Jennifer Aniston Couldn't "Escape Rachel from 'Friends'" When She Was Trying to Get Dramatic Roles
Jenifer Aniston and several other actors including Janelle Monáe, Zendaya, Reese Witherspoon, Helena Bonham Carter, and Rose Byrne, opened up about struggles in their careers for Hollywood Reporter's Drama Actress Roundtable
The conversation started with the group discussing the importance of using their platforms. Monaé addressed the Black Lives Matter movement and asked that her white colleagues step up in the same way Black people have. "The same ways that we have been marching, we have been screaming that Black Lives Matter, I'm asking of my white friends or those who consider themselves supporters of me and us during this time to have those conversations around white supremacy and around why your ancestors started chattel slavery," Monáe said as Witherspoon agreed. "Have those tough conversations of why we are even saying Black Lives Matter as though Black people are objects and not subjects to study until the end of time. Have those conversations around how you dismantle systemic racism."
Later in the conversation, the moderator asked who has "struggled with wanting to be seen in ways that the industry didn't want to see them?" Aniston was the first to jump in saying, "Oh my God, yes." She explained that after playing her iconic role of Rachel Green on Friends, she couldn't shake the character. "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 fucking show!'" she told them. "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."
When the moderator asked if anyone could relate to Aniston, Witherspoon quickly replied, "I mean, all of us."
She and Byrne discussed how once you play a comedy role, most studios think you can't be serious. But Witherspoon added that things have changed because of social media, pointing to Zendaya (who is 23). "It used to be that we were reliant on a bunch of people who worked at a studio to tell us what movies worked and we just blindly accepted it — or they'd say comedies don't travel overseas or Black films don't play well in other countries. It's just not true, and now we have empirical data that other stories need to be heard and there is a huge audience for them. You see that with Zendaya, she has 400 billion followers. I mean, she has her own data stream, she knows more what her audience wants to see her do than any studio head."
Of course, at this point, all of these actors are extremely accomplished, but continuing to have the conversations about how women especially Black and POC women in Hollywood are treated is an important part of changing things for the future.