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‘I was so grateful for my body’: Jennifer Aniston portrays chronic pain

January 5, 2015

In the new movie Cake, Jennifer Aniston plays a woman suffering from chronic, debilitating pain. Her pain is both emotional and physical — her anger is so uncontrollable that she has been kicked out of her chronic pain support group. “You really do not know what happened to this woman,” Aniston tells NPR’s Rachel Martin. “As the story unfolds you slowly start to discover bits of information as to what happened and why she is in this state.”

Aniston says that’s not the kind of narrative that generally gets approved in Hollywood, and so she’s glad this was an independent film. “It’s a little bit more risky, but I think the audiences have really been appreciating it,” she says.

Aniston talks with Martin about her new film, about the time she spent working on Friends, and about her hopes for the future.

Interview Highlights

On how she played a character who is experiencing pain

It was a lot of studying the back, the leg, the neck. Pretty much every single part of her body was hurt, injured. And you really do start to manifest odd little, you know, cricks and … pinches in your neck and lower back pain. … Every week I would have some form of body work, just to make sure, you know, my body didn’t kind of lock into any of that permanently….

Talking to women, or men, who are suffering from chronic pain on a daily basis — it is so unimaginable. I mean, I was so grateful for my body at the end of the day.

On whether she is at a point in her career where she can pick her projects.

Well, you can and you can’t. The truth is: you can become established in a certain category, and I think you are given, you know, offers and opportunities based on how the industry sees you fitting into that — that job. And sometimes you have to kind of take the reins yourself or take a project on and get it made independently so that you can do that work [that] not necessarily another director or studio would see you, you know, fit for. It is, I’ve said, such a catch-22. It’s like, “I know I can do this, you just have to give me the opportunity” and then what comes back is: “Well, we can’t give you the opportunity because we’ve never seen you do this.”

On the time she spent on the sitcom Friends

It was awesome. It was the greatest 10 years. The greatest people to work with every day, the greatest crew, killer writers. Funny. Beloved by people. Not only were we having so much fun ourselves, but the amount of love that people felt for that show, still feel for that show, we tapped into something. I don’t know what the hell, but it was something, really kind of struck a nerve that continues to sort of be hit. And I think that’s so special to be a part of something like that.

On the way she thinks about the future

I kind of live in the moment. And I don’t have a five-year-plan and I don’t have, “OK, so what we’re going to do now is we’re going to go for a character that takes you into a real dark territory …” It’s not a strategy.

On whether she’s seeking out dramatic roles

I see what comes to me. I mean, I’d love to play more dramatic roles but I love comedic roles. I love just good material. But honestly, after doing Cake, I feel like I scratched an itch that’s been needing to be scratched and I want very much to play really wonderful characters and telling a story, exposing a human experience, comedy or drama or both infused. I mean I think comedy and drama go hand in hand. You know, life isn’t one or the other.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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