It’s been 25 years since the sitcom Friends first leapt onto our screens and into pop culture. Yet these days, Jennifer Aniston still attracts more tabloid attention than almost anyone else in Hollywood.
It’s true, the 50-year-old California native was the only Friends cast member to successfully transition to the big screen, with films such as The Break-Up (2006), Horrible Bosses (2011), We’re the Millers (2013) and Dumplin’ (2018), but it’s not just Jennifer’s work choices that have made her a tabloid staple.
How do you fly under the radar when you’ve married Brad Pitt (2000-05), dated actors (Tate Donovan and Vince Vaughn), musicians (Adam Duritz and John Mayer) and then married another high-profile actor, Justin Theroux (2015-18)? Maybe that’s why it’s so surprising when you finally meet Jennifer in person – in the corner of the Wallis Annenberg Centre for the Performing Arts in Beverly Hills where Apple TV+ just screened her upcoming series The Morning Show for the first time – that you quickly discover she’s not defensive or resentful but funny, relaxed and seemingly at peace with living her life in the glare of the spotlight.
“Oh my gosh, where do I begin?” she muses with an endearing folksy charm that downplays her wit. “Look, I’ve been doing this for 30 years and I have been under the microscope for all of it, so regardless of the quality of the material, at a certain point – and it’s not always easy to do this – I have to turn the noise down and just do my work as honestly as I can,” she offers. “So, there are moments when you feel like the belle of the ball and other moments when you feel like you’re not up to par, but then isn’t that part of life for all of us?”
Today she’s wearing baggy, black Margiela pants, a black Jacquemus top, Calvin Klein high-heel sandals and an assortment of gold jewellery around her neck and wrists she credits to both Jill Dempsey (wife of Grey’s Anatomy star Patrick Dempsey) and Cartier. Jennifer’s honey brown hair is longer and less shaggy than the famed “Rachel’s do” that became a phenomenon during her Friends days and her piercing blue eyes light up with laughter when she’s asked if she ever reads what the tabloids write about her.
BIG TV COMEBACK
“I usually do it when someone says, ‘I heard you just had a hundredmillion-dollar makeover,’ and then I’m like, ‘really, that’s a lot of money! I must have got an entirely new skeletal system for that,’” the Golden Globe-winning actress deadpans with a grin. “I don’t look at any of it regularly, but it’s always entertaining when those kinds of stories come out. I figure I must not leave my house enough for them to come up with anything 100 per cent truthful!’”
Television critics are already predicting Jennifer will be an awards magnet for her new Apple TV+ show based on the 2013 Brian Stelter book Top Of The Morning. The series is set behind the scenes of an American morning talk show anchored by Alex Levy (Jennifer) and Mitch Kessler (Steve Carell).
When Mitch is fired after being accused of sexual harassment by another worker, Alex struggles to hang on to her now-solo position after the network begins grooming an ambitious young reporter (Reese Witherspoon) to eventually replace her. Eventually the two rivals realise they are fighting for a lot more than a job.
“You’ll see divorce, you will see mother-daughter relationships, you’ll see conflicted emotions about making choices behind people’s backs… so there’s a lot that this show covers in 10 episodes,” the actress continues. “We don’t get too political but we do focus on corporate power and the abuse of it, and people turning a blind eye and being complicit and the guilt that comes with that. With this post #MeToo world we have a whole new rulebook and everybody’s trying to figure out how we manoeuvre through this new world, but there is no easy answer.”
For long-time friends Jennifer and Reese, it was an offer too good to refuse, literally. As well as receiving a staggering $1.73 million (US$1.25 million) per episode, both actresses jumped at the chance for a long sought-after TV reunion. “I’ve loved Reese since she played my sister on Friends and we were both fascinated with this cut-throat quality about the world of morning TV,” says Jennifer.
With her soft voice and shy demeanour, many may have underestimated Jennifer in the past, but she insists she never allowed herself to become a #MeToo victim. “The few times I have experienced someone trying to exploit or take advantage of me, especially over the last 10 or 15 years,” she reflects, “it was all about not fearing the word ‘no’ and having the confidence to be okay saying that.”
Jennifer reveals that her own mornings look nothing like her character on the show, who suffers hangovers and guzzles energy drinks. “Mine usually starts with an interaction with my dogs, then meditation, coffee, a workout and the day starts.” She credits yoga, boxing, circuit training and Power Pilates, along with healthy eating, for her youthful appearance in an industry that used to banish actresses long before they hit their half-century milestone.
Not only is Jennifer being offered the best roles of her career and making more money than most male co-stars, she admits she’s also getting free therapy out of it. “The show has been a really great outlet for getting angry, because there’s been scenes and moments where I’ve had to go down into the dark dungeon of memories that hadn’t really been touched upon in a long time,” she reveals.
“I just don’t lose my temper, maybe because I grew up with raging tempers, and I just think it’s not productive but it was required for this job so I allowed it to be channelled out in a way that is not myself at all, and it felt good to go there as someone else.”
As Friends celebrates its 25th anniversary this year, Jennifer is returning to the small screen with The Morning Show.
"There are moments when you feel like the belle of the ball and other moments when you feel like you're not up to par, but isn't that part of life?"
When it comes to style, Jennifer has a natural elegance that the cameras love. Her effortless grace on the red carpet stems from her laid-back attitude that reflects in the pieces she carries so well: Clean lines, unfussy yet super-chic designs that time after time play to her strengths - her toned legs and shoulders. Oh, and one more thing, she’s mastered the magic of black.
2011: Jenn plays peekaboo in a Dolce & Gabbana gown at the Just Go With It premiere.
2014: Demonstrating how to do lace with grace at the Governors Awards in Hollywood.
2015: Showing off those toned arms in a halterstyle creation at the 72nd Golden Globe Awards.
2019: Proving that 50 is the new 30, Jenn embodies total confidence in this Celine leather mini dress.
2016: A perfectlytailored blazer dress plays up the star’s gorgeous gams at the world premiere of Mother’s Day in LA.
2017: One of Jenn’s dare-to-bare moments for a post-Oscar party, where she shows off her arms, shoulders, back, and plenty of legs and cleavage in a sexy Atelier Versace number.
2018: Twinning with BFF Courteney Cox in a gorgeous Christian Lacroix creation with a flattering knot at the waist at the AFI Life Achievement Awards.
2019: Jenn shows how you can dress up and down at the same time in this Roland Mouret jumpsuit. She also loves her clutches!
Ready, Get Set, Watch
Apple TV+ will be hitting our shores on November 1, 2019, and for $6.98 a month, viewers will get a powerful and inspiring line-up of original shows, movies and documentaries – ad-free and on demand. Here’s what we are putting on our watch list:
The Morning Show: A cut-throat drama starring and executive produced by Reese Witherspoon and Jennifer Aniston, and starring Steve Carell, explores the world of morning news, and the ego, ambition and the misguided search for power behind the people who help America wake up in the morning.
Dickinson: A coming-ofage story told through the lens of Emily Dickinson, an unexpected hero for our millennial era. Set in the 19th century, the series explores the constraints of society, gender and family from the perspective of a rebellious young poet who was ahead of her time.
The Elephant Queen: An acclaimed documentary film and cinematic love letter to a species on the verge of extinction, The Elephant Queen follows a majestic matriarch elephant, and her herd on an epic journey of life, loss and homecoming.
Oprah’s Book Club: Oprah Winfrey joins the world’s most compelling authors in conversation as she builds a vibrant, global book club community and other projects to connect with people around the world, and share meaningful ways to create positive change.
Helpsters: A new liveaction series from the makers of Sesame Street that kids will love, the Helpsters are a team of vibrant monsters who love to solve problems. Whether it’s planning a party, climbing a mountain, or mastering a magic trick, they can figure anything out.
"[Reese and I] were both fascinated with the cut- throat quality of morning TV"
TEXT: JENNY COONEY / ADDITIONAL REPORTING: NATALYA MOLOK / PHOTOS: RUVEN AFANADOR/CPI-SYNDICATION.COM/HEADPRESS / APPLE / TPG NEWS