When "Friends" debuted 10 years ago, Courtney Cox was the only well-known star. She'd done commercials, a TV series, and of course that music video with the Boss. Courtney knew what to expect from fame. But she didn't expect how similar her real life, and her "Friends" TV-life, would turn out to be.
Courtney Cox: “I'm much more of a realist. I'm really practical. I'm the kind of person that, still to this day, calls my business manager and says, OK, if it were all to end today, how many months do I have to live?”
For 10 years, Monica Geller has been the tough and practical "den mother" on "Friends," the one who had to be the best at just about everything. She's been the perfect fit for Courtney Cox, though maybe a little too perfect.
Matt Lauer: “When you first started to think about acting, did you have dreams of being Lucy or Meryl Streep? Comedy or drama?”
Cox: “I would probably say I identified more with drama. I'm a really emotional, sensitive person. I'm family-minded and I'm the youngest of four kids. I have nine stepbrothers and sisters. And I love drama. I really do.”
Courtney grew up with all that family in Birmingham, Ala. She studied architecture, not acting, in college. But then this self-described "practical" person took a shot. She moved to New York, got into modeling, and soon starred in commercials. And then she made advertising history.
Cox: “I'm the first girl to say the word ‘period’ on television.”
It was an ad for Tampax in 1984, the first national commercial to use the word "period."
Cox: “OK, first of all you do a commercial and what you want is a national commercial because it pays like $20,000 for the year or something.”
Lauer: “But is it good news/bad news? Good news is it’s national ad. The bad news is –“
Cox: “It's for Tampax. Yeah, exactly.”
But it did get her noticed. A short time later, she was starring in a hit Bruce Springsteen video."
Lauer: “How was it up there with the Boss?”
Cox: “It was scary. I just imitated everything he did. If he went backwards, I went backward. If he turned left, I went. I just copied him.”
Courtney Cox was suddenly famous, and in 1985 landed the role of Michael J. Fox's girlfriend on "Family Ties." Producers of "Friends" remembered that when it came time to cast their show. The only problem was that they wanted her for the role of Rachel. Courtney had other ideas.
Lauer: “And you came in there basically and said, you know, pardon me, but you're wrong. I’m Monica. I should be Monica--which takes a lot of guts.”
Cox: “I liked the fact that she was strong. I liked the fact that she just wasn’t, you know, your typical girl. I really thought I should be Monica. I really did.”
Lauer: “Why not Rachel?”
Cox: “I don't know. I wonder if I made a huge mistake now.”
Lauer: “It's worked out pretty well by the way.”
Struggles in 'real life'
Even though sometimes, Courtney’s real life has been a painful echo of Monica's TV life. While Monica was battling with her boyfriend Chandler, Courtney’s off-camera life was a challenge, too. She'd fallen in love with David Arquette, her co-star in the wildly successful "Scream" movies.
But David was wild himself. Courtney had to play a tough, Monica-style den mother in real life.
Lauer: “He was having some difficulties with substance abuse. He said to you at one time, look, commit to me and you'll see the real man that I am. And you said, show me the real man that you are and I’ll commit to you. You didn't want to take a leap of faith.”
Cox: “I would not be good with someone who did drugs. As long as I know something, I can deal with anything. I'm really good. But what I'm not good with is inconsistency. And I'm not good with not knowing."
Lauer: “You basically sat down and had some kind of rules session in your marriage. You said-"
Cox: “Oh, there will be no drugs.”
David agreed, and they got married in 1999 -- a marriage that has since survived perhaps one of the toughest challenges for any couple. For the last two seasons on "Friends," Monica and Chandler have struggled to have a baby. For more than two years, so have Courtney and David.
Lauer: “Tell me your thoughts Courtney, when you realized this was not going to be a snap for you and David like it is seemingly for so many people and so many couples.”
Cox: “Well it was really weird because everyone in my family has kids. I mean, they pop out like it's nobody's business. No one in my family has a problem. So to me, I just thought this would not be a problem at all.”
But it was a problem. After several miscarriages, Courtney learned she had a rare anti-body in her blood, that would attack the fetus.
Lauer: “You could get pregnant—“
Cox: “I could get pregnant.”
Lauer: “Just couldn't maintain a pregnancy.”
Cox: “Exactly. So now I decided to do in vitro and I did that twice. And then, give myself shots of heparin everyday -- that's a blood thinner. Take a baby aspirin.”
During this entire time, her job was to make other people laugh.
Lauer: “How do you come to work and be funny?”
Cox: “That was hard. Sometimes, like I remember one time I just had a miscarriage and Rachel was giving birth. It was like that same time. Oh my God, it was terrible having to be funny.”
Lauer: “If you look at some of those episodes, do you think you can tell that something was troubling you?”
Cox: “Probably yeah, I bet I could.”
Lauer: “You could or the audience could?”
Cox: “Hopefully just me, I think. I faked it pretty well I think.”
She doesn't have to fake it anymore. Courtney Cox is pregnant, and the baby is due next month.
She's a working expectant mother. Courtney and husband David produce "Mix it Up" for the Women's Entertainment Cable Network. The show uses Courtney’s old architecture and design background to help newlyweds move into their first house together.
For 10 years, Courtney Cox and Monica Geller have struggled together with life and love. Now, on TV and in real life, everything seems to be falling into place.
Lauer: “As you now prepare to put ‘Friends’ into the past, what are you most afraid of?”
Cox: “I don't think I'm afraid of anything right now. This June is going to be a really big month for me. It's my five year anniversary, turning 40; I have a baby due in June. And I just feel like, I don't know. I just feel like everything's really right where it's supposed to be.”