On September 22, 1994, six barely known young actors appeared on screen together for the first time in what marked the beginning of what would be the greatest professional experience of their lives: Friends, one of the most successful television comedies of all time. Almost instantly, the six leads became some of the most recognizable people on the planet, changing their lives forever. Nearly three decades after the show’s final episode aired, on May 6, 2004, all of them have continued their careers with varying degrees of success under a fierce media spotlight. Courteney Cox, who played Monica Geller, recently gave an interview with The Times in which she discussed the show, her life now and why Friends remains important to her.
Cox, 57, says she sees “nothing wrong” with being 60, but the number still surprises her. “It’s so hard to even hear or say. I can’t believe it,” she told The Times. “I just can’t believe it. Time goes so fast. There’s no question that I am more grounded, I’ve learned so much in my life – what to enjoy, what to try to do more of and what to let go of.”
Cox says she has also stopped trying to look the same as she did on Friends, as a twenty to thirty-something, which was something she found hard to accept for a time. “There was a time when you go, ‘Oh, I’m changing. I’m looking older.’ And I tried to chase that [youthfulness] for years,” she said. “And I didn’t realize that, oh shit, I’m actually looking really strange with injections and doing stuff to my face that I would never do now.”
She also revealed that she considered posting two photos on Instagram – one before and after the implants – to compare her face then and now. “I would post the following message: ‘The day that you realize what your friends are talking about.’ Because people would talk about me, I think. But there was a period where I went, ‘I’ve got to stop. That’s just crazy.”’
The actor also acknowledges the media constant attention – and on occasions, the pressure and criticism – faced by women who are logically aging, but takes it all with a pinch of salt: “The scrutiny is intense, but I don’t know if it could be more intense than what I put on myself,” she said. “I’m a product whore. I will try anything.”
Cox is promoting her new show, a comedy-horror called Shining Vale, in which her character, a writer of erotic novels who is going through an existential crisis and fighting depression, moves from New York to the country with her teenage daughter. It’s a parallel to her own life, with Cox mother to a 17-year-old, Coco, who is finishing high school. In the show her relationship with her daughter is complicated, which is not the case in real life – Cox says she is “grateful to be able to understand” her own child. What she doesn’t understand quite as readily is how Coco, whose father is the actor David Arquette, Cox’s ex-husband, can have over 300,000 Instagram followers. “I don’t like that she has them. It just feels weird to me. What are people attaching to?” she wonders.
Although Cox has had many post-Friends roles in movies, television, videos and musicals, as well as trying her hand as a director and producer, the role of the competitive, controlling but fun-loving chef Monica Geller, continues to define her life almost 30 years after she landed the part, at the age of 30. Whenever she watches an episode today, she says, it still seems “funny and relevant.”
“I’m happy it’s survived all this time and people still love it. If people stop loving it, that would be worse.” As a curiosity, Cox says she is also a perfectionist and enjoys cooking and entertaining guests, as does Monica. She says she will never disown Friends, and that she will never tire of it. “That was such a huge part of my life. It was such a lucky situation that I fell into the show, and I went through so many things in those 10 years.” The cast recently reunited for a one-off special, and Cox says it was “fantastic” to see everyone again. She also spoke about the pressure suffered by her co-star and, later in the show, on-screen partner Matthew Perry, who played Chandler, because of his role as joker-in-chief. “That was a lot of pressure he put on himself.”
Cox also revealed that she and her co-leads Jennifer Aniston and Lisa Kudrow are as close in real life as they were on set: “We’re just really comfortable. We’ve shared so much history together and we laugh. Lisa’s laugh alone is the most infectious laugh I’ve ever heard. It’s adorable. We have deep conversations; we also have silly times.”
Despite having played cult roles including Monica and Gale Weathers in the Scream franchise, or perhaps because of that, Cox admits she still suffers from the insecurity of a complex profession. “I don’t want to expose myself again without the security of knowing it’s going to work,” she says. In the interview, she recalls filming a pilot five years ago that never made it to production: “It shook me for a little while. I mean for years in some weird way, I was scared to go back out.” As such, Cox also revealed she tries not to read reviews, but when she does, she often skips straight to the first mention of her name. “Let me skip all the ‘What do you think about the film?’ Just, what did you say about me?”
Today, Cox is in a relationship with Snow Patrol guitarist Johnny McDaid. The pair split their time between both sides of the Atlantic and, Cox says, have no plans to marry. She is also close friends with singer Ed Sheeran, who stays at her Malibu house when he is in the area. Asked by The Times if she habitually hangs out with younger people, she replied she doesn’t think about and has lots of friends in their 30s. “I feel like I’m young. To me, they’re the same age… until I stop to think about it.”