Welcome to Jennifer Aniston Online, your online fan source for Jennifer Aniston. Jennifer is probably best known for her role as Rachel Green in the hit NBC sitcom, Friends which ran for 10 seasons. You may also know her from her other roles in Picture Perfect, Along Came Polly, The Break-Up, Marley & Me, and Mother's Day. Here you will find news, information, photos, media and more! I hope that you like the site and please check back often for updates.
The Morning Show2019-
An inside look at the lives of the people who help America wake up in the morning, exploring the unique challenges faced by the men and women who carry out this daily televised ritual.
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The second season of “The Morning Show,” the starry Apple TV+ series about a “Good Morning America”-style talk show, was six weeks into filming in March 2020 when everything suddenly stopped cold.
“It was a Wednesday night, and we were discussing a scene that I had to shoot the next day,” recalled Jennifer Aniston, who plays one of the co-anchors of the fictional show-within-the-show and is also an executive producer of the series. “We were getting emails saying that this big company and that big company were shutting down. And then we hear that Tom and Rita got sick” — that would be Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson, who contracted Covid early in the pandemic — “and all of a sudden the world is caving in on us.”
The production shut down March 11, the cast and crew scattered and the producers pondered how the show could go ahead. And when they returned (remotely) and decided to rework the season, their most immediate challenge was how to incorporate coronavirus into the story line, when the pandemic had just begun and no one knew how it would play out.
This mirrored, in fact, what happened during the first season, when events in the world — in that case, the ructions over the #MeToo movement — overtook what had been the script.
“The Morning Show,” introduced to great fanfare as the marquee program on the new Apple TV+ streaming service in 2019, was loosely inspired by Brian Stelter’s nonfiction book “Top of the Morning,” about the cutthroat politics of morning television. But while at first it was concerned mostly with the infighting between Alex Levy (Aniston) and her co-anchor Bradley Jackson (Reese Witherspoon), it revamped itself with broader ambitions that reflected the changes wrought by #MeToo.
After unmasking Alex’s former co-anchor, Mitch Kessler (Steve Carell), as a serial sexual predator, the show explored the repercussions for his victims as well as for those at the network who ignored, enabled or colluded in his behavior.
The first season ended with Alex and Bradley making explosive on-air revelations about UBA’s sexually toxic work environment. The second, which premiered earlier this month, begins months later, on New Year’s Eve 2019, with Bradley assigned to Times Square ball-drop broadcast duty and Alex, who has left the network, mulling over whether to return.
It’s a moment of seeming innocence, as the characters put to rest the difficulties of 2019 and look happily ahead to 2020, unaware of the iceberg lurking beneath the water. “It’s a new year,” Cory Ellison (Billy Crudup), UBA’s Machiavellian chief executive (he has been promoted since last season), says jauntily, as the sounds of “Auld Lang Syne” swell up in an emotional montage. “Things are looking up.”
Well. We have already heard mention of a “mysterious respiratory illness.” And then Cory spots an item on the news ticker: the family of Hannah, a young employee who slept with Mitch and later died of an overdose, has filed a wrongful-death suit against the network. And then there is perhaps the most ominous development of all, when a woman standing behind Cory sneezes and the episode ends with a thud.
‘Are We Just Going to Ignore This?’
The shutdown caused the show’s writers, led by Kerry Ehrin, to go back and rework everything.
“For a topical show that looks at the world as it is, the question was, ‘Are we going to just ignore this?’” said Michael Ellenberg, an executive producer and the chief executive of Media Res, the studio behind the series. That would be impossible, they decided.
“We had to address the times we were in, and so our first conversation was how to do it. Kerry was adamant that we did not want to speculate about the future — how long the pandemic would last, would it end, what it would look like after,” he added. “And so we quickly settled on this idea of, let’s look at the windup to the pandemic, when things are building and all the while there’s this bomb under the table.”
Season 2 is set in the first three months of 2020. The virus has struck China and is slowly gathering force to overtake the rest of the world. At the same time, a reckoning is coming for many of the characters, as they struggle with their own identities and with a changing understanding of power, race and privilege in and out of work.
Angry that he has been passed over to host a presidential debate, Danny (Desean Terry), a reporter on the show-within-the-show, demands to know what it is — being gay? Being Black? — that has impeded his career. Stella (Greta Lee), the blunt-speaking new president of UBA’s news division who is Asian American, agonizes about whether she was hired as a token, even as she is subjected to Trump-style racial slurs about the coronavirus on the street. Yanko Flores (Nestor Carbonell), the beloved Cuban American weatherman, is accused of appropriating Indigenous culture after he uses the expression “spirit animal” on the air, and then attacked again when his apology is deemed insufficiently sincere.
Bradley struggles with her sexuality and her relationship with her conservative, dysfunctional family. (A delicious new character, the network anchor Laura Peterson, played by Julianna Margulies at her feline best, figures prominently in this plotline.)
Meanwhile, Mitch, who is now persona non grata and has retreated to a cavernous villa in Italy in the wake of his disgrace, struggles with whether he has a right to any post-cancellation life at all. And Alex, her marriage over and her assumptions about the world in tatters, excavates and re-examines her relationship with Mitch — a man she worked beside, and loved, for many years.
“The first season dealt with the #MeToo movement and its repercussions — turning over the rocks and seeing what’s underneath,” said Mimi Leder, the director and an executive producer of the series. “The second season deals with identity. We’re asking a lot of tough questions about cancel culture, sexuality, race and the like. We’re asking our characters to examine who they really are.”
At a time when it feels brave to acknowledge that all sexual misconduct is not created equal, “The Morning Show” wades directly into the issue. Younger characters are at odds with older characters, and there are varying opinions on how to view once-acceptable behavior that is now verboten. Is it OK, for example, to think that there is anything redeemable about Mitch?
“The question is, how do we have more grace as human beings toward each other?” Witherspoon, who is also an executive producer, said in an interview. “What about people who are genuinely contrite, or who have committed forgivable offenses? I don’t think, as a society, we’ve gotten there yet.”
The fictional changes on the show mirror the real changes in the industry, Witherspoon said. Among other things, she said, there is now mandatory harassment training before filming — something that would have been unthinkable even a few years ago.
“There is so much more thoughtfulness about people’s emotional well-being,” she said. “It feels like a safer environment to create in. It all has complexity, but I’m thankful for a safer workplace.”
An Emotional Sucker Punch
Filming started again in the fall of 2020, before Covid-19 vaccines became available. Some cast and crew members had moved away, or did not feel safe working, and did not return. The production halted several more times, not because anyone fell ill, but because of government restrictions. As with other shows that shot during the pandemic, the production developed rigorous protocols about testing, hygiene, protective equipment and behavior on set, even as the characters were maskless while shooting their scenes.
It was a fraught time to film, Aniston said, compounded by the weightiness of the material. (The season features a lot of confronting, reconsidering, reckoning and dramatic weeping.)
“As someone who usually lives with a skip in their step and a smile on their face — I was screamed out and cried out and emoted out by the end,” she said. “It took weeks for my eyes to de-puff from all the emotions.”
Even as this was going on, Aniston and her “Friends” castmates filmed their long-anticipated, and several-times-delayed, reunion episode. To return, at this grave moment, to the lighthearted show that so defined her career was another head-spinning experience, Aniston said.
“We all had such blissful ignorance going into the reunion,” she said. “We were thinking, ‘How much fun is this going to be, to go back to Stage 24 exactly the way it was, exactly the way we left it.’ But it was a sucker punch to the heart. It turns out that it’s not so easy to time travel.”
When “Friends” wrapped up after a decade, in 2004, “we were all bright eyed and bushy-tailed, looking toward the future,” she continued. “But there was a lot to come for everyone — hard truths and changes and loss and babies and marriages and divorces and miscarriages. One of the real emotional things for me was the realization was that times were so much simpler then. For one thing, we didn’t have social media the way we have now.”
There have been no announcements about a possible Season 3 of “The Morning Show,” but it’s clear that there are many things still to explore, not least how the characters might move on from the traumas of 2020. Beyond the pandemic, there is still the open question of what happens to people caught in the maw of public scandals.
“I hope we’re taking a moment to pause when agitated, and to take each case as it comes, and to use due process,” Aniston said. “It’s too easy when, with one click of a button, someone just disappears.” New York Times
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September 8, 2021 •
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With one of Hollywood’s most celebrated careers, our September cover star could rest on her laurels. But after a year of looking back, she’s ambitious for a clearer, happier future.
It’s now been 27 years since Jennifer Aniston debuted on Friends, hurtling at a speed she could not control into our pop cultural consciousness. It’s ironic that, against the odds, she is one of the more anchored people you will meet. That choice was early and deliberate: Aniston’s close circle of friends has remained largely consistent since she first moved from New York to Los Angeles in 1989. That said, she is not shut off, sitting in complacency behind her security gates in the L.A. hills. Aniston spent the pandemic both in review (of the rituals of her life, what could stay and what needed to go) and in action (filming the second season of The Morning Show, which premieres September 17, under demanding COVID protocols). She remains an optimist, her perspective couched in quick wit, wry humor, and an evocative way of describing emotional currency: “[With Friends], we created something that landed its little flag on a lot of people’s hearts around the world.” Whether she planned it or not, Aniston did too.
Laura Brown: Jen, congratulations on InStyle’s September cover, which will make your career. You were desperate, and I said, “Fine, you can have the cover.”
Jennifer Aniston: Please! Bring me back to life, Laura.
LB: How did you “net out” of the COVID pandemic, do you think?
JA: There was so much good and so much horror all happening at once. For me, the good was a big decompression and an inventory of “What’s it all about?” You and I, we like to work and be busy. Being idle is not preferable. It was important for those who were willing to let it be a reset to slowdown, take all of this in, reassess, reevaluate, and excavate. Literally cleaning out crap that we don’t need.
LB: What have you reset?
JA: My level of anxiety has gone down by eliminating the unnecessary sort of fat in life that I had thought was necessary. Also realizing that you can’t please everybody. And what good does that do if you’re just little bits of yourself? Let’s try to be the full all of who we are so we can come to the table. The way the media presents us folk in this business is like we’re always trotting around the world, on beaches having fun. But there are a lot of other, less obvious things that go into it.
LB: How will you approach things that make you anxious when you do press for The Morning Show?
JA: I call it the dog-and-pony show — traveling to do press junkets, red carpets, the shiny-penny things. Do people really need all that? The work is what I love to do. It’s the promotion of it that creates some stress in me. You get, like, a second of what it is that you’re promoting, and then the rest of it is salacious crap that you somehow got wrangled into talking about. There’s a big appetite for that — and listen, I get it. But if you don’t give it, then they make it up.
LB: In the trailer for Season 2 of The Morning Show, your character, Alex, very publicly says bye-bye to TV and retreats to a more private life. Could you imagine doing that?
JA: Well, we all kind of did. So, yes, I can imagine it, and it would be wonderful for about three months. Then you’re like, “This is good — I’ve rearranged and cleaned out everything; I’ve read; I’ve meditated. I feel great. Now I’d like to see a person.”
As my acting teacher used to say, “If you allow it to be, acting is a healing craft.”
LB: What was the biggest challenge filming in a pandemic?
JA: [As] actors, we were living in an alternate universe where COVID did not exist. I was able to walk into it pretty centered, knowing we had an incredible epidemiology team. I missed seeing my crew’s faces — that was tough. I also wasn’t with Reese [Witherspoon, her co-star] or the rest of the cast as often as in the first season. But the writing is incredible.
LB: How confident do you feel in your performance?
JA: I don’t know. [Alex] was not a fun headspace to live in — I’m not that insane or neurotic or inconsistent in my moods. I’d leave the set some days not able to shake it. Then it lifts like a cloud, and it’s like, “Wow. I feel lighter. The manhole cover has been taken off my back.” As my acting teacher used to say, “If you allow it to be, acting is a healing craft.”
LB: I understand wanting to be someone else for a minute and learning from it. What role are you most proud of in your career?
JA: I am very proud of this role. I also love Dr. Julia in Horrible Bosses — she was just wackadoodle. And I was proud of Cake.
LB: On the Friends reunion special, you said you almost lost the role of Rachel because you were on Muddling Through at the time. Can you imagine a universe where you couldn’t get off that show?
JA: No. Just one little moment — a last-minute audition [for Friends] that I got at 6 o’clock the night before I had to be there — and boom.
LB: Obviously, the reunion elicited many things for the audience, but what stayed with you afterward?
JA: That this is eternal. It’s not just out there in the ether or on a television set you’ve passed by, but in our actual bodies — our DNA, our bloodstream, our cells. It was a unicorn of an experience. For whatever reason, we were all at the right place at the right time, and we created something that landed its little flag on a lot of people’s hearts around the world.
LB: And you hadn’t been together shooting something in 17 years, but you see Lisa Kudrow and Courteney Cox all the time in L.A. And then the guys, you know, Ross—
JA: [David] Schwimmer? You can call him Ross. He lives in New York.
LB: Because you’re on a break.
JA: Yeah, still. It’s the longest break.
LB: Did you all have any time together that wasn’t filmed?
JA: We tried, but we didn’t get a chance. We had endless Zooms. I had a couple of people over [that] Sunday, just with the kids and stuff. Schwimmer stopped by, so I got to meet his amazing little girl. But we really did make a commitment to each other. We were like, “That’s the last time we wait that long to see each other.”
LB: And when you do that, bring a camera.
JA: You know, Courteney and David are the directors in the group, so they can probably figure out how to set up even three cameras.
LB: Well, if Courteney directs it like she does her epic Instagram…
JA: I know! It’s like, “Did you bring a dolly [camera] to Disneyland?”
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LB: You didn’t join Instagram until late 2019, but now you are very deft with it. Would you ever join TikTok?
JA: No. But I also said that about Instagram.
LB: Did you know you have a TikTok doppelgänger who lipsynchs your Friends lines?
JA: A friend sent that to me — I watched it, and it freaked me out. She’s not exactly like me, but of all the people who have said, “I look just like you,” she was pretty close. Sometimes you say, “Thanks?” And other times it’s, “Wow, thank you.”
LB: Who has done the best impression of you?
JA: Vanessa Bayer on Saturday Night Live. I remember someone saying, “Did you see the impression of you on SNL?” My first response was, “What? No, I’m not impression [-worthy].” They played it for me and [gasps], “That is so not the way I sound.” Then I was like, “Uh, oh. Oh, I see.” Everyone said it was a compliment, but I had to really get my brain around that and tuck my little tail between my legs, thinking I’m being made fun of. That’s always the gut instinct: “They’re making fun of me.”
LB: How does it feel to see impressions of or posts about you? Like the New Yorker cartoon about mock turtlenecks, Rachel Green’s go-to. Do you ever get used to it?
JA: Oh, yes, I re-posted that. When I see those things, I think it’s funny. I’m an easy laugh. I like off-color humor and self-deprecation and humanity. Dumb things I do make me laugh.
LB: On the red carpet, you give this compelling look of faint interest. I remember taking a picture with you once and whispering with a clenched jaw, “I don’t know how you do this.”
JA: And I said, “This is how we do it. We clench jaws together, say fake nothings, and make each other laugh eventually!”
LB: How did you figure out your best red-carpet pose?
JA: It depends on your stylist, because they go, “Never do this! Always do this!” I’m like, “Well, that feels weird.” I don’t know how to stand on a red carpet, but you do the best you can. I also try to connect with those people holding cameras. Some of them I’ve known a long time, so I’ll say hello. If I’m having an honest interaction with someone, it makes it easier. You know who I think masters the red carpet?
JA: J.Lo. I want to know what gives her the look like she’s about to be seething. It’s amazing. She’s almost stuck getting mad at somebody, but she’s just so gorgeous. She’s like, “I can’t believe I’m standing here.” But I don’t think she’s trying; she fell out of bed that way. She’s a performer.
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LB: It’s a lifestyle. [laughs] A lot of actresses around our age say that the ’90s were the greatest because there wasn’t social media. But then you see how some women, like Britney Spears, were treated by the media. How do you look back on that time now?
JA: [They were] feeding on young, impressionable girls. Half of these kids started on The Mickey Mouse Club. I was lucky enough to be raised by a very strict mother. The priorities were not about becoming a famous person. It was, “Study your craft, learn what you’re doing, don’t just go out there and get lucky.” I waitressed for years. I got a Bob’s Big Boy commercial on my 900th commercial audition. I was doing theater on, like, Long Island. I think that [Spears’s] group of girls as teens didn’t have any kind of “Who am I?” They were being defined by this outside source. The media took advantage of that, capitalized on them, and it ultimately cost them their sanity. It’s so heartbreaking.
LB: You were in your mid-20s when Friends started. How did you build up your own mental fortress?
JA: Um, spiritual Teflon. People used to call it your “spiritual armor.” Once I moved to L.A. and [started] telemarketing and auditioning, that’s when I built the foundation of women who surround me. I went to my first Circle — someone said we were going to what they called at the time a Goddess Circle. I was like, “Sorry, a what?” They said, “We’re going to hold this thing called a sage stick and burn away dark energy.” I was like, “OK, I’ve really landed in Los Angeles. From New York City to Laurel Canyon.” It sounds woo-woo, but meeting creative women who are not all in this business was my touchstone. My social arena wasn’t in this [industry].
LB: And these women are still your closest friends. When ill winds would blow for you in the media, was it like an armadillo where they just covered you in a shell?
JA: Yeah. They protect you: “Bullshit. Don’t listen to that.” I remember the first time a story came out — back then there were ways you could find out the source, and it was people from high school. That’s when you realize people are capable of not-so-kind things. It was like, this is someone who’s feeling inferior toward someone who’s having success. And they handle it by trying to capitalize on some silly story [from] high school.
I’m ambitious to be a happy, content, fulfilled human being, without regrets.
LB: You could have decided, “I can’t trust anyone.” But you are extremely curious. How did you reconcile that — especially with marriage and divorce in between — and stay open to new things?
JA: Therapy. A wonderful amount of trying to understand it. Also, being given examples of what I do not want to become, seeing people I love get lost and lose the plot. You can only help someone as much as they’re willing to be helped. I believe that at the core of everyone, there is goodness. I’ve watched people in my life go through hardships and hold on to resentment that eats away [at them]. Forgiveness is not in their vocabulary. That’s a real shame, because it’s important to be able to forgive people. Certain things are unforgivable, and we can just put those in a little file. But there’s room for people to grow and change.
LB: Who have you enjoyed getting to know recently?
JA: I met [Harvard biologist and researcher on aging] Dr. David Sinclair a few years ago. I’ve really loved meeting doctors and scientists, especially given what we’ve been living through. I’m listening to this podcast [about maximizing productivity] right now called The Tim Ferriss Show. [Neuroscientist] Andrew Huberman too. I’m having a hard time sleeping, so I’m trying to understand our circadian rhythms.
LB: Are you not sleeping because you’re listening to the podcast about not sleeping?
JA: Probably. As soon as the Morning Show brain shutdown, I went under the covers to recover from that. But Murder Mystery 2 [with Adam Sandler, whom Aniston has been friends with for 30 years] just got green-lit, and we start filming in the fall, so that’s keeping my mind busy. I want it to be good. I want it to be different. It’s always, “How do we improve?”
LB: How many sleep apps do you have?
JA: Five, maybe? I have this little device just for sleep apps and meditations, and I’ve been trying to go to bed earlier. It’s hard. The world shuts down, the phone stops ringing, and that’s when I can have “me time.” I can watch a show and just sort of putter.
LB: But then you get up and exercise every day, right?
JA: I try to. I had an injury last fall and I was only able to do Pilates, which I absolutely love. But I was missing that kind of sweat when you just go for it. I’m going back to my 15-15-15, which is a 15-minute spin, elliptical, run. And then just old school: I can chase myself around a gym. I need some kind of movement, even if it’s just 10 minutes a day on a trampoline.
LB: What do you eat if you’re stressed?
JA: A chip. Crunch, crunch, crunch.LB: Just one chip?
JA: Usually. I’m good at that. I can have one M&M, one chip. I know, that’s so annoying.
LB: Can you feel my contempt ooze through the screen? What is your go-to drink?
JA: A margarita — clean, no sugar — or a dirty martini. I only have two to three drinks, tops, and I don’t do exotic. When someone asks, “Would you like a cranberry-coconut-cucumber-spiced or hibiscus whatever?” No, I would not. But when I moved into my house, a few people got me tequilas of the month as housewarming gifts. I have a cellar of all kinds of spirits — you could come here and probably order anything you wanted to.
LB: Besides tequila, what makes you feel your strongest?
JA: Good sleep. That’s when our cells are rejuvenating, right?
LB: You really do love science. Would you be a good doctor?
JA: I’d be a great doctor. A dermatologist, or [specializing in] wellness or genetics or holistic [medicine]. The whole thing fascinates me.
LB: I think you should show up at a doctor’s office somewhere like, “Don’t mind me!”
JA: I’ve done that in my friends’ delivery rooms. I’ve gotten down there to see what was going on, held the foot. I had a front-row seat at the show; I was the first face the baby saw. The doctor said, “Excuse me, please. You’re in my light.”
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LB: Speaking of people who need doctors, you’re a notorious fan of The Bachelor.
JA: You think they need doctors? [laughs] They all need help.
LB: Would you ever guest-host now that it’s up for grabs?
JA: God, I don’t know. I think they need a psychologist or psychiatrist, not just Chris Harrison — or whoever the host is now. There should be someone they can go and talk to.
LB: That could be you.
JA: OK, well, I’ll do that. Gladly. I’ll be the one picking roses in the rose garden.
LB: Besides that, what are you ambitious for?
JA: Honestly, I have not ever been an ambitious person. [Ambition] just means happiness. I’m ambitious to be a happy, content, fulfilled human being, without regrets about things I knew I could have done and didn’t do.
LB: What women do you think are “badass”?
JA: Gloria Steinem. Diane Keaton. Oprah. Women who have lived a life — their authentic life — without apologies.
LB: When was the first time you really owned your shit?
JA: Probably when I moved to California. I thought, “I live on my own. I have a car. I’m a telemarketer. And I own that shit.” I was feeling kind of awesome. As you keep reaching new levels, it’s important to fall off that cloud to be reminded and humbled and to get back on it. Then you have something else to strive for.
LB: Speaking of striving, do you know there was a frenzy on the Deuxmoi Instagram account where people tried to figure out what dog collars you buy?
JA: It’s funny you should say that, because the collars are so cool. My trainer’s friend makes them — the brand is called RN Design. I’ve received a lot of questions about the dog collars. And what is Deuxmoi?
LB: It has posts like “Famous person spotted at restaurant.”
JA: What prompts the question about dog collars if I’m shown at dinner? That’s what I’d like to get to the bottom of.
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LB: Didn’t People magazine ask if you were going to go on [high-end dating site] Raya?
JA: Who did not ask me if I was going to go on Raya? Who would? Here’s the thing. These so-called anonymous places where so-called well-known people can go … I guess the reason well-known people go is because the people in the well-known areas don’t discuss well-known people. Please. No.
LB: The assumption is you guys want to date each other in your “safe, sanctioned space.”
JA: Yes. We have our own little island called the Celebrity Island.
LB: Imagine if all celebrities lived on one island and you couldn’t get off.
JA: I mean, that would not be great. For anybody. But honestly, the best version of The Bachelor is the island — Bachelor in Paradise.
LB: Besides Bachelor shows, what is usually on your TV?
JA: The news. CNN. I’ve really had to stop [keeping it on too much]. We all went through news fatigue, panic fatigue, during the pandemic because we were hoping one day we would wake up and hear something hopeful, and all we got was more insanity.
LB: Our worst of times. We could not see the way out.
JA: No. And there’s still a large group of people who are anti-vaxxers or just don’t listen to the facts. It’s a real shame. I’ve just lost a few people in my weekly routine who have refused or did not disclose [whether or not they had been vaccinated], and it was unfortunate. I feel it’s your moral and professional obligation to inform, since we’re not all podded up and being tested every single day. It’s tricky because everyone is entitled to their own opinion — but a lot of opinions don’t feel based in anything except fear or propaganda.
LB: Exactly. This whole time has been a real tell on people’s capacities. But you’ve managed to get a lot done during your time off. Plus, your hair is even blonder now.
JA: I know. I just sat out in the sun for 1,600 days straight and this is what happened.
Lead Image: Saint Laurent by Anthony Vaccarello turtleneck. Alberta Ferretti pants. Lisa Eisner Jewelry necklace.
Photography by Emma Summerton/Dawes+Co. Styling by Julia von Boehm. Hair by Chris McMillan/Solo Artists. Makeup by Gucci Westman/The Wall Group. Manicure by Diem Truong/Star Touch Agency. Set design by Robert Doran/Frank Reps. Production by Dana Brockman/Viewfinders.
For more stories like this, pick up the September 2021 issue of InStyle, available on newsstands, on Amazon, and for digital download Aug. 13th.
Jennifer Aniston Opens Up About Her Life Now: ‘I’m in a Really Peaceful Place’
“I’m just a very fortunate and blessed human being,” Jennifer Aniston tells PEOPLE in this week’s issue
Jennifer Aniston has learned to appreciate the little things in life.
The actress has recently become the face of collagen brand Vital Proteins and has the second season of her Apple TV+ series, The Morning Show, debuting in September, but still takes time out of each busy day to watch the sunset, she tells PEOPLE in this week’s issue.
“It’s my favorite moment,” she says. “I wish we could freeze time in that magic hour because there’s a lot of taking it all in, the appreciation of the day and what’s happening.”
To tune into her spiritual side, Aniston, 52, says that she relies on meditation.
“For me, I meditate every day – and sitting quietly, writing,” she says. “That’s enough. And any kind of yoga practice is my meditation. I just have faith in a bigger picture, I guess. And I believe in humanity, even though there’s so much to discourage us from believing in it – but I do.”
When asked how she would describe her life right now, Aniston cites her work and her friends, as well as her beloved dogs – schnauzer mix Clyde, pit-bull mix Sophie and newly rescued Great Pyrenees mix Lord Chesterfield.
“I’m in a really peaceful place. I have a job that I love, I have people in my life who are everything to me, and I have beautiful dogs,” the Friends alum says. “I’m just a very fortunate and blessed human being.”
As for her “last moment of bliss,” Aniston again turns to the sunset. “It’s so simple. There’s no real markers for it, but there are just moments where you just feel … ahhhh,” she says.
“Self-awareness is key,” she continues. “I’ve really gotten a lot out of therapy. Just being a public person, there’s a lot of amazing things that come with that. But there’s also a lot of tough stuff, because we’re only human, and we tend to walk around with bulls-eyes on our heads.”
“Sometimes you can’t help family members or people sending stuff over going, ‘What is this? You’re having a baby? Are you getting married?’ It’s like, ‘Oh, good gosh, when and how many years will it take for you to ignore that silliness?'” Aniston says.
She adds that she would like to be remembered first and foremost as having made those around her laugh.
“I have a good heart, and I’m a great friend,” she says. “I lead with love.”
Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc, Matthew Perry and David Schwimmer reminisce together about their beloved show
The six stars of Friends were overcome with emotion.
Walking back onto Stage 24 at Warner Bros. studios, the former castmates — Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc, Matthew Perry and David Schwimmer — were taken aback by the site of meticulously recreated sets of a world they hadn’t visited in 17 years: Joey and Chandler’s bachelor pad, Monica and Rachel’s apartment, even Central Perk, where the thrift-store-find orange couch was always reserved for them.
“I was flooded with 10 years of irreplaceable memories,” Cox, 56, tells PEOPLE exclusively in this week’s cover story.
For more of the exclusive interview with the Friends cast, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday, or subscribe here.
THR-Six top actresses get real about everything from dismantling systemic racism (“It can’t just be, ‘We’re going to march with you and do a hashtag'”) to fighting typecasting (“For the life of me, I could not escape ‘Rachel from “Friends”‘”).
The Hollywood Reporter‘s Drama Actress Roundtable was set to take place two weeks before it actually did. But as the country hit a boil, erupting in protest following the killing of George Floyd, its early June timing no longer felt right.
When the sextet ultimately came to the (virtual) table on June 20, they spoke candidly about their own reckonings along with their professional fears and the power that they, as women, have now like never before. As Witherspoon says at one point, “We know that we matter.”
We are living through a unique moment in history, both with the pandemic and, more recently, the social unrest. What have you learned about yourselves during this time?
REESE WITHERSPOON A lot, and I’m continuing to learn. I think being an awake, aware, conscious, empathetic, thoughtful human being, if you have even an ounce of any of that, it’s pretty exhausting and morally trying. And it’s been a time to really dig deep and examine what are you doing in your life and in your business and in your work and really look at those things with new eyes.
JENNIFER ANISTON And having the [space] to be alone and not be distracted has been almost divine timing in terms of the order of how everything has unfolded. I think that’s a blessing of this pandemic because there wasn’t any chance for people to get distracted going back to work or going out to dinners or whatever. We were all pulled together, and it feels extremely unifying and oddly beautiful. And I’ve never read more in my life.
HELENA BONHAM CARTER I’m over here in London, and it’s extraordinary that there is one thing that has unified us all and yet we are all having very different experiences, depending on your privilege, your situation economically and also your health. I haven’t been directly affected or known anyone who’s been badly affected by COVID, so it’s the luxury of time that we don’t [ordinarily] have. It’s fascinating that we have to rely on the whole world stopping for us to stop.
BONHAM CARTER And with the Black Lives [Matter] movement, because it’s happening now, we have the time to properly consider it and see what everyone can do about it. People have said, “Do you think it would have happened if COVID hadn’t happened?” And I feel unfortunately not.
ANISTON I agree with you.
BONHAM CARTER Everyone has the time and the space to actually change society on a profound level. But it’s extraordinary living through history. We are very privileged. And I know that this time for me has been utterly precious and I think I’ll come away with things that are profoundly changed. Also, as an actor, it’s a nice thing because everybody is as unemployed as I am and I don’t have to worry about it. You’re always looking over your shoulder. (Laughter.)
June 24, 2020 •
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Interview Magazine- Five hours and sixteen minutes. That’s all it took for Jennifer Aniston to hit one million followers on Instagram last fall. Most people would be shell-shocked by that record-setting rush of attention. But not Aniston, who knows a thing or two about being followed. A paparazzi magnet and tabloid fixture since the mid-’90s, when she launched a thousand haircuts as Rachel Green on the generational sitcom Friends, the Emmy-winning actor, now 51, has been an object of our affection and fascination for half her life. Her made-for-Us Weekly romances aside, Aniston is one of the few actors of her era to seamlessly transition her superstardom from the small screen to the big one and back again. She brought the same pinpoint timing and breezy sarcasm that made her one of TV’s highest-paid entertainers to broad comedies such as Office Space, Along Came Polly, and The Break-Up, while recalibrating expectations with quietly devastating turns in dramas including The Good Girl and Cake.
And just when we thought we had America’s Sweetheart figured out, she surprised everyone by returning to television in the palace-intrigue drama The Morning Show, to play a fiery anchor, alongside Reese Witherspoon and Steve Carell, grappling with age and power dynamics in the #MeToo era. And while the parallels between Aniston and her character might be tempting to draw, the truth, she tells her friend and drinking buddy Sandra Bullock, is stranger than tabloids.
JENNIFER ANISTON: Hi, mama.
SANDRA BULLOCK: Hi, sweetheart. Are you in your jammies?
ANISTON: No, I’m in jeans and a sweater and a black t-shirt. Do you feel good about that?
BULLOCK: Who are you wearing?
ANISTON: [Laughs] I’m wearing Rag & Bone jeans and an Elder Statesman sweater.
ANISTON: Of course. And a James Perse t-shirt underneath the sweater.
ANISTON: And then Hanky Panky underwear if we want to get real specific.
BULLOCK: So can I say, “Jen was casually chic for the interview, layered in light cottons and some cashmere, with her legs tucked up under her, as she snuggled on the couch?”
ANISTON: Let me jump up and get snuggly, hold on. Yes, now you can say that.
BULLOCK: I already said it. It’s been recorded and I’m not going to repeat myself. We were trying to remember how we first met, and you and I had completely different memories.
ANISTON: Let’s journey back. I’m trying to remember the year of the Golden Globes, at that little restaurant. CAA always had that party.
BULLOCK: Yes, and we were introduced by our former boyfriend. I say “our” because you and I both partook of this one human being.
ANISTON: Yes, we did. That’s a beautiful way of saying it.
BULLOCK: We both partook of Tate [Donovan, the actor].
ANISTON: We both partook of Tate.
BULLOCK: Who was a very patient human being, given that he dated us both.
ANISTON: Lovers of architecture, lovers of interior design.
BULLOCK: That was the first time we met. The second time was at our friend Lorenzo’s wedding.
ANISTON: I sent you a note and you sent me a shot.
BULLOCK: I was looking for tequila, but for some reason there was just Jack Daniels. Who drinks Jack Daniels at a wedding?
ANISTON: And only Jack Daniels. If you’re going to have a specialty liquor, you would think tequila, which is pretty much loved by the masses, would be it.
BULLOCK: Maybe brown liquors were in at that time. Maybe tequila hadn’t found its groove like it has now.
BULLOCK: I sent you a shot, and I recall that we went back and forth a few times, and if I’m not mistaken, that was the first time I got sick drinking with you.
ANISTON: I’d never had Jack Daniels until then, and I have not had a sip of it since.
BULLOCK: You and me both, sister. All these years later, here we are, and we get along so well now; why did it take so long for us to connect?
ANISTON: Why did it take so long?
BULLOCK: Jennifer, I’m asking you. I’m the interviewer. Don’t ask me questions. You are to respond. Let’s just stick to the protocol.
ANISTON: Stick to the protocol. Yes, Sandy.
BULLOCK: Jennifer, why do you think it took so long for you and Sandra to connect?
ANISTON: I think everything happens in its own time, and I think for whatever reason, life had to happen in both of our worlds the way it did.
BULLOCK: I was trying to think of my first impression of you, and, like almost everyone’s first impression of you, it was on the television. And I was trying to remember if that was the person who I got to meet. I remember the first thing I thought of you was, “A beautiful woman who has extraordinary timing is almost impossible to find.” You allowed yourself to look foolish, heartbroken, clumsy, like an idiot. I think that’s why everyone feels so comfortable in your presence. You said, “Yeah, I might look like this, but guess what? I have the same failings and insecurities you do.” I remember thinking, “God, I hope she’s really like that. If she’s not, I’m going to be so bummed.”
ANISTON: So pissed.
BULLOCK: I mean, you can be an asshole but you’re so charming! You really have a way of pushing joy and positivity. You do that in your work, but you also do it so effortlessly with everyone you allow into your home and into your life. Anyone who has the honor of being in your home and in your life doesn’t want to leave because it’s safe, it’s emotional, it’s joyous. What is it that allows you to stay buoyant and keep from getting discouraged when things don’t go the right way?
ANISTON: First of all, that was the sweetest thing anyone has ever said to me. I think that it comes from growing up in a household that was destabilized and felt unsafe, watching adults being unkind to each other, and witnessing certain things about human behavior that made me think: “I don’t want to do that. I don’t want to be that. I don’t want to experience this feeling I’m having in my body right now. I don’t want anyone else that I ever come in contact with ever to feel that.” So I guess I have my parents to thank. You can either be angry or be a martyr, or you can say, “You’ve got lemons? Let’s make lemonade.”
BULLOCK: That’s another way we can relate to each other, in that the destabilizing things in life can either sink you or invigorate you to change and do better. I look at you at your dinner table, because you sit at the same place all the time, and you are surrounded by these extraordinary people that you’ve known for so long. Everyone is along for the journey, and you share. The conversation about women supporting each other and coming together is new.
ANISTON: The conversation is new.
BULLOCK: And in your world the action is not. Everyone sits at that table as the head of the table. Everyone has a voice. And I just get to sit back and go, “I’m so lucky to sit here with my family and be a part of this world.” You share your wealth, the wealth of your friendships. You literally go, “Here are my friends, they’re going to love you, too. Here’s my family, they’re going to love you, too. Here’s my home, stay as long as you want.” That’s a rare thing. A lot of people don’t have that. They’re afraid to share because they’re afraid to lose something. You go through life as though you’re not afraid to lose anything, and that’s really inspiring.
ANISTON: I feel that same way about you. Like you said, this conversation of women supporting women is new, but I think we have been doing it for a long time. When I landed in Los Angeles at 20 years old and I fell into those girls who are still sitting around the table today, they were on a different path. I’d never had a circle of women who got together and talked forever. I was like, “God, these California people don’t shut up. They talk about their feelings and cry in front of each other.” I said to myself, “Here I am, a girl who grew up in New York City, and now I find myself in Laurel Canyon, wearing a flowery dress and someone put a crystal around my neck and is burning sage around my head. I have landed on Mars.” But I really think it was something that saved me. This is a really tough business that we’re in that is not always kind or inclusive or supportive. A lot of the time, it’s the opposite. I remember going to auditions and girls would never want to share anything. Or they would talk to you during your auditions to distract you when they knew you were trying to work on your stuff.
BULLOCK: That was me, by the way, who did that to you.
ANISTON: That bone does not exist in that body of yours.
BULLOCK: “Hey Jen! Hey Jen! Hey Jen! Hey Jen!”
ANISTON: “What ya reading? What ya reading?”
BULLOCK: “What are you reading for? Is that the lead? Is that the lead? Is that the lead?” [Both laugh]
ANISTON: But that’s the truth!
BULLOCK: With The Morning Show, so many pieces had to work together for it to be a success. And then lightning has to strike. We all strive to make good work, but sometimes they’re stinkers. And I know you worked your ass off on this one. How does it feel to be given this second massive chapter?
ANISTON: I don’t know.
BULLOCK: Okay, fair enough. Is that your final answer?
ANISTON: Yeah, that’s it.
BULLOCK: That’s a terrible answer for my article.
ANISTON: D-U-N-N-O. Honestly, I think there was no attachment to a result, and I think that’s a real key to success in life, to not worry about the landing, but enjoy the experience. That’s what we did. We were focused on making something really great and interesting and a bit daring, and trying to be as honest as we could. But I think it’s about not having an attachment to the outcome.
BULLOCK: Which is not easy.
ANISTON: It’s not. I’ve never been that person pacing around on opening night saying, “What is the box-office?” I try to put it away when it’s done. We were having a writers’ meeting yesterday, and I was saying, “I feel so proud to be a part of something that people say so many nice things about.” It’s so rare. I mean, for some people it’s not that rare, but in my case, it’s hit or miss, and that’s okay. I’ve never had it take me down because, well, that’s not gonna be the thing that takes me down.
BULLOCK: You say you let it go, that you don’t worry about box-office, but as a woman, we don’t often get second chances. But you’ve maintained a career for all these years, and have arrived at a time when all of a sudden women are realizing their value at the box office.
ANISTON: Yes, and isn’t that exciting?
BULLOCK: We get to keep going. We don’t have a shelf life anymore. Our shelf life is whatever we want.
ANISTON: We create that. Our industry has expanded its horizons in that way, and I think it’s because women have stood up and said, “We’re mad as hell, and we’re not going to take it anymore.”
BULLOCK: That’s a great line, Jen.
ANISTON: I should write that into my first screenplay.
ANISTON: Think of the generation ahead of us. So many of those women were put out to pasture when they were 40, and the fact that we get to still be working and are actually coming into our most creative adventures ever at this point in our life—we’re rewriting that narrative that society sort of plastered on us. I remember the messaging to me even in my 30s was, “Don’t play a mom, and if you do play a mom make sure it’s to a 3-year-old kid.”
BULLOCK: Make sure you’re a hot mom.
ANISTON: And single! And the kid is just a baby.
BULLOCK: It’s just adorable.
ANISTON: That’s not the case anymore. You’ve sustained the same career from the time you were in your wee 20s. Is it just a fortunate window of time that we got to enter into the business when we did, and so this moment is happening? Whatever it is, we won’t ever be able to know because who gives a shit, it’s happening. Thirty years from now, we’ll get to look back—
BULLOCK: —And we’ll all be at the same nursing home. I’ll help you with your teeth, you’ll help me with my diapers.
ANISTON: I’m going to build it. You’re going to decorate it.
BULLOCK: We’ll all have a job.
ANISTON: We won’t even need those diapers and teeth because there’s so much new discovery in health and in our bodies and how we take care of ourselves.
BULLOCK: I’m so glad you brought that up because there’s something that you did—
ANISTON: Nice segue.
ANISTON: I said, “Nice segue.”
BULLOCK: You’re just talking too fucking much, Jennifer. Pipe down. You were just so intrigued by all this new health information that was coming out. It’s mental health, physical health, well-being, joy, and you started inviting us all to these lectures at your house where we could all learn together. You forced us out of our shells to participate. In this day and age, when everyone’s glued to their iPhone, it’s a great gift you’re giving everyone you love, because you’re like, “I plan on living to at least 115, and I’d like all my friends to be with me.”
ANISTON: I loved doing that. That came about right when The Morning Show came to a close, and I found myself going from a thousand miles an hour to zero. I was under my covers for a week going, “What do I do with my life?” It’s always been this dream of mine to have these little salons, where you find these wonderful minds to come in and speak and share the wealth. There’s no point in living to be 90 when you’re not thriving. If your body starts to break down then your mind breaks down, and your consciousness breaks down, and then you’re of no use to the world.
BULLOCK: What brings you sadness?
ANISTON: I thought you were going to say, “So, are you doing a reboot of Friends?”
BULLOCK: Speaking of Friends, everyone knows you as Rachel—buoyant, happy, always perky. What in real life is the thing that can take you down the quickest? Other than a pimple!
ANISTON: Turning on the television, listening to the news, reading the paper—that can make me really sad and really angry. The division that’s been taking place. The complete chaos that’s existing. When people show greed and bad behavior and a lack of gratitude. It’s so hard to put this in an eloquent way. When you see people behaving badly and hurting other people, that makes me very angry. And abuse of animals, obviously.
Jacket, Shirt, Glasses, and Belt by Saint Laurent Anthony Vaccarello. Bra By La Perla. Bracelet by Cartier Maillon Panthère. Shoes by Givenchy.
BULLOCK: I look at everyone who is trying to raise kids, and I go, “How are we supposed to raise children outside of a bubble? And show them the difference between right and wrong, and what kindness looks like, when it’s really hard to find it with all the noise on a screen?” Screens are everywhere.
BULLOCK: Do you just keep pointing to a higher power, going: “You have to answer to that thing. Don’t look at anything here on Earth. Just point up there”?
ANISTON: You can protect your children as much as possible, but they’re eventually going to become an 18-year old and go out in the world and they’re going to see all of it.
BULLOCK: Not my kids.
ANISTON: They’re living with you for the rest of your life.
BULLOCK: I gave them the places where they can go to college because that’s where mommy feels comfortable living. I said, “You can go to these three colleges because I’m going to buy an apartment down the street.”
ANISTON: You’re actually building a college at the bottom of the hill right now. By the time Louis and Laila are at the right ages, it’ll be: “I’ll just drive you there every single day. We can even walk and make it a physical experience.”
BULLOCK: “Jen says we need to get in 20,000 steps a day.” I know you and I like to stay at home and be surrounded by the things that we’ve cultivated that are safe. It’s scary entering the world, but when we do, we feel good and we’re glad we did it. But the dread of being around people, I need to get better with that.
ANISTON: Aren’t I helping you with that?
BULLOCK: You’re not allowed to work out of town because my social life comes to a screeching halt and I just stay home, and that’s just not healthy, Jennifer Aniston!
ANISTON: Well, you do have a lovely home and a stunning man and two gorgeous children.
BULLOCK: What is it that you haven’t done yet that you are looking forward to doing? Is it on a work level? Is it on a spiritual evolvement level? Is it all of the above?
ANISTON: My gut reaction was to say all of the above. It’s not so much what I see myself doing, but it’s more like a little screenshot in my brain, where I hear the ocean, I see the ocean, I hear laughter, I see kids running, I hear ice in a glass, I smell food being cooked. That’s the joyous snapshot in my head.
Elle- To reach Jennifer Aniston, you have to drive up and up and up, then announce yourself at a white gate that opens onto a field of gray pebbles sprouting symmetrical trees. A procession of stone slabs leads like a bridge to the massive bronze doors on an otherwise solid white facade. Aniston answers, casual in jeans and a black T-shirt. She’s disarmingly friendly. She thinks she knows another person with my name. She asks about the traffic. She leads me to her beautiful family room and kitchen, with its built-in pizza oven and glass-encased wine room, and offers to make us peppermint tea. She apologizes in advance for the texts she might get from her showrunner because she’s a month away from shooting her upcoming show with Reese Witherspoon. While she brews the tea, I plop my bag on the counter, like we’re just hanging out. I tell her my daughter drained my phone battery right before I left the house, and so we start chatting about kids and phones. How badly they want them. When they should be allowed to have them. Do you let them feel left out, or “Do you try to save their sanity by not letting them grow up inside a teeny computer? It’s a real internal conflict,” she says, carrying the mugs to the sofa. “So much is out there.” This is true. She would know.
Aniston spent a decade on Friends and has starred in more than 30 movies, but the role that sticks to her most tenaciously is America’s Suffering Sweetheart. Cast as the eternal ingenue in the never-ending marriage plot, her joys, heartbreaks, and 57,000 fictional pregnancies have kept the lights on at several tabloids for a quarter of a century. I know this character is a fiction, but she’s still an undeniable presence—a third person in the room, lounging in the hanging chair, eating perfectly cut crudités. “We live in a society that messages women: By this age, you should be married; by this age, you should have children,” Aniston says. “That’s a fairy tale. That’s the mold we’re slowly trying to break out of.”
“It is a grand mystery why the public obsession has never abated,” says Kristin Hahn, her producing partner and one of her best friends. “I’ve wondered about it myself for many years—I think Jen represents an archetype for us as a culture.” Aniston is the screen onto which America projects all its double standards about women, especially successful ones. We first got to know her as Rachel Green, the runaway bride who moved to New York City to become herself. Then we spent a decade emotionally invested in whether she would end up with Ross, only to have her perfect marriage to Brad Pitt end soon after that. It’s obviously a lucrative projection, or it would not have been bought and sold, year after year. What anyone gets out of it is unclear. “Maybe it has everything to do with what they’re lacking in their own life,” Aniston theorizes. Or maybe using marriage and children as the ultimate marker of female happiness is just another way to disempower successful women. “Why do we want a happy ending? How about just a happy existence? A happy process? We’re all in process constantly,” Aniston says. “What quantifies happiness in someone’s life isn’t the ideal that was created in the ’50s. It’s not like you hear that narrative about any men.” Men, of course, are allowed to continue merrily on their open-ended path to adventure. “That’s part of sexism—it’s always the woman who’s scorned and heartbroken and a spinster. It’s never the opposite. The unfortunate thing is, a lot of it comes from women,” she says. “Maybe those are women who haven’t figured out that they have the power, that they have the ability to achieve a sense of inner happiness.
The thing that’s surprisingly easy to forget about Aniston is just how powerful she is, because the amount of power she wields is at odds with her lovable image. It’s a soft, persuasive power, the kind that gets you on her side. It’s not only that she’s remarkably nice and easy to relate to, it’s that she’s smart, careful, deliberate, precise—both as a person and an actor. Anne Fletcher, who directed Aniston in her new Netflix movie, Dumplin’, says she’d be watching Aniston work and would notice a small, almost imperceptible hand gesture and think, “That’s [her character] Rosie. That’s not Jen. That is completely Rosie.” At a point when most successful actresses begin to wind down (not always by choice), Aniston shows no sign of slowing. In 2017, at the age of 48, she was ranked second on Forbes’s list of highest-paid actresses, and she makes millions a year in product endorsements. She’s about to start filming her new TV show, a dramedy about morning-news-show anchors, costarring Reese Witherspoon and Steve Carell, which was acquired by Apple in a bidding war. And soon she’ll appear in two more Netflix productions: Murder Mystery, with Adam Sandler, about a vacationing New York couple who become suspects in an elderly billionaire’s murder; and First Ladies, with Tig Notaro, about the first lesbian president of the United States.
Dumplin’, out now, was adapted by Hahn from a book by Julie Murphy. It is, among other things, a tribute to Dolly Parton. The filmmakers asked Parton to license her songs for the movie and write an original composition for the soundtrack. She and her collaborator, 4 Non Blondes’ Linda Perry, wound up writing six. Aniston, a lifelong Parton fan who’d named one of her dogs, yes, Dolly Parton, says that working with the legend was a thrill. During their first meeting, a dinner at Aniston’s house, Parton remembers asking, “Do you still have Dolly Parton? Can I meet her? I’ve always wanted to meet Dolly Parton.” (They met.) Later, when Aniston went to Perry’s studio to listen to the soundtrack, Parton says that “[Aniston] would listen to the song, and she would just cry and cry. You’ve got to be really sensitive for things to touch you like that.”
In Dumplin’, Aniston plays Rosie, a former pageant queen who now runs her small town’s teen beauty pageant. She is the single mother of a daughter, Willowdean (Danielle Macdonald of Patti Cake$), or Will, whom she calls Dumplin’. Will is overweight and resents that her mom seems to care more for the pageant girls than she does for her, so she signs up to compete. What starts out as a protest turns into a celebration of friendship and inclusivity. It’s a message that’s close to Aniston’s heart, because she is a girl’s girl and a friend person. Aniston and Hahn first met at a barbecue in Laurel Canyon when they were 19, when Aniston still lived in New York. “Jen was visiting her dad, and she came over. I remember it vividly, just turning around and seeing her and feeling like she was a long-lost sister of some kind, and not wanting her to leave. We just embraced her and we all became each other’s family and really helped each other. The show Friends was definitely kind of a parallel reality to our real lives.”
Hahn describes Aniston as their friend group’s “social glue.” “When she’s not in town, we almost don’t know what to do with ourselves,” she says. When I tell Aniston about this later, she laughs. “They don’t know what to do. They don’t know where to go. They don’t know how to eat. They don’t know how to socialize,” Aniston says. It’s been this way since they were in their twenties. “My house was always like the clubhouse. I love entertaining. I always have food. I think I probably got that from my mom, who always had her girlfriends over. I picked it up from my childhood—just always hearing girls in the house and learning how to make a good cheese board.”
“It’s the only place to point a finger at me as though it’s my damage—like it’s some sort of a scarlet letter on me that I haven’t yet procreated, or maybe won’t ever procreate.”
Aniston, whose parents divorced when she was young, says of her friends, “We always joke that we raised each other, we mothered each other, we sistered each other, we’ve been kids to each other.” She made her own family her own way. “I also was never a kid who sat around and dreamed about a wedding, you know? Those were never my fantasies. When I was first popped the question, it was so foreign to me.” That childhood environment, which she escaped through movies and TV and dreams of being an actress, led to her career. “My priorities weren’t about finding partnership and who am I gonna marry and what am I gonna wear on my wedding day. I was building houses with shoe boxes and toilet paper and felt. It was always about finding a home that felt safe. And I’m sure, because I was from a divorced-parent home, that was another reason I wasn’t like, ‘Well, that looks like a great institution.’ ”
Which is partly why the obsession with her love life rankles. “I don’t feel a void. I really don’t. My marriages, they’ve been very successful, in [my] personal opinion. And when they came to an end, it was a choice that was made because we chose to be happy, and sometimes happiness didn’t exist within that arrangement anymore. Sure, there were bumps, and not every moment felt fantastic, obviously, but at the end of it, this is our one life and I would not stay in a situation out of fear. Fear of being alone. Fear of not being able to survive. To stay in a marriage based on fear feels like you’re doing your one life a disservice. When the work has been put in and it doesn’t seem that there’s an option of it working, that’s okay. That’s not a failure. We have these clichés around all of this that need to be reworked and retooled, you know? Because it’s very narrow-minded thinking.” By endlessly focusing on her marital or family status, “you’re diminishing everything I have succeeded at, and that I have built and created,” she says. “It’s such a shallow lens that people look through. It’s the only place to point a finger at me as though it’s my damage—like it’s some sort of a scarlet letter on me that I haven’t yet procreated, or maybe won’t ever procreate.” Ultimately, she says, the idea of a happy ending is “a very romantic idea. It’s a very storybook idea. I understand it, and I think for some people it does work. And it’s powerful and it’s incredible and it’s admirable. Even enviable. But everybody’s path is different.”
Aniston has wanted to do a movie about the relationship between mothers and daughters for a long time. Part of what drew her to Dumplin’ was the way it echoed her own “challenging upbringing,” as she puts it. Aniston’s father, John, is a soap opera actor; he’s still on Days of Our Lives. Her mother, Nancy Dow, was a model and actress. Aniston came home one day when she was nine to the news that her father had moved out. She didn’t see him for a year. Her mother was often critical and was very focused on looks. “She was from this world of, ‘Honey, take better care of yourself,’ or ‘Honey, put your face on,’ or all of those odd sound bites that I can remember from my childhood.”
Aniston and her mom were famously estranged for years. “My mom said those things because she really loved me. It wasn’t her trying to be a bitch or knowing she would be making some deep wounds that I would then spend a lot of money to undo. She did it because that was what she grew up with. ‘You want to be happy. It’s hard for big girls.’ She was missing what was [actually] important. I think she was just holding on and doing the best she could, struggling financially and dealing with a husband who was no longer there. Being a single mom in the ’80s I’m sure was pretty crappy.”
Still, over time, Aniston has come to regard narrow beauty standards as a kind of prison. “We have to redefine what that is. It’s slowly been happening, but there’s still that mentality out there that wants to pit women against each other.” It’s the same thing, she feels, with social media. “I sound like a broken record, but it’s hard enough to just get out there as a kid, let alone ask for or seek out judgment.” Which is why she stays away. For someone as ubiquitous and relatable as Aniston, she is completely inaccessible by today’s standards. “The one thing I have is maintaining this little circle of sanctity that’s my own. If I’m sitting here posting something about my dogs or I’m Boomeranging my coffee mug in the morning, that’s just giving away one more piece of something that is mine.”
She’s purposefully protective of her private life, she says. “Look, I also don’t want to become…. There are times when I’ve found myself becoming a little too isolated. I don’t want to become that person, either. I don’t want to lose touch with what’s out in the world.” Not long ago, she was doing research for her show about morning-news anchors, and she went on YouTube. She was watching clips of different newscasters, and suddenly an old Diane Sawyer interview of her popped up. “And I clicked on it, and I just sat there riveted, only because I realized, Oh my God, I was really vulnerable! Somehow, along the way, I calloused up.”
The interview she’s talking about is from 2004, toward the end of Friends, right around the time the paparazzi started getting ferocious. Her own openness shocked her. “It’s just self-preservation. Because that was also a time, I think, when the internet was really taking off. The tabloids started painting me in a light that wasn’t true to who I was. Then I just was like, Shut up and say nothing, because there’s nothing you can do. You can try to protest too much—No, I’m not unhappy! No, I’m not this! I’m not that. I finally was like, I’m done. I’m going to shut the doors. I’m going to tune it out. If somebody tries to talk to me, I’ll give one-word answers, and I will not be vulnerable. I’m way too sensitive to be misinterpreted, misconstrued, or taken out of context. I just started to shut down.”
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It occurs to her that this may be one of the reasons why she started to branch out and do more characters that she could just disappear into. “Because I didn’t want to just be that person in the tabloids. I also had to prove it to myself. I’m not just that, right?” she says. “Look, we’re all human at the end of the day. I’m really still working on it. That’s just my own PTSD of being…how do I say this…it’s getting easy to maneuver around the city. It’s a matter of choosing when I feel like I’m okay with having a bunch of people take a bunch of pictures of me.”
After a while, Aniston shows me around her beautiful house, which she gut-renovated with her now ex, Justin Theroux. The couple’s separation was announced in February; that same month, the house was featured in Architectural Digest. Aside from some editing of the family-room picture wall, not much seems to have changed. The space is at once cozy and dramatic, full of dark leather and wood, furry pillows.
“I don’t feel a void. I really don’t. My marriages, they’ve been very successful, in [my] personal opinion.”
It feels intimate on a grand scale, or maybe it’s the other way around. “It’s a big house,” she says, “but it also has big rooms.” They hold a lot of people. She does plan to redo the dining room, “but that’s because I can never not do something,” she says. She’s still building and rebuilding her dream house, only not with shoe boxes anymore. We go out on the terrace, and she shows me the pool below. “This is where, every Sunday, we do ‘Sunday Fundays,’ as we call it, where [my friends’] kids come and we huddle around down there and they jump around in the pool.”
“I marvel at how she has remained as grounded as a person could possibly be in that situation, and also at the fact that she worked hard at nurturing the friendships that she always had while she had this big life, this big career,” says Hahn, a frequent Sunday Funday guest. “She’s always stayed so humble, and I’m not just saying that. She’s been able to stay connected to people who don’t have the same financial reality or work reality. She does live in a rarefied world, but she’s not a rarefied person.”
As for whether she’ll have her own children, Aniston is still uncertain. She admits the prospect always felt “quite honestly, kind of frightening.” She continues, “Some people are just built to be wives and have babies. I don’t know how naturally that comes to me.” But as in many aspects of her life, she’s still open to other possibilities. “Who knows what the future holds in terms of a child and a partnership— how that child comes in…or doesn’t? And now with science and miracles, we can do things at different times than we used to be able to.”
Aniston attributes this flexibility to her sense of inner contentment, disconnected from career success. “I’ve always been predominantly a happy person,” Aniston says. “Especially once I got out of my [mother’s] house. Not that it was horrible and unpleasant, but it had its challenges. I found myself as happy when I was waitressing at Jackson Hole as I feel now. I think that’s also a survival technique from coming from a home that wasn’t always that way. I have chosen to use what I grew up with as an example of what I do not want to be or live in. It’s a glass-half-full kind of thing. Always being open. Allowing myself to feel what I feel. What brings me happiness? I have a great job. I have a great family. I have great friends. I have no reason to feel otherwise. If I did, I would need to go get an attitude shift, a perspective shift.” The sun is setting, and it takes her by surprise. “What the hell, we’re having a beautiful sunset!”
It’s been 15 years since Jennifer Aniston signed off as Rachel Green on “Friends.” In that time, she’s received plenty of other offers to star in a TV show, but she hadn’t been tempted by any of them. “I was doing so many films at the time,” Aniston says on a recent afternoon, sitting in the living room of her Bel-Air mansion, as her two dogs — Clyde and Sophie — scamper around her. “So I never thought, ‘Oh I’m nostalgic.’” And she didn’t think anything could compare with the professional experience of “Friends” anyway. “If I was going to go back anywhere, that’s where I would want to go. Meaning in my mind.”
Next month, Aniston returns to the medium that made her into a household name and an international star (with box-office hits such as 2011’s “Horrible Bosses” and 2013’s “We’re the Millers”). In the Apple TV Plus drama “The Morning Show,” she plays a veteran anchor, Alex Levy, who finds herself in the spotlight after her famous male colleague, Mitch Kessler (Steve Carell), is fired over sexual misconduct allegations. Aniston is an executive producer on the series along with Reese Witherspoon (who plays Bradley Jackson, a local newswoman who takes over the newly vacated co-anchor chair).
The original pilot for “The Morning Show,” which focused on the cutthroat world of morning TV, was completely re-written after Matt Lauer was fired from “Today” in November 2017. And while Carell’s Kessler, the disgraced anchor on “The Morning Show,” bears some eerie resemblances to Lauer, Aniston insists that the show is a work of fiction.
Still, she studied old episodes of “Today” and “GMA” to find rhythms of her character, and she spent time grilling Diane Sawyer, Willie Geist and Gayle King about their early-morning routines. She even re-watched “Today” on the day before Lauer was fired. “Did he know? Did he not know?” Aniston asks. She felt disgust at the news of his abusive conduct. “I was so devastated,” Aniston says. “It’s such a strange thing; it felt oddly like my dad did something terrible. I trusted him and had been interviewed by him. He was there for so many moments in my life. And when ‘Friends’ was ending, it was Katie [Couric] and Matt interviewing us.”
For this week’s Power of Women issue (where Aniston is honored for her philanthropy with St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital), the actress spoke to Variety about her new TV role, the legacy of “Friends” and the one time that Harvey Weinstein tried to bully her.
What was it like producing “The Morning Show” before Me Too became a national movement?
The show got picked up. We sold it to Apple with an outline. Then, about four months later, the whole s— hit the fan and, basically, we had to start from scratch.
Did that change your process for building the character?
I work with this wonderful [acting coach] named Nancy Banks. We read. We think about her. We think about what her physicality is. Here was the big kicker for me. [Nancy] would take me places that I was not sure I wanted to go emotionally. So if I was bumping up against something, she would say, “Well how does this feel…” Almost like therapy. I also lost having a life, because Sundays were always spent with Nancy for four or five hours, going over the week’s work.
Because it was shot like a movie?
A series of movies out of order and the most dense material.
Were all the episodes done out of order?
Most of them were. We’d shoot this and then we’d say, “Well, we’ll throw in some of Episode 104.” And while we’re adding a scene from 107, you have to go, “Where was I and where will I have gone by then?”
“Friends” must have been so different.
“Friends” was like going to see a play for three or four hours. And it was just laughing and wonderful fun. And this is fun. It’s just a lot harder. My bandwidth had to expand so that I could take in all the information.
I know you spent some time with Diane Sawyer. What other journalists did you model Alex on?
All of them.
Did you watch “Today” episodes when Katie Couric was on?
I actually watched those live when I was growing up. But yeah, it was very interesting. I went to the DVR that I had of “Today” before Matt Lauer was fired and then the day he was fired, because that was so fascinating to see. Mitch Kessler is not based on him at all. He’s just sort of the archetype of all of the men that he’s representing.
There’s a scene where Mitch’s wife leaves him to go to the Hamptons that reminded me of Lauer.
Yes, sure. Who doesn’t live in the Hamptons on the East Coast? Who isn’t going to go to Amagansett or somewhere fancy for the weekend?
Are all the characters in “The Morning Show” meant to be fictional?
All fictional, but also kind of highlighting aspects of the archetype of a charming narcissist, of a generation of men that didn’t think that was bad behavior. That’s just the way it works. And men are flirts and women are coy and find it flattering. And thankfully, with the sacrifices of these women who have come forward, this isn’t going to happen anymore. It’s wonderful that you’re accountable and you have to check yourself.
Did you ever work with Harvey Weinstein?
I did one movie, “Derailed,” with Clive Owen.
Did you spend time with Harvey?
I had to. There was the premiere dinner. I remember I was sitting at the dinner table with Clive, and our producers and a friend of mine was sitting with me. And he literally came to the table and said to my friend: “Get up!” And I was like, “Oh my gosh.” And so my friend got up and moved and Harvey sat down. It was just such a level of gross entitlement and piggish behavior.
Did he ever try to bully you?
He knew better. I remember, right when [his ex-wife] Georgina’s clothing line Marchesa was starting. That’s when he came to visit me in London while we were shooting. He’d be like, “Ok, so I’d like you to wear one of these to the premiere.” And I went through the book, and at the time, it wasn’t what it is today. It was not for me. He was like, “You have to wear the dress.” That was my only bullying. And I was like, “No, I will not wear the dress.”
And he accepted that?
Well, what was he going to do? Come over here and make me wear it?!
Do you think that the Me Too movement has led to permanent change in Hollywood?
Absolutely. I think there’s still room for improvement, but I think that kind of behavior is done. I think people have had the s— scared out of them. It’s also this big pendulum. Everybody has this new playbook and everybody’s trying to figure out what the new rules are. But what’s so wonderful about doing this show is that it is so unapologetically honest in terms of topics and the situations. It’s basically showing all sides. It’s showing how things are said behind closed doors during Me Too, that no one else has the balls to say in front of the world.
Have you been inspired by the wave of female empowerment that’s happening right now in Hollywood?
I think it’s an incredible moment. Look, there are unsung voices, unsung talent that has yet to be discovered. Our eye is now on that prize. You have to make people think it’s not a choice anymore. This is actually the new normal, as it should be. And I think it’s going to get better and better. Our show has six female producers. As a woman who has been in this business for 30 years, it’s been great and it’s been tough. And now here we are. We have the first show bought by Apple.
Did you have any reservations selling “The Morning Show” to Apple?
Yes and no. But I have to say the “no” outweighed the “yes,” because we knew what we were doing — even though they didn’t have walls yet or telephones.
How did you meet with them if they didn’t have walls?
They came to CAA. There was really something exciting about being the first at Apple. Apple is pretty awesome. They make cool stuff. Why wouldn’t they maybe make cool television? And they are all about quality, not quantity, so that was really appealing. And in spite of their comical secrecy, it’s been worth it. Who doesn’t want to be part of the Wild Wild West?
You’ve signed on for two seasons of “The Morning Show.” Could there be more?
If there’s stuff to talk about and if we’re not dead tired from it. I literally went into my covers for two weeks when we wrapped.
Why did you decide to return to TV?
It wasn’t until the last couple of years when these streaming services were just sort of exploding with this amount of quality that I actually started to think, “Wow, that’s better than what I just did.” And then you’re seeing what’s available out there and it’s just diminishing and diminishing in terms of, it’s big Marvel movies. Or things that I’m not just asked to do or really that interested in living in a green screen.
The movie business has changed dramatically.
It’s changed so much. I think we would so love to have the era of Meg Ryan come back. I just think it would be nice to go into a movie theater, sit cozy. I think we should have a resurgence. Let’s get the “Terms of Endearment” back out there. You know, “Heaven Can Wait,” “Young Frankenstein,” “Blazing Saddles,” “Goodbye Girl.”
Do you think that all this content that the streaming services are producing is the new future of Hollywood? Or do you think that this is a phase?
I don’t know. I’m shocked this is where we are, but excited that this is where we are. I didn’t see it coming. I remember not understanding. What the hell does streaming mean? They’re like, “It’s there all the time.” So tuning in on Thursday nights at eight o’clock is not a thing anymore? Or you’re not going to the bathroom on a commercial break and someone yells, “It’s back on!” That doesn’t happen anymore? It’s kind of sad.
Were you surprised that WarnerMedia spent so much to buy the streaming rights to “Friends?”
I’m shocked. I’m amazed. And you’re welcome.
Why didn’t you ever do a “Friends” movie?
Because our producers wouldn’t want it, wouldn’t let us. Look, it’s not been without our desire to, because our fans have wanted it so much.
So there were points when the six of you would have done it?
It depends. I mean, we haven’t all sat in a room. But would we have loved to have done something together? Yeah. It would have been fun. We could have redesigned it for a couple episodes. But whatever. Maybe it’s better this way, but we’ll never know.
On Netflix, it feels like “Friends” is still one of the most watched shows in America.
I know. It’s a phenomenon that I am amazed by. To have a whole new generation of children adoring the show as much as they did back in the day when it was airing for the first time is incredible. I want to know what people love so much about it, because there wasn’t any of this. Now most people’s consumption is the [phone] screen, which I’m very conflicted about. If you can’t drive until you’re 16 and you can’t drink until you’re 21, why should you be allowed to have social media? Like to have a distraction that prevents you from learning to connect with people?
Do you think there should be an age limit for social media?
I don’t know. I don’t have kids. I just know that I’m watching my girlfriends’ children and they’re all struggling because of social media. Do you know that mental health has gone through the roof? And primarily what they’ve discovered, it’s because of social media. It’s compare and despair, over and over again. Do they like me? Do they not like me? Am I good enough? It’s hard enough as it is being a kid without the damn “likes” or “not likes.” I wish they would remove the “like.” Why do they need them? Why do we need a comments section, where these trolls with no lives try to be hurtful?
But going back to “Friends,” I think the reason that it still continues to be popular is that the its thesis was that you don’t need a romantic partner if your friends are everything. That was an idea that was ahead of its time.
Right, right, right. It makes you happy. Even when I stumble on it, it makes me happy. I love it and I’ve also forgotten most of it, so it’s really fun for me to rediscover.
Harpers Bazaar– TIG NOTARO: I was at your 50th-birthday bash. Aside from my dancing, what was your favorite moment at the party?
JENNIFER ANISTON: Besides your dancing? I had so many favorite moments, I don’t even know where to begin. It felt as though there was so much love in that room—everybody from all different walks of my life, from birth until now. Did you meet Gloria Steinem?
TN: Yeah! I did one of those shows on PBS where they trace your roots and I found out I was related to her, so I ran up to her at your party and told her. I don’t think she knows who I am, so she was just like, “Wonderful.” Then we danced our separate ways.
A: I’m sure she knows who you are. Someone like Gloria, who’s as smart as a whip, she knows who all the smart women are.
TN: It was a great party. I got to meet Keith Richards, so I had no complaints. The press had a field day with your birthday. How do you deal with that?
JA: You pay no mind to the man behind the curtain. You just tune it out. Filter your ears from negativity and assumptions, and try to live in the here and now.
TN: I remember one time I was at a meeting with you and they had all these gossip magazines in the waiting room, and you grabbed them all and brought them up to the counter, and you were like, “Why do you have this here? Throw these in the trash.”
JA: I did throw them in the trash, didn’t I?
TN: Yeah. I just love that you did that! Why would they have those gossip magazines when the people on the covers are the same people coming in for a meeting?
JA: Who work for you! And there I would be on the cover, cradling my soon-to-be-born fictional child. I do that in every room I go into, by the way. Every doctor’s office, every…
TN: Oh, so that’s a total hack move for you.
JA: That’s just what I do. I used to go to newsstands too.
TN: One person makes a difference.
JA: I sometimes think so.
TN: Jen, with all this insanity, how do you find someone to date?
JA: That’s a really good question. Do you have any ideas?
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