Jennifer Aniston: She’s So Much More Than Rachel

By David Raether

What do these people have in common: Will Smith, George Clooney, Bruce Willis, Tom Hanksand Melissa McCarthy? Obviously, your first guess would be that they were all at my last birthday party, but that would be wrong. Will Smith wasn’t there. But he sent a gift basket. Which was nice.

The thing they all have in common is they started out their careers as TV stars. Smith was on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Clooney was on ER and before that, Facts of Life. Hanks was on Bosom Buddies. Willis was on Moonlighting, and Melissa McCarthy was on Gilmore Girls and Mike and Molly.

It’s a pretty short list, especially when you consider all the TV shows — and TV stars — out there.

Why is it so difficult for actors to transition from TV stardom to movie stardom? My theory is that the audience spends weeks and then years with these characters, watching them change and experience a whole range of emotions and life events, and that creates an intimacy that you don’t get in a 2-hour film. It’s difficult to get a movie audience to accept you as anything other than, well, Rachel Green, for instance.

Let’s go ahead and add Jennifer Aniston to the list up above. Aniston emerged as one of the biggest stars on the planet during her years on Friends, and has since transitioned into a huge movie star. But it was a bumpy ride to her current movie perch. There were a lot of mediocre romantic comedies to trudge through before she seemed to find her voice and presence in the movies. In fact, I admit that for a long time I thought that the neurotic, high school sweetheart ingenue she played on Friends was pretty much the extent of her range as an actress.

Welp, I was wrong there. To be fair to myself, the number of subjects large and small that I am wrong about is vast and nearly encyclopedic. Just ask any of my six daughters. This is compensated by the fact that I make an excellent marinara sauce and really good pudding.

Jennifer Joanna Aniston was born on February 11, 1969 in Los Angeles, the daughter of the Greek-born actor. John Aniston and the actress Nancy Dow. His father was born on Crete and his name was Yannis Anastasaki. The family emigrated to the US when he was two years old and his father Anglicized his name to John Aniston. In his 20s, he moved to Los Angeles to become an actor. Jennifer was baptized into the Greek Orthodox Church as a child and her godfather was an actor Telly Savalas.

The family moved to New York City when she was a child, and her parents divorced when she was nine years old. She became interested in acting as a tween. When high school came around, she attended the Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and the Performing Arts. The school was the basis for the movie Fame (1980).

After high school, she moved back to Los Angeles to pursue a career as an actress. It was a rough go, filled with anonymous roles and failures. One day in 1994, she ran into Warren Littlefield at a gas station in Los Angeles. At the time, Littlefield was the head of the entertainment division of NBC. She told him she was frustrated with her lack of progress and all the setbacks she had experienced in her acting career and asked if he had any reassurance for her. Littlefield told her to keep at it. A few weeks later, Littlefield signed off on casting her as Rachel Green in the new NBC sitcom Friends. She was 24 years old.

Note: This is the sort of thing that only happens in other people’s lives, so don’t go to Los Angeles and look to bump into a network executive for reassurance and then a month later get cast in one of the biggest TV shows of all time. It won’t happen to you. Your life, my life, everyone else’s life will remain pretty much as they are now — pleasant enough, vaguely disappointing, and a bit hardscrabble. The reason for this? None of us are Jennifer Aniston.

Friends ran for ten years on NBC. During the run of the show she became a global superstar and a talismanic figure for many women her age and a bit younger. Her hairstyle—The Rachel—Was widely copied around the world.

During these years, Aniston started dating and eventually married Brad Pitt. Their courtship, wedding, and marriage drew enormous interest, which had to be difficult. It’s exciting to fall in love and then have a beautiful wedding, especially if the guy is Brad Pitt. But at a certain point you’re just a person who wants to live a nice life together with your husband. You don’t need every little aspect of that life splashed on tabloids at the supermarket checkout stand. But that has been Aniston’s life since the launch of Friends.

In 2005, after five years of a high-profile marriage, Aniston and Pitt announced they were separating. The divorce was finalized a year later. Aniston handled this devastating end of a marriage with aplomb and grace. She did not comment on it until much later. In 2015, she told The Hollywood Reporter: “Nobody did anything wrong. It was just, like, sometimes things [happen]. ”

In 2011, she met and began dating Justin Theroux, a writer, director, and actor. They moved together into a million 30 million mansion in the Bel Air section of Los Angeles, and got married in 2015 after a three-year courtship. They separated in 2017.

Now, let me set one thing straight. Aniston is a deceptively good actress. She is in her 50s now and her work has a much greater range and maturity than you might have expected. Check out her performances in season two of the Apple TV + series The Morning Show. One of her great skills is relatability. She comes across as someone you know, you wish you knew, or is someone you’d aspire to be. Aniston’s relativity is as identifiably hers as Barbara Stanwyck‘s tough broad persona was hers.

Except Jennifer Aniston is worth $ 300 million and was married to Brad Pitt and Justin Theorux. She’s a spokesperson for L’Oreal and has probably made more money in business than she has as an actress. She doesn’t live down the hall from you; she lives in a mansion in Bel Air.

And yet there is never a whiff of scandal or disrepute about her. You never read about her being difficult to work with or irresponsible or imperious. In interviews, she comes across as unfailingly pleasant. When she is asked hard questions, she is discreet and careful in her answers so that no one’s feelings get hurt. She is one of those people who just seems talented at life.

Here are my favorite movies of hers.

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