How Jennifer Aniston Went From Sitcom Star to Hollywood Power Player

The actor, producer and entrepreneur has blazed her own path in Hollywood—from ‘Friends’ to ‘The Morning Show.’ Here’s how.

As an actor and a producer, Jennifer Aniston keeps a foot in two worlds. So it’s fitting that when she enters a room in her Los Angeles home, she sits down on the rug in a split, her legs nearly 180 degrees to the left and right. If metaphors did Pilates, they’d look like this.

Jennifer Aniston on Season Three of 'The Morning Show' and the Loss of Her  Father - WSJ

It’s a casually confident entrance that can only be pulled off by someone who has walked the earth as a celebrity far longer than she has as a civilian.


But there’s business just under that breezy introduction. While contemporaries like Reese Witherspoon are known for leading entertainment empires, Aniston is more of a stealth mogul, a veteran who launched a production company before actress-producers were everywhere in Hollywood but who, until recently, never threw herself into that dual role in such a visible way. Now she’s poised to amp up her production company with new projects, exerting more hands-on involvement in her work than at any prior point in her career.

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“Being able to be a part of something from the ground up, it’s quite fulfilling and I feel very comfortable,” she says, stretched across the floor in a position few could achieve. “I don’t feel divided. It’s sort of an easy hat to swap.”

Aniston and Witherspoon are stars and executive producers of the Apple

Original series The Morning Show, which is anticipated to return for a third season on Apple TV+ in September. The venture, key to launching Apple into streaming TV, has a habit of mirroring reality. The show focused on sexual harassment amid the explosion of the #MeToo movement. The pandemic drove the season 2 narrative. Now there’s a brash billionaire with a rocket, the threat of a network sale and a world emerging from the physical and emotional lockdown of the pandemic.

Aniston plays Alex Levy, a journalist who is brewing up a fight for power that she knows she’s earned, even if the dummies in the suits don’t.


At 54 years old, the actress is familiar with that script. Jennifer Aniston - Imagen fotográfica de 8 x 10 pulgadas / 8 x  10 pulgadas #12 *Envío desde Estados Unidos* : Hogar y Cocina

“There was a time in my world, my career, where I realized it’s not being aggressive or combative or bitchy or emotional to stand up for what you deserve and what you want,” she says. “It’s a tough muscle to build. And also be loved and respected. It’s hard to achieve.”

Aniston has remained an international name despite not hitting the superhero circuit or nabbing roles as long-lasting as Rachel on Friends. What she has is staying power, an especially significant feat given how often Hollywood sidelines women in midlife.

The Morning Show addresses the age of its stars head-on. At one point, Alex pulls her cheeks tight in a face-lift sort of gesture while looking glumly in the mirror. The head of the network’s news division throws a dart at Witherspoon’s upstart journalist Bradley Jackson: “Why aren’t you further along in your career at this point?” “ ‘At this point?’ You mean, I’m too old to be the young, feisty journalist?” “Maybe.” Joining the 47-year-old Witherspoon are Julianna Margulies, 57, who plays a news veteran and on-and-off love interest for Bradley, and Holland Taylor, 80, as a haughty board chair.


Jennifer Aniston

“When you’re in your 40s and your 50s you have accumulated so much knowledge and power,” says director and executive producer Mimi Leder. “Our show is about very strong women who have very strong opinions, who are very flawed, who represent a lot of women in the world.”

Aniston and Witherspoon rose up in the industry together, connecting when Witherspoon played Aniston’s younger sister on two episodes of Friends in 2000. The two became familiar with barriers.

“The material that I was interested in or she was interested in wasn’t really being made. And if it was, we weren’t the actresses getting the opportunities,” Aniston says. “So we were given the wonderful option of being able to create our own material.”

When they met, the entertainment world looked very different from today. “You think about ownership as a woman in the media industry—it just didn’t exist,” Witherspoon says.


“It’s nice to share a lot of the responsibility with somebody that you’ve known forever.” – Reese Witherspoon

During her Friends stint, Witherspoon says the cast was negotiating collectively for equal pay—a strategy that would ultimately land the show’s stars USD 1 million each per episode. Witherspoon was just starting out, and the unity of the Friends cast stayed with her.

With The Morning Show, their media companies—Echo Films for Aniston, Hello Sunshine for Witherspoon—run what Aniston calls a “chick club” behind the camera.

“Being that we’re female, there’s a level of understanding, compassion and consideration that I think doesn’t always exist amongst the dudes,” Aniston says of this season’s creative team, which includes, among others, writer, executive producer and season 3 showrunner Charlotte Stoudt (and at least one man, executive producer Michael Ellenberg).

Aniston has worked with enough toxic people, she says, to know the kind of set she wants to run.


“It was one of our big rules up front,” she says. “No assholes.”

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