For better (making $1 million per episode) or worse (that infamous layered lob haircut) Jennifer Aniston will always be known as Rachel Green from “Friends.”
Despite the cast of the beloved NBC sitcom embracing of late the legacy of the long-running series ― look no further than their coordinated Instagram posts announcing the upcoming reunion special ― each of the actors in the past attempted to distance themselves from the TV juggernaut, with varying degrees of success.
As David Schwimmer headed to Broadway, Courteney Cox booked a trip to “Cougar Town,” Matthew Perry took a detour to “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip,” Lisa Kudrow made her “Comeback” and Matt LeBlanc did, well, “Joey,” Aniston said she struggled to carve out her own identity apart from her on-screen alter-ego.
“You just exhaust yourself. I mean, I could not get Rachel Green off of my back for the life of me. I could not escape “Rachel from ‘Friends,’” the actor revealed during a virtual Hollywood Reporter roundtable on Wednesday. She joked, “It’s on all the time and you’re like, ‘Stop playing that fucking show!’”
Even after “Friends” concluded its 10-season run, the show had a second life in reruns and then found a new generation of fans in recent years due to streaming services like Netflix.
Aniston said her turn as a beleaguered checkout clerk in the 2002 indie comedy “The Good Girl” alongside Jake Gyllenhaal was the “first time I got to really shed whatever the Rachel character was.”
“To be able to disappear into someone who wasn’t that was such a relief to me,” she said. “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. 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.’ 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.”
Aniston’s performance in the Miguel Arteta-directed film was universally praised, proving to critics and herself that she had the range.
“So, 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,” Anniston, who won an Emmy for her “Friends” role, added in the roundtable. “But there is such a freedom in getting older because you just stop giving a crap.”
Aniston recently reunited with Kudrow for Variety’s “Actors on Actors” series, in which the former co-stars reminisced about on-set memories and teased their HBO Max reunion special.
While it’s unclear how exactly the special will take shape, the actors both confirmed that they wouldn’t be reprising their characters.
“I will not be Rachel, although I kind of am,” Aniston said. “Well, we’re all sort of little fragments of them. Not really. But yeah.”
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