Jennifer Aniston Details Her Struggle to Escape "Rachel From Friends" and Land Different Roles

Jennifer Aniston returned to TV with a dramatic role in The Morning Show, but revealed she had to fight to get seen outside of her Friends role.

By Chris Harnick Jun 24, 2020 7:34 PMTags
Watch: How "Morning Show" Roles Impacted Jen Aniston & Reese Witherspoon

Jennifer Aniston knows a thing or two about perception in Hollywood.

The Morning Show star opened up about her experiences trying to break out of a certain mold during The Hollywood Reporter's annual drama actress roundtable discussion with Reese Witherspoon, Rose Byrne, Zendaya, Helena Bonham Carter and Janelle Monáe.

"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,' and it's on all the time and you're like, ‘Stop playing that f--king show!' (Laughter.) 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," Aniston said.

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"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," she continued.

The Good Girl came out in 2002 as Friends was winding down. After Friends ended in 2004, Aniston spent much of her time on the big screen with roles in comedies like The Break-Up, Rumor Has It…, Horrible Bosses and The Switch. She returned to TV in a major way in The Morning Show opposite Witherspoon. The series chronicled the behind-the-scenes drama of a popular morning news program dealing with the fallout of an anchor's sexual misconduct. Aniston was nominated for a Golden Globe and won a Screen Actors Guild Award for her work and is getting Emmy buzz for playing Alex Levy in the Apple TV series.

"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. But there is such a freedom in getting older because you just stop giving a crap," she said.

Aside from Cake and The Good Girl, The Morning Show is one of Aniston's most high-profile dramatic roles in Hollywood. Byrne, who got her start in American TV on the legal drama Damages and has gone on to have roles comedy flicks such as The Spy and Bridesmaids, cited the tendency for actors to get pigeonholed in one camp or another.

"Once you play comedy, they don't think you can do the drama; and if you're only seen as a dramatic actor, they don't think you can do comedy. They forget that we're actors and we actually have it all in there. It's just about finding it and accessing it and getting the material," Aniston said.

Read the roundtable exchange on THR. The Morning Show is set to return for a second season on Apple TV+.