Jennifer Aniston Says Returning to the Friends Sets Was a 'Sucker Punch in the Heart'
The actress, 52, said that they six former cast members knew that the production crew would be recreating the Friends sets, but she was still unprepared for just how meticulous they would be
During a recent appearance on Gayle King's SiriusXM show, Gayle King in the House, Aniston opened up about stepping onto the set of the iconic sitcom again for the first time in 17 years.
"It was a sucker punch in the heart in a way," Aniston said of the experience, which was filmed for Friends: The Reunion, a retrospective special now streaming on HBO Max.
She went on to explain that being in that space took an emotional toll on everyone, not just her.
"It was for all of us, I think," the actress, 52, said. "Even Courteney [Cox] we got tears out of! And I don't even know -—she's so, you know, not emotional."
Aniston told King that while everyone involved in the reunion knew the production crew would be recreating the Friends sets for the two-hour special, she was still unprepared for just how meticulous those recreations would be.
"We were very naive in what we were expecting," Aniston said, adding that the sets were rebuilt "down to the shelves and the little tchotchkes details."
"It was excitement," she recalled to King, of how the cast felt before arriving. "[Like] 'This is going to be so fun to walk onto the set and they're bringing all of the sets out from storage and putting it all back together.' We romanticized it."
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The Emmy winner, who won her trophy for playing Rachel Green on Friends, then told King just why the experience of being on set again inspired all those feels.
"You also have to remember we haven't been there," Aniston said.
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In fact, the last time they were all there was when they filmed the finale.
"That time was a very specific time when we were saying goodbye to something that we didn't want to, we cared deeply about, but we knew it was the time to say goodbye," Aniston said. "Our lives were ahead of us. We had our future ahead of us. And it almost felt like time had stopped and we time traveled."
Friends ran from 1994 to 2004 on NBC. By the end of its 10-season run, the series was one of the highest-rated television shows of all time.
Ahead of the reunion special, Aniston and Cox — as well as their former cast mates Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc, Matthew Perry and David Schwimmer — spoke with PEOPLE about getting the crew back together.
"It's funny, when we do get together, it's like no time has passed," said LeBlanc, 53. "We pick up right where we left off."