Reese Witherspoon and Jennifer Aniston in Friends.
Reese Witherspoon and Jennifer Aniston in Friends.

Friends: ‘I was scared out of my mind’

IT'S hard to believe 25 years have gone by since the first episode of Friends aired.

As the sitcom became the biggest show on TV, Hollywood stars flocked to appear in cameos - including Reese Witherspoon, who in 2000 played Rachel Green's younger sister, Jill.

"When I first saw Reese I was struck by how little she was! Like a little cherub and she was holding a little baby. So, I was like, 'There's a baby with a baby! I was obsessed with them!'" Jennifer Aniston tells of her first memories of a then-24-year-old Witherspoon, whose daughter Ava was born the previous year.

"I remember being amazed by Reese and all she was taking on at that time as well as being such a kick-a** young actress. It was just fun. I'd love to go back," she smiles.

Witherspoon, who is with Aniston at a Los Angeles hotel to promote their upcoming Apple+ drama, The Morning Show, says her Friends cameo was "fun - but I have to admit I was scared out of my mind".

Reese Witherspoon and Jennifer Aniston as sisters in Friends — almost 20 years ago.
Reese Witherspoon and Jennifer Aniston as sisters in Friends — almost 20 years ago.

"I was watching all of the cast perform at such a high level, and I realised that that was not a skill set that I had, being in front of a live audience every single week and then given those quick changes to the script," she says. "And Jen was so sweet to me. She was like, 'Don't worry! If you mess up, they'll think it's funny'. She could tell how nervous I was."

She looks at Aniston: 'I still remember one of my lines to this day! It's one of my favourite jokes'."

Aniston holds up her hand excitedly. "OK. I think I know which one it is. Hold on. It was in the coffee house?"

Witherspoon recounts the one-liner - Aniston's character warning her sister, who's developed an interest in Ross, that she can't "have" him. A furious Jill hits back: "The only thing I can't have is dairy!"

Both actresses crack up. "That's a great line! And it still holds up," says Aniston.

Witherspoon was a huge fan of the show, which had already been running for five years when she was cast.

"I was a new mum with Ava. I was nursing her and all I did all day was watch Friends because it was comforting. And I remember when I was filming those scenes, I was running and pumping (milk) in between, and then I'd return to do the scenes."



Almost 20 years later, the two stars seem like old friends. I ask what first bonded them - and Witherspoon is quick to reply. "It was over a pair of Birkenstocks I was wearing that Jen loved." Aniston nods. "Oh yeah, the horse-haired ones. And I still have my Charles David square red loafers from that time." Witherspoon laughs. "You've got to be kidding!"

Friends is still as popular as ever, with re-runs viewed by millions all over the world. What does Aniston do when she sees it on television?

"I run!" she jokes. "No, I love it. I actually love watching it when it comes on. It makes me happy. I don't know how long I'll stay watching an episode, but when I do, because usually I've forgotten what happens, so for me, I'm like, 'And then what happens?'" She smiles. "It's a wonderful thing to have been a part of, and for all of us, we find a great deal of joy when we see it."

With that, the inevitable question arises: What would she say if they call her up one day and ask her to be in the sequel?

"I've always said I'm open to anything. I would not turn my nose up ever at being able to be with those five people again," she says.

But first, The Morning Show, which launches on Apple TV on November 1. Witherspoon and Aniston play anchors in the high stakes world of morning television.

Unlike her character, Alex Levy, who rises at 3.30am, Aniston says she is not a morning person.

"Getting up at 3.30am is my worst nightmare," she says. "I'm a night owl, mainly because it's so quiet. Maybe it's also because I was born at night. My mornings begin with some interaction with my dogs, then there's a meditation, green juice, coffee, then workout, and then the day starts. I'm not doing breakfast now that I'm doing intermittent fasting, which as it turns out is healthier."

Witherspoon is on a completely different clock. "The irony is I am probably more like Alex Levy than Jen is," she says. "I'm a total morning person. I'm up at 5.30am, I read a lot of newspapers, then I have my celery juice, exercise, make sure the kids are fed and get them to school. Then I start my day."

As producers on The Morning Show, both Aniston and Witherspoon worked long hours - their days didn't end when the director yelled "cut".

"I nap every day. I eat lunch and then I listen to this really interesting high frequency music which makes me feel very relaxed," says Witherspoon. Aniston looks surprised. "You haven't told me about that." Apparently, Aniston is not a napper. "That's what coffee is for. I love you coffee!"

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