Jennifer Aniston Says She Couldn't 'Escape' Rachel from Friends: 'You Just Exhaust Yourself'
During a discussion on The Hollywood Reporter's Drama Actress Roundtable, Aniston revealed to Janelle Monáe, Zendaya, Reese Witherspoon, Helena Bonham Carter and Rose Byrne how difficult it was to "shed" her iconic role, which she played for 10 seasons from 1994-2004.
"You just exhaust yourself," said Aniston, 51, of feeling typecast after the show ended. "I mean, I could not get Rachel Green off of my back for the life of me."
"I could not escape 'Rachel from Friends,' " she said, "and it's on all the time and you're like, 'Stop playing that f------ show!' "
Aniston explained that it wasn't until she scored the leading role on the 2002 film The Good Girl — which follows her character Justine as she strikes up an affair with a clerk at the discount store where she works — that she was able to be recognized beyond her Friends character.
"The Good Girl was the first time I got to really shed whatever the Rachel character was, and to be able to disappear into someone who wasn't. That was such a relief to me. But I remember the panic that set over me, thinking, 'Oh God, I don't know if I can do this. Maybe they're right,' " she recalled.
" 'Maybe everybody else is seeing something I'm not seeing, which is you are only that girl in the New York apartment with the purple walls,' " Aniston continued.
"So, I was almost doing it for myself just to see if I could do something other than that. And it was terrifying because you're doing it in front of the world," she admitted.
"I just fought with myself and who I was in this industry forever, and it was constantly about trying to prove that I was more than that person. But there is such a freedom in getting older because you just stop giving a crap," Aniston added.
But she has warm feelings for the show itself — and her costars.
Aniston's candid conversation with THR comes after she reminisced about her time on the show with her former costar Lisa Kudrow. While interviewing each other for Variety's Variety Studio: Actor on Actors, Aniston and Kudrow, 56, said that they both get a kick out of watching bloopers.
Aniston said that one day while hanging out with Friends castmate Courteney Cox, the two stumbled on outtakes online and couldn't look away.
"I love it. I love stumbling on a Friends episode. This one time I was with Courtney [Cox], and we were trying to find something to reference, and old Friends thing. And then we stumbled on — there's bloopers online — and we sat there at the computer like two nerds watching these bloopers laughing at ourselves," Aniston said.
Kudrow echoed Aniston's sentiments saying, "I've done it, too. ... I've done that, hours watching bloopers."
"Here's what I love, is when I watch an episode, I'll usually remember where we broke during the scene," Aniston said. "You and I would always get into these fits of laughter because you had this wonderful ability to — you were about to hit your punchline, and you would do this adorable thing where you would break. You would say the punchline, and you would always turn to the audience and say, 'I'm sorry, it's really funny.'"
Kudrow and Aniston also said they're excited to finally film HBO Max's Friends reunion, which was delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
HBO Max announced the reunion in February. The entire cast — including Aniston, Cox, Kudrow, Matthew Perry, David Schwimmer and Matt LeBlanc — will return to the comedy’s original soundstage, Stage 24, on the Warner Bros. Studio lot in Burbank, California, for a celebration of the series.
"I can't wait to do that," Kudrow said. "I really can't wait to do that. Yeah, we don't know everything about it, we need to stay. I think we're meant to be surprised by some things as well."
Aniston said: "We know it's not scripted, that we know."
"Yeah, no. I will not be Phoebe," Kudrow added.
"I will not be Rachel, although I kind of am. Well, we're all sort of little fragments of them. Not really. But yeah," Aniston said.
The reunion will likely get a fall premiere date, Variety reported last month.
And with many shows turning to Zoom and other video technology to film reunions, Bob Greenblatt, WarnerMedia Entertainment and Direct-to-Consumer chairman, said the plan is to still tape in front of a live studio audience, just like during the sitcom's 10-season run.
"We do think there’s a value to having a big, raucous live audience to experience these six great friends coming back together and we didn’t want to just suddenly do it on a web call with, you know, six squares and people shooting from their kitchens and bedrooms," Greenblatt explained to the outlet.