She was raised around actors, but nothing prepared her for this. The role of Rachel turned Jennifer Aniston into one of the most famous faces around. There were times when she wanted no more of that fame, or that role. But now, as "Friends" comes to a close, Jennifer says she's changed her mind.
Jennifer Aniston: “I do know that funny was always good. And I made everybody laugh. There was nothing wrong with those moments coming up.”
She's the sexy girl from the suburbs, who's just a little bit spoiled. Her stormy relationship with Ross is one TV’s longest running romances.
Over ten seasons, Rachel Green has become America's sweetheart, and so has Jennifer Aniston -- propelling her into a level of fame few ever reach. She and husband Brad Pitt are probably the country's most celebrated --and sexy--couple.
Matt Lauer: “Do you think you're sexy?”
Aniston: “Not all the time.”
Lauer: “That's one of the nicer answers I've gotten. Most people go, no, God no, not sexy at all. But clearly, you're aware of the fact that, I mean, you're married to a guy that women think is outrageously sexy. And men think you are.
Lauer: “So, is that something that crosses your mind a lot?”
Aniston: “They just sit there and they're sexy together.”
Lauer: “Quite the sexy couple.”
Aniston: “Oh, we are such goobers, it's ridiculous. We're probably two of the unsexiest people on the planet most of the time. “
Acting was all in the family
She says fame sometimes shocks her, is still hard to deal with -- even for someone who grew up in a world of actors.
For almost 20 years, Jennifer's father, John Aniston, played a rakish villain on the soap opera, "Days of Our Lives."
Aniston: “My Dad would have poker parties or holiday parties with his cast. I didn’t ever think about fame or anything like that. But I just loved being around those people, those actor types.”
That gave her the bug early. Jennifer went to New York's famed High School of Performing Arts, where she was the class clown. But her father never wanted her to stick with acting.
Lauer: “And so, when you went in and said, you know what? I'm going to take the plunge.”
Lauer: “I'm going to act. What was the reaction?”
Lauer: “I think he made a face like that. And then he said, all right. I warned you. His main concern was my heart breaking. Because it can be so hard, you know, and painful and rejection is not easy.”
But it didn't take long for it all to start paying off. Three years after graduation, in 1990, she was starring in the sitcom version of the hit movie "Ferris Bueller." Her big chance came in 1994, when she got to audition for a pilot, "Friends Like Us."
Lauer: “Tell me what you remember about that?”
Aniston: “I was sitting in the hallway. See Kevin Bright walk by. See all these kind of hippy type-- like Phoebe types that were in the waiting room. And I didn't see any Rachel types. And I walked in. Did my audition. Kind of felt like, I think I needed-- wish I could have gone back. I should have done that differently. Should have done this differently. I got home, two hours later, and I had gotten the job.”
The only hitch was Jennifer was already cast in another new show, a comedy called "Muddling through." She shot both sit-coms for a while, but that craziness didn't last long. "Muddling Thru" was cancelled after four episodes -- and, of course, “Friends” was not. It made her a star.
One measure of her celebrity: search for "Jennifer Aniston" on Google, you get about 716,000 hits.
Lauer: “When's the last time you googled yourself?”
Aniston: “I googled yourself?”
Lauer: “Do you know what that means?”
Aniston: “What is Google? Oh, you mean on the Internet?”
Lauer: “I hope I mean on the Internet, yes.”
Aniston: “I was like, I'm not sure what you're asking me there, Matt.”
Lauer: “Have you ever googled yourself?”
Aniston: “Well, you know. I haven't googled myself, but I've seen the Web sites.”
Lauer: “What do you think when you see that?”
Aniston: “It's surreal. Let's just say that. It's surreal.”
A bunch of hit films, including this year's "Along Came Polly," have only added to her celebrity. And then, well, she does have that famous husband.
Lauer: “You got married to a guy who wasn't a lawyer from Pasadena.”
Lauer: “I mean, you married Brad Pitt.”
Lauer: “How has it been handling the dual fame in your relationship?”
Aniston: “It's a challenge. When you have that much energy coming at two people, whether wanting them to fall apart or wanting them to be happy, it's hard. It can mess with your mind, you know? And you've just got to stay grounded.”
A break from celebrity
She's looking forward to a break from the celebrity whirl once "Friends" is over. The 35-year-old Jennifer has a couple of movie projects lined up, but says she just wants to relax and focus on family.
Aniston: “First thing I am going to do is I'm going to take a vacation. I'm going to see as much of the world as I can before I have a child. And then it's about family.”
In fact, Jennifer admits for the first time that, at least for a while, she wanted to move on, and be finished with friends sooner rather than later.
Lauer: “Some people have said you were the one who needed convincing to come back for this.”
Aniston: “Where are you reading that, Matt?”
Lauer: “Someone said that--that they actually came to you and you were not sure that you could do another year of this.”
Aniston: “Yeah, sure. What the hell, yeah. That I was having, you know, I had a couple of issues that I was dealing with. I wanted it to end when people still loved us and we were on a high. And then I also felt--was feeling--like how much more of Rachel do I have in me? What more is there to-- what more--how many more stories are there to tell for all of us before we're just now pathetic?”
Aniston: “Still living across from each other in our shared bedrooms.”
Lauer: “A 54-year-old Rachel, right?”
Aniston: “But I now, of course, I don't want it to end at all.”