Jennifer Aniston has had her slew of big-screen hits but it’s from TV that fans fell in love with her. Friends’ Rachel captivated us 25 years ago, and now she’s back in the role of her career on Apple TV+’s new The Morning Show. Already, there’s awards talk…

It’s been 25 years since the sitcom Friends first leaped 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.

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How do you fly under the radar when you’ve married Brad Pitt (2000-2005), dated actors (Tate Donovan and Vince Vaughn), musicians (Adam Duritz and John Mayer) and then married another high-profile actor, Justin Theroux (2015-2018)? 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?”

“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?”

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 hundred-million-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.

“[Reese and I] were both fascinated with the cut-throat quality of morning TV”

“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.

“The show has been a really great outlet for getting angry”

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.”

STAY-YOUNG STRATEGIES

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, but 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.”

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Text: Jenny Cooney
Additional reporting: Natalya Molok
Photos: Ruven Afanador/CPI-Syndication.com/Headpress, AppleTV+ and TPG NEWS