Jennifer Aniston is a dear old Friend to many, but she's "just getting started" in a lot of ways.
In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, the actress discusses her career, the tabloids, social media, haters of her vaccine stance and the "jarring" Friends reunion. She also delivers in the photo department, posing in a hard-to-pull-off ensemble of bikini top and trouser pants.
"Oh yeah, I'm just getting started," the Morning Show star, 52, said of what's to come. "I’ve only recently started to be like, 'Oh, I got this.' I think I needed to get over those hurdles of self-doubt and own who I am and where I am and just how long I've f***ing been here."
Aniston has been here long enough to see her entire life dissected for public consumption.
"I used to take it all very personally — the pregnancy rumors and the whole 'Oh, she chose career over kids' assumption," she said. "It’s like, 'You have no clue what's going with me personally, medically, why I can't … can I have kids?' They don’t know anything, and it was really hurtful and just nasty."
Why she has been a target versus others is always a bit of a mystery.
"Dolly Parton never had kids," Aniston said. "But are people giving her s*** for it? No, no one's tried to put her in a white picket fence."
As for how she navigated that time, amid her divorce from Brad Pitt and the subsequent Angelina Jolie love triangle, she credited "a godsend of support — just so many evolved, positive people around me."
She said she also learned what not to do from her late mother, Nancy Dow.
"I also grew up watching someone sit comfortably in victimhood, and I didn't like how it looked," Aniston said. "I knew that this person was giving me an example of what I'd never want to be, and I will never ever be that. I think it's toxic, and it erodes your insides and your soul. And listen, is it a sliver of an annoyance to have to publicly go through dark s*** in front of the world? Yes, it's an inconvenience, but it's all relative. So, I had a choice to make: Either I'm going to surrender into bonbons and living under my covers or I'm going to go out there and find a creative outlet and thrive, and that's what I did. It just happened to be with a movie called The Break-Up."
While things are different today as far as celebrity coverage, it's not necessarily better.
"What the tabloids and the media did to people's personal lives back then, regular people are doing now," she said. "Although I haven’t seen a tabloid in so long. Am I still having twins? Am I going to be the miracle mother at 52? (Laughs.) Now you’ve got social media. It's almost like the media handed over the sword to any Joe Schmo sitting behind a computer screen to be a troll or whatever they call them and bully people in comment sections. So it's just sort of changed hands in a way. And I don’t know why there's such a cruel streak in society. I often wonder what they get off on."
Aniston has been attacked on social media for her vaccine stance — and it's not radical, as she follows the Center for Disease Control and Prevention's recommendation for full vaccination against COVID-19.
"You know, someone literally called me a 'liberal Vax-hole' the other day," Aniston said. "I don't understand the disconnect right now, being bullied for wanting people not to be sick? I mean, that’s what we're talking about."
But she's watching a lot change around her — like Hollywood.
"I don't know what the industry is anymore," she said. "It's not the same industry that it used to be. It's not that glamorous anymore. It's slowly becoming about TikTok and Instagram followers. It's like, we're hiring now based on followers, not talent? Oh, dear. And I’m losing touch. I'm not great at going, 'I'm going to stay relevant and join TikTok.'"
Aniston doesn't have to stay relevant because she just is. Fans tune in for her whether it's The Morning Show, channeling Blair Warner in Live in Front of a Studio Audience: The Facts of Life or the Friends reunion earlier this year.
"Time travel is hard," she said of the highly-anticipated reunion.
"I think we were just so naive walking into it, thinking, 'How fun is this going to be? They're putting the sets back together, exactly as they were.' Then you get there and it's like, 'Oh right, I hadn't thought about what was going on the last time I was actually here.' And it just took me by surprise because it was like, 'Hi, past, remember me? Remember how that sucked? You thought everything was in front of you and life was going to be just gorgeous and then you went through maybe the hardest time in your life?" referring to the show ending in May 2004, as newlyweds Aniston and Pitt both publicly revealed plans to start a family. Then Pitt made Mr. & Mrs. Smith with Jolie, leading to Aniston and Pitt's divorce.
"It was all very jarring," she said of the Friends reunion, "and, of course, you've got cameras everywhere and I'm already a little emotionally accessible, I guess you could say, so I had to walk out at certain points. I don't know how they cut around it."
The interview also looked at Aniston's chosen family, including her friends, some famous like Courteney Cox, Jimmy Kimmel and Jason Bateman. They — and special guests, whether it's her ex-husband Justin Theroux or Morning Show co-star Billy Crudup — come for "Sunday Fundays" at Aniston's house. Their kids have the run of the swanky Bel Air property, and dinner and drinks are served
Bateman said in the article that they call hostess with the mostess Aniston "Carol," explaining the nickname: "Carol’s sort of like a den mother — or if you can imagine a woman who’d be the enthusiastic leader of a bowling team and all that goes with that. Someone who’s almost stuck in the 1940s in the way she organizes stuff because she just wants to make sure everybody is comfortable and has a good time."
Next for the star will be filming Murder Mystery 2 with Adam Sandler. After the intensity of making drama The Morning Show while also in a pandemic, she's looking forward to "fart jokes" and other laughs. She called her career "nothing but blessed." Her post-Friends projects have been "a different caliber of work but I love it, no matter what, even if it's a terribly reviewed, dumb comedy, it doesn't matter if it brings me joy."