Jennifer Aniston was trying to have a quiet weekend away. It was just after her 50th birthday, and she’d boarded a plane for Mexico with six of her best girlfriends — most of whom have known her since her early days in Los Angeles, before Brad, before Justin, before Friends and before the tabloids, when they lived as neighbours on the same street in Laurel Canyon. But a few minutes in, the pilot asked to speak with her. They had a tyre missing, and they would have to return to Los Angeles.
As the pilot burned off fuel, Aniston spent the next four hours cracking jokes and trying to remain calm (she is terrified of flying), while fielding text messages from friends who’d read about the “emergency landing” — which hadn’t actually happened yet.
The women landed safely, switched planes and, the next night, gathered for a ritual they’ve been doing for three decades: a goddess circle. Seated on cushions, cross-legged on the living room floor, they passed around a beechwood talking stick decorated with feathers and charms, much as they had done for every major event of their lives. They had circled before Aniston’s weddings to Brad Pitt and Justin Theroux. They circled when babies were born, and when Aniston and Theroux had to put down their dog, Dolly. This time they set the circle’s intention: to celebrate how far they’ve come — and to toast Aniston’s next chapter.
“It’s so weird. There’s so much doom around that number,” Aniston said of 50, noting that the New Yorker in her was slightly horrified at the thought of the term “goddess circle” appearing in a story about her. “Should we just call it a ‘circle’?” she asked.
We were sitting in the kitchen of her sunny, midcentury Bel-Air home, on a Tuesday afternoon in late August. She was warm and radiant, which is how glossy magazines often describe her, and also thoughtful, inquisitive and self-deprecating, which is not.
But about that age thing: “I’m entering into what I feel is one of the most creatively fulfilling periods of my life,” she said. This is the kind of thing actors say all the time in interviews. But in this case, it feels like more than a platitude.
Since Friends ended, Aniston has had critical success in smaller independent films, mixed reviews for mainstream movies, a lot of product endorsements, a couple of outright flops. But nothing has clicked quite like Rachel Green, the beloved runaway bride she played on Friends. She’s spent 15 years taking parts that had the potential to get her past that iconic role, that haircut, that “cloak of Rachel,” as she once put it — but they didn’t deliver. Perhaps the only way to do that may be to return to the medium that made her famous.
So come November 1, she’ll have a homecoming of sorts as the star of Apple’s The Morning Show — a big-budget drama set behind the scenes of a news show that looks a whole lot like Today. Aniston plays Alex Levy, a serious morning anchor whose personal life is complicated and professional life is more so, compounded by the sudden firing of her longtime co-host (played by Steve Carell) for sexual misconduct.
For Aniston, who is the spine of the show as both a lead and an executive producer, it’s the chance to dig into a more sophisticated dramatic role that, as she put it, has everything: “children, guilt, power struggle, being a woman in the industry, going through a divorce, publicly going through a divorce, feeling alienated, being just a little bit of a screw-up.”Aniston signed on to play Alex, a morning host akin to Ann Curry, who must traverse the cutthroat, ego-filled world of TV news as a woman in her 40s who executives declare is past her prime.
Apple bought the show in a bidding war and ordered up two seasons. If the people who brought you the iPod were going to compete with Netflix and Hulu, Aniston and Witherspoon — who also serve as executive producers — seemed like a pretty good bet. “I just felt like this was exactly what we were looking for,” said Eddy Cue, a senior vice president at Apple overseeing the new service.
But then Weinstein happened. Charlie Rose was cancelled. Matt Lauer was fired from Today. “And we basically just started over,” said Witherspoon. “We had to.”Kerry Ehrin, a creator of the A&E series Bates Motel, was brought in to write a new script, replacing the original showrunner. The updated premise: Alex’s longtime co-host is fired after news of his behaviour on the job (and in his dressing room) becomes public, throwing the show and her career into chaos.
Carell would be cast to play the disgraced anchor — whom Aniston described as a kind of lovable, cocky narcissist who, like so many powerful men before him, “just thinks everybody wants to sleep with him”. Witherspoon’s character would be positioned as a potential replacement to fill his now open anchor chair. The Morning Show would still tackle gender and ageism, but also tell a more complicated story of what happens when an idol falls. What does it mean for his unknowing co-workers and friends, like Alex? His ability to seek redemption? And, without knowing exactly of what he’s accused, whose side should we be on?It’s a role that is asking her to draw on more of her personal life than ever before. And it may also be her best chance to finally get the world to see her as an actor, not just a star.
© 2019 The New York Times
Source: Business Standard