RISE AND SHINE

Jennifer Anis­ton drew on her own ex­pe­ri­ence to play a break­fast TV an­chor fac­ing a cri­sis, writes

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - TV Guide - - FRONT PAGE - Holly Byrnes

IF you’re ex­pect­ing to meet Rachel from Friends or any num­ber of roles where Jennifer Anis­ton has played Amer­ica’s sweet­heart in her new TV re­turn Morn­ing Wars, then think again.

As a take-no-pris­on­ers news an­chor in the long-awaited de­but of Ap­pleTV’s first orig­i­nal drama series, Anis­ton – as Alex Levy – is a woman to be reck­oned with and at the beat­ing heart of a show which ex­plores cor­po­rate power, du­plic­i­tous al­liances and the timely is­sue of sex­ual ha­rass­ment in show busi­ness and its en­su­ing fall­out.

When ac­cu­sa­tions come to light of al­leged in­ap­pro­pri­ate be­hav­iour by Alex’s long-time co-an­chor Mitch Kessler (Steve Carell), this sea­soned TV sur­vivor on cam­era quickly switches to cri­sis mode.

Anis­ton cer­tainly had plenty of real-life ex­pe­ri­ence to draw on, given the tu­mul­tuous time she’s had in the public eye for much of her 50 years.

Be­fore a string of ac­tor boyfriends, it was her re­la­tion­ship, mar­riage and 2005 di­vorce from Brad Pitt – after his re­ported in­fi­delity with Angelina Jolie – that po­si­tioned Anis­ton, un­will­ingly it must be said, as an A-list vic­tim, known to sym­pa­thetic fans as ‘poor Jen’.

When her sec­ond two-year mar­riage to Justin Th­er­oux ended in 2017, the public pity con­tin­ued in her favour.

Add an ac­ri­mo­nious re­la­tion­ship with her (now de­ceased) mother, as well as ru­mours of count­less preg­nan­cies and plas­tic surgery pro­ce­dures, Anis­ton has ad­mirably re­sisted play­ing into this soap opera – can­did and hon­est to a fault.

Asked what per­sonal life crises she drew on for her lat­est TV role, the sassy star laughs.

“Gosh. Where do I start?,” she tells Watch.

“We all have our own ver­sions of a cri­sis that we walk through. Some­times you’re a per­son in the public eye and you have to learn how to do it grace­fully. Some don’t. But I chose, as much as hu­manly pos­si­ble, to walk through trou­bled times with as much grace as pos­si­ble. And also, I have a beau­ti­ful group of men and women that I talk to and seek their coun­sel.”

She pauses: “You know, I’ve been do­ing this for 30 years and I’ve been un­der the mi­cro­scope for all of it. It’s not al­ways easy to turn the noise down. There are mo­ments when you’re the belle of the ball, and there are mo­ments when you’re not up to par.”

Through it all, she says, she has learned to fight for her­self.

“Yes, I ac­tu­ally have and you come to re­alise that’s not a bad thing. It took a cou­ple of years to gain the con­fi­dence that I am worth fight­ing for.”

Clearly proud of the woman she’s emerged, she adds without con­ceit: “I am a pow­er­ful woman. I have op­por­tu­ni­ties and I can ac­knowl­edge that I know where I’ve come from, I know what I’ve gone through, and I know how for­tu­nate and blessed I am to be where I am to­day.”

Her col­lab­o­ra­tion with Big Lit­tle Lies favourite Reese Wither­spoon, who plays Bradley Jack­son, a trav­el­ling news re­porter from West Vir­ginia, re­flects those in­dus­try con­nec­tions.

Hav­ing played her younger sis­ter on two episodes of Friends back in 2000, the pair have long been firm friends and looked to pro­duce some­thing to­gether.

This series – called The Morn­ing Show in­ter­na­tion­ally, but re­named in Aus­tralia be­cause of Seven’s pro­gram of the same name – is based on a

2013 book called

Top of the Morn­ing, penned by CNN cor­re­spon­dent, Brian Stel­ter. Worlds away from the fa­mil­ial bond they shared on Friends, their re­la­tion­ship in Morn­ing Wars, starts out as com­pli­cated and ad­ver­sar­ial.

“I’ve al­ways found the be­hindthe-scenes of the morn­ing talk shows so fas­ci­nat­ing,” Anis­ton of­fers. “It al­ways seemed to have that cut-throat qual­ity that would be an in­ter­est­ing world to ex­plore. And then #Me­Too hap­pened, and so it beau­ti­fully wrote it­self in a strange way.

“We show the abuse of power, peo­ple turn­ing a blind eye to it who are com­plicit, and then the guilt from that, which is also some­thing we’re ex­plor­ing now. We have a whole new rule book and ev­ery­body’s try­ing to fig­ure out how we ma­noeu­vre through this land­scape.” She ad­mits too that she dug deep into her own ex­pe­ri­ences, par­tic­u­larly for mo­ments re­quir­ing height­ened emo­tion. “The show’s been a re­ally great out­let for get­ting an­gry,” she laughs. “Hon­estly, there have been scenes where I’ve had to go down into the dark dun­geon of mem­o­ries that hadn’t re­ally been touched upon in a long time and al­low it to be chan­nelled out in a way that is not my­self at all.

“I don’t lose my tem­per, I just don’t,” she shrugs. “Maybe it’s be­cause I grew up with rag­ing tem­pers [around me] that I’ve never thought it was pro­duc­tive.”

In­ter­est­ingly, she also re­veals she has never been sub­jected to sex­ual ag­gres­sion in the work­place. “I’ve been very lucky.”

Fif­teen years after she left tele­vi­sion when Friends wrapped, she’s aware the world is a very dif­fer­ent place but hope­ful the show’s rel­e­vance will strike a chord.

“Gosh, I re­ally hope we con­tinue to tell sto­ries that peo­ple want to hear and in do­ing so, peo­ple get a lit­tle peek be­hind the cur­tain,” she says. “And also, Ap­ple TV, be­ing the wild, wild west – it’s been ex­cit­ing to be part of some­thing that’s lit­er­ally come up out of the ground for the first time.”

On-screen ri­vals: Jennifer Anis­ton and Reese Wither­spoon in Morn­ing Wars; be­low, Anis­ton with co-star Steve Carell.

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