Jennifer Aniston was fashionably late for our brief interview in a Los Angeles hotel, and freely admits that tardiness is one her least attractive faults. "Yean I tend to be late," she explains, somewhat sweetly as we set about trying to ascertain what aspects of her personality she likes the least, as it pertains to her latest character in the new romantic comedy, Along Came Polly.
"I'm maybe too sensitive and perhaps I sometimes talk too much. Just ask my husband, who could say 'Talks too much.' I only pick when the game is on. I pick that time." Not that this same talkativeness applies to interviews. To the print media, at least, Aniston comes across as surprisingly shy and insecure, which is unusual given the kinds of comically verbose characters we're used to seeing the 34-year old California native play on screen. From Rachel Green, the role synonymous with Aniston's career, through to characters in the likes of Office Space, The Good Girl, Bruce Almighty and Along Came Polly, Aniston is wildly irreverent.
These days, the actress is preparing to bid farewell to Friends, a subject that comes up all the time, but one she freely accepts. Aniston admits that it has been difficult trying to find characters far removed from her television persona "because Rachel has become the universal female. She was a lot more 'princessy' and spoiled in the beginning, but that's why a movie like Along Came Polly was really fun. It is hard to find scripts like this where it's so just character driven, the story is simple and not contrived in any way, which I love."
In Along Came Polly, Aniston stars as a free spirit who teaches a conservative Ben Stiller how to loosen up after being jilted by his wife on his honeymoon. It's a role tailor-made for Aniston who admits that the fictional Polly and the actress share one common trait. "I think we share a commitment phobia at certain times, in terms of making big plans. Not relationship commitments but I usually like to make options for myself as opposed to plans. I feel like I'm a little bit of between Ben's Ruben and Polly."
Not that Aniston hasn't made some huge plans in her life, apart from her very healthy marriage to fellow superstar Brad Pitt, the couple spent almost a year preparing to live in a new house, which Jennifer actively helped decorate. "We have to get furniture though, but we're in." And even Friends, which is now in its 10th and final season, was a huge commitment for the actress, though of course she had no idea what the impact of that series would ultimately have on her life. Looking back on those 10 years, she jokes that one aspect of her that has developed is her hair. "Well, I'm glad it finally grew out. I didn't like that too much. You just see all of us with like baby fat, and we're just little 24 and 25 year olds." She adds that looking back, Friends was almost another life for her, "but it also feels like it's just happened. I don't know where the 10 years have really gone."
Nor did Aniston expect the kind of almost surreal fame and adulation that came over time. The actress remains the show's most photographed cast member and one of the most photographed celebrities in the world. "That kind of thing is always weird and that will always be a weird thing but I don't really know why. I think, it is bizarre and I almost don't feel like I want to become ok with it because it is just so unacceptable sometimes to the degrees that some people will go to. Some of it of course is fine and not a problem. Oddly enough in the beginning, I remember going out with Schwimmer and people came up to me and asked me if he was on Friends." What a difference a decade makes! Now that the reality of its demise is hitting the cast, Aniston says that this final year, leading to the series' bone hour finale, "is one of the hardest things I have ever gone through." Asked if her life is expected to change drastically when it's all over, Aniston pauses. "Hopefully it will be pretty seamless but it will be different. There will be a huge void but with a bit of luck there will be life after Friends," she offers, smilingly. That life, of course, includes creating a raising a family. "That's definitely next and I'm excited about it. I think we're good and ready to dive in. It was all about letting Friends be over as I really wanted that chapter of my life to kind of come to a close and then have something to do." In terms of juggling motherhood with her career, that's a no-brainer. "I have so many girlfriends that can do all of it and I know I will want to be around for a lot of it. I'm going to try not to work that much but I'd love an excuse to stay home." The genuine affection Aniston has of her Friends TV cast is real, and testament to the bond felt between this group. It is also the show that finely tuned Aniston as an award-winning comedic actress. She happily admits that at her core, she remains a comedienne, admitting that her penchant of comedy comes from "a dysfunctional family. It was a survival technique for me, growing u, just with parents bickering. If you can make somebody laugh it would always lighten up the room." Inspired by "Carol Burnett, Lucy and Mary Tyler Moore", Aniston admits she was always the class clown. "I was put in the hallway a lot. That's what we did at our school: 'Go stand in the hall'."
School for Aniston the famed Rudolph Steiner, where no doubt her love of acting came from. "It really develops the creative part of the brain. There are no textbooks. You illustrate your own text books and take dictation and have your main lesson on the Middle Ages or whatever and just create your own books. Or they stick an instrument in your hand in first grade and you go into a room filled with violins, cellos and flutes and they're just there for you to just choose what you want to - I've played every instrument. I don't know how strong it was on the academic side but creatively it was extraordinary - knitting, sculpting and woodcarving and all that."
And from that experience grew a love of performing. 10 years after Friends made her a star, Jennifer Aniston has developed into a well-rounded human being. As for her future, there are babies to be conceived and a movie career that's consistently good to her, but not necessarily more television. "The truth is, it's not that I wouldn't do television again, but I just don't know how I'd follow Friends which is a tough act to follow." If she DID do any TV soon, it would be as a guest star on fellow cast member Matt Le Blanc's post-Friends spin off, Joey. "That'd be next, TV-wise; I'm so proud of him".