meanwhile, is born in “The One Where Rachel Has A Baby, Part 2.”
This made Rachel the only female in the group to have a biological child, as Phoebe was a surrogate and Monica eventually adopted children. And perhaps because there were no other kids on the show by that point – Ross’ son Ben had grown older and essentially been written out – Emma got a lot of great moments.
In fact, Emma ended up being a vital (and adorable) part of Friends. And she was responsible for probably the funniest parenthood-related moment in the show’s run. That is, when Ross and Rachel regale her with their version of Sir Mix-a-Lot’s “Baby Got Back” in “The One With Ross’ Inappropriate Song.”
And yet despite Emma being perhaps one of the most famous babies on American TV, very little was known about who played her. In fact, even if a keen fan had taped an episode and paused the end credits to find Emma’s real name, they wouldn’t have seen it.
But now, of course, all it takes a quick trip to Google or IMDB to find out who played Emma. And actually, it’s not a “who” at all. In fact, the character of Emma was played by twin babies named Cali and Noelle Sheldon. And now the twins are actually teenagers!
It’s actually fairly common for TV shows to have two babies playing one character. That’s because there are strict U.S. laws that govern how long a child actor’s working day can be. And so to get around this, production companies often hire twins. When one child leaves the set, another one can jump right in!
The pair were obviously too young at the time to form any real memories of their days on the Friends set. But their mother, Gretchen Carpenter, remembers the experience well. “Everyone was really, really nice to Noelle and Cali and treated them like little princesses on the set,” she told Bustle in 2015.
“[Friends] filmed before a live audience, and Cali and Noelle would come out, and they would be waving and engaging with the live audience. It was a lot of fun,” she went on. Clearly, the twins had acting talent before they were even old enough to know it!
So it’s probably not surprising to learn that the 14-year-olds still act today. Since Friends, in fact, they’ve worked in plays and college films. And since they’re so young, they still sometimes double up on roles as well. At one point, for example, they both played Flounder in an adaption of The Little Mermaid.
The girls have a very mature attitude to auditioning, too. “I’m not very competitive because you usually don’t get the roles, and if you do, it’s cool. But if you don’t, it’s nothing to be sad about, because the person who got it is going to do great,” Cali told Bustle.
But they have other interests besides acting. Both of them play softball, for a start. And Cali, in particular, has big and ambitious dreams. She told Bustle she wanted to “become a chemist and cure cancer,” campaign for the right of women to compete in football leagues and publish a book.
Noelle, meanwhile, plays the trumpet and enjoys cooking, but she’s less sure about her future. “I want to be a barista when I’m 18,” she told Bustle. “I don’t know what else after that.” Hmm, wonder where she got the idea about working in a coffee shop from?
Amusingly, the twins have grown up to look quite a bit like their on-screen mother, Jennifer Aniston. And so hopefully they would be a shoo-in to reprise the role of her daughter if Friends ever got around to a reunion show.
Certainly, Noelle and Cali still sing Aniston’s praises – despite neither being able to remember when she held them. Cali has even joked at times that the actress is indeed her mom because it “isn’t completely lying!”
During the twins’ interview with Bustle, moreover, Cali also mentioned that her favorite moment in Friends is one in which her sister starred. “When Noelle was in a baby swing and they were pushing her, they made some joke that she didn’t understand, but she still laughed. I thought that was really cute,” she said.
And interestingly, the twins can tell which of them is which in their Friends scenes. “I can tell which one of us it is because Noelle had more baby fat,” Cali told Entertainment Tonight in a 2015 interview.
But despite their shared past as a famous baby, Cali and Noelle are two very normal children. “Our girls go to a normal school, and they go on auditions once in a while,” their mother told Bustle, “but we don’t make it our top priority.”
It remains to be seen what careers Noelle and Cali will choose when they’re a little older. But Friends fans will always remember them as Emma – and they’ll always have the knowledge that they were part of TV history.