For fans the world over, Friends is their comfort food, their ray of sunshine in a world that is growing darker every year. But the cast of the show have a different perspective on the sitcom phenomenon. During a session of Hollywood Roundtable, Jennifer Aniston recalled how the success of the show and the popularity of her character Rachel Green led to such professional stagnation that she badly wanted the show to end.
“Oh my god, you just exhaust yourself. I could not get Rachel Green off of my back for the life of me. I could not escape and I was just Rachel from Friends, Rachel from Friends. And it’s on all the time! And you’re just like, ‘Stop playing this fucking show.'”
Fortunately, Jennifer Aniston was able to escape the shadow of Rachel with a series of well-received roles on the big screen. The first such role that showed the public a new side to the actress was in The Good Girl, in which Aniston played the role of a small-town woman who tries to escape a loveless marriage by having an affair with a younger married man. According to Aniston, playing such a complex character was a welcome relief from being Rachel all the time.
“It was The Good Girl that was the first time I got to just sort of really shed whatever this little Rachel character was. To be able to disappear into someone who was walking in those shoes was such a relief to me.”
Still, years of playing Rachel had affected not just the public’s perception of Aniston’s skills, but her own as well. In fact, the actress recalled being afraid to take on the lead role in The Good Girl, for fear of finding out during filming that she would not be able to do justice to the character.
“I just remember the panic that set over me thinking, ‘Oh god, I don’t know if I can do this? I don’t know.’ Maybe they’re all right, maybe everyone else is seeing something I’m not seeing which is you are only that girl in the New York apartment with the purple walls. You know? So I was almost doing it for myself to just see if I can do something other than that. And it was terrifying.”
While Aniston was able to forge a career after Friends it is still the one part of her filmography that easily gets her the most publicity and the most questions from fans. While the actress has accepted such questions with a certain good-natured but resigned air, she showed little interest in making new episodes of the show, despite massive lobbying from fans and tv networks.
Finally, Aniston and the rest of the Friends cast were slated to have a reunion episode in 2020 to kickstart the launch of HBO Max. While the global lockdown made the reunion an impossibility at present times, the episode has been postponed rather than canceled altogether.