Life after Rachel: Jennifer Aniston post-FriendsWatch it now
Widely considered the most successful of the Friends, Jennifer Aniston has built a career on the big and small screens.
Ladies and gentlemen, can we have an OMG? (And all the tissues!) It’s Friends: The Reunion! Also known as The One Where They Get Back Together, the almost two-hour TV special has just started streaming on Showmax.
Now in their 50s, Jennifer Aniston (Rachel), Lisa Kudrow (Phoebe), Matt LeBlanc (Joey), Matthew Perry (Chandler), Courteney Cox (Monica), and David Schwimmer (Ross) bring us all the feels as they return to the iconic comedy’s original soundstage for a real-life unscripted celebration of the beloved show, including a line-up of guest stars and celebrities from host James Corden to Lady Gaga, David Beckham to Justin Bieber.
Friends has an 8.4/10 score on IMDb where, surprise!, it’s at #2 on the Most Popular TV list, and still at #53, IMDb Top Rated TV of all time, 17 years after the finale aired in 2004. The series won 77 awards over the course of its 10-season run, including six Emmys.
When the six stars first met up for the reunion shoot, which was delayed by a year due to Covid-19, Jennifer Aniston told People Magazine they all had the same thought: “Oh God, how are we going to get through this alive, without just crying our faces off?”
The role that nearly wasn’t
And speaking of crying our faces off, can you imagine Friends without Rachel? Nope, neither can we. But that was very nearly what happened.
The iconic role earned Jennifer an Emmy and a Golden Globe, and today, she’s arguably the biggest star of the group. But did you know Jennifer was the last to be cast in Friends? In fact, the actress had to sit out of some of the early publicity photos for the series, because there was a real risk – thanks to a show called Muddling Through, which she had already started shooting on – that she might have to leave Friends halfway through the first season! Fortunately, that show was short-lived, and, despite a producer telling her Friends was “not going to make you a star”, the actress was free to take on the role that would come to define her career.
It was Rachel that gave us “The Rachel” – the character’s signature hairdo that everyone wanted – except Jennifer, who told Glamour in 2015, “I was not a fan of ‘The Rachel’”. Rachel and Ross were also Friends’ central on-again-off-again couple, eventually having a baby, Emma, (kind-of) together. In fact, TV Guide named the pairing the greatest “Will They/Won’t They” TV couple of all time.
Season 10 of Friends ended with them together but, in the imaginary universe where the show continued forever, would they have stayed that way? In a 2019 interview with People Magazine, Jennifer herself voted “Absolutely”, and also said Rachel would have started her own line of clothing by now. Keep those tissues close for The Reunion, because Jennifer and David Schwimmer have a bombshell to drop on us about how the actors really felt about one another at the time.
“It’s what I assume sisters are like”
Jennifer, who is still close friends with her Friends co-stars Courteney Cox and Lisa Kudrow, told People getting back together for the reunion was “like a family. I don’t have sisters. It’s what I assume sisters are like.”
On Friends, Rachel had two sisters, Jill and Amy, played by Reese Witherspoon and Christina Applegate, now Oscar and Emmy winners respectively. Not only is Reese among the guests on The Reunion special, she and Jennifer have been friends ever since they met on the set of Friends, and both star and share executive producer duties on Jennifer’s latest series, The Morning Show, which earned her 2020 Emmy and Golden Globe nominations for Best Actress.
The Morning Show is not her first success behind the camera. In 2008, she and producer Kristin Hahn formed their production company, Echo Films, which has produced the drama Cake, for which Jennifer earned a Golden Globe nomination; and the Golden Globe-nominated beauty pageant dramedy Dumplin’.
Although Jennifer was by no means a newcomer when she joined Friends, the show’s 1994 inception marked a turning point that would see her rocket to mega-stardom.
As a film star, she’s won MTV Movie Awards for We’re The Millers and Horrible Bosses; People’s Choice Awards for Wanderlust and The Break-Up; and Teen Choice Awards for Just Go With It, The Break-Up and The Good Girl.
On TV, she was nominated for an Emmy as a guest star in 30 Rock and made guest appearances on Courteney Cox’s series Dirt (which made headlines when their characters kissed) and in Cougar Town. Jennifer was the first guest on Ellen DeGeneres’ talk show, where she has since made numerous appearances, and even stood in for Ellen as a guest host.
Keeping it private
Never far from the spotlight, the actress has had more attention from the media over the years than she might have liked, famously shutting down questions about her personal life and hitting back at body-shaming in a 2016 essay where she wrote, “We are complete with or without a mate, with or without a child. We get to decide for ourselves what is beautiful when it comes to our bodies. That decision is ours and ours alone.”
The media frenzy peaked in 2000, when she married Brad Pitt, and dogged the Hollywood golden couple through to their 2005 divorce and beyond. The pair met and began dating in 1998, and Brad even had a hilarious 2001 cameo on Friends as Ross’ former mate, Will, with whom Ross had started the “I hate Rachel” club in school. In a 2006 interview with The Daily Times, Jennifer said she had no regrets about their “seven, very intense years together”, calling it, “a beautiful, complicated relationship”.
With Friends so much a part of Jennifer’s life for 10 years, it’s no surprise that Brad wasn’t the only guest star she dated. The six episodes Tate Donovan shot on Season 4 as Rachel’s boyfriend, Joshua, came at the worst possible time for Jennifer and Tate, whose real-life relationship had recently ended. Fortunately, things were far less uncomfortable when Ant-Man actor Paul Rudd, who Jennifer dated in 1998 and had remained friends with, joined the show in 2002 as Phoebe’s love interest, Mike.
In 2015, Jennifer married actor, director, and screenwriter Justin Theroux, with the relationship ending in a “loving” separation at the end of 2017.
The actress has been less cagey about other personal challenges she’s faced, using her power as a role model for good when she revealed to The Hollywood Reporter in 2015 that she has dyslexia, which went undiagnosed until her 20s and impacted her education and self-image. “I thought I wasn’t smart,” she revealed in the interview. “I just couldn’t retain anything. Now I had this great discovery. I felt like all of my childhood trauma-dies, tragedies, dramas were explained.”
She is also widely recognised for her philanthropic efforts. Jennifer has been active in donating and helping to raise funds for many charities. She participated in the 2010 documentary The Cove, aimed at raising awareness around the slaughter of dolphins. And she was one of five women directors of the anthology film Five, which explored the subject of breast cancer and earned her a Directors Guild of America nomination.
Much as we would love to hear Ross announce on Friends: The Reunion, “We were [just] on a break!”, the series’ creators have repeatedly denied rumours of a Friends reboot, so the special is as close as we’re getting to a comeback.
Not that the actors, or the studio, will suffer financially if the show is never rebooted. Warner Bros reportedly still earns around $1bn a year from the syndication of the evergreen show, according to USA Today. Even with the six main cast members earning just two percent of that, their annual income from reruns reportedly comes to $20m each…