New star? Jennifer Aniston wins three TV roles

Jennifer AnistonBy Jae-Ha Kim
Chicago Sun-Times
July 23, 1990

After less than one year in Hollywood, actress Jennifer Aniston finds herself in the enviable position of being featured in no less than two comedy series and one made-for-television movie.

Not too bad for a 21-year-old woman who wasn’t sure she even wanted to move back to her native California.

Born in Sherman Oaks, Calif., and reared in New York City, Aniston has a co-starring role as wicked stepsister Courtney in “Molloy,” a new Fox comedy series. It will premiere at 8 p.m. Wednesday on WFLD-Channel 32, and air for for six weeks.

“Ferris Bueller,” Aniston’s other TV series, should fare better. The NBC comedy is based on “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” a hit movie starring Matthew Broderick in the title role. Aniston plays Bueller’s vengeful sister, Jeannie, the role Jennifer Grey originated in the John Hughes film. The new series will air at 7:30 p.m. Mondays this fall on WMAQ-Channel 5, but NBC hasn’t announced the premiere date.

“I haven’t suffered the traumas that so many actors go through here,” Aniston said during a phone conversation from Los Angeles. “I had just visited L.A. last summer to visit my father and my brother, and hadn’t really intended on staying here. But then I thought that it might not be a bad idea to try to get my career going in television. So I decided to stay awhile.

The decision was a good career move. Besides acting in the two series, Aniston also will appear in a made-for-TV movie called “Lights Out” on NBC this fall. The cast includes Sherman Helmsley (from “Amen”) and John Ratzenberger (“Cheers”). Her role is as Ava, a headstrong camp counselor pursued by a camp colleague (played by Brian Robbins from ABC’s “Head of the Class”).

Within three months of arriving in L.A., Aniston won the role of Courtney Walker on “Molloy.” Aniston said other actors probably will be jealous of her good fortune, and rightly so. But she added that luck wasn’t the only factor that won her work so quickly. She also had good timing.

“If I had come to Hollywood three months earlier or three months later than I did, I may have been waiting on tables right now, or back home in New York,” Aniston said. “Getting roles isn’t based solely on talent, unfortunately. Looks, drive and being at the right place at the right time seem to have as much, or more, effect on who gets what role. It’s certainly not fair, but Hollywood isn’t exactly a bastion of fairness.

Honey-haired and green-eyed, Aniston said she never would have won the snobby stepsister role two years ago when she weighed 130 pounds. At 5-foot-5, that weight hardly wouldn’t pegged her in the heifer category. But losing 25 pounds definitely made her more marketable in Hollywood, where the “thin is in” motto seems almost as prevalent as “blond is beautiful.”

“I don’t worry that much about my looks because I’m not a model, I’m an actress,” she said. “But on the other hand, I also have to be aware of what casting directors are looking for, and they usually want these tall, thin, glamorous blond girls.”

Laughing, she added, “Well, I’m not tall, glamorous or blond, but I knew I could at least be thin. So that’s my little contribution to the arts.”

Though she easily jokes about her talent, Aniston also expresses pride in the hard work she put into getting where she is today. While her Hollywood career has gone smoothly so far, she did spend several years toiling in New York with all the other unemployed actors who were waiting to get their big breaks.

A graduate of New York’s High School of the Performing Arts, Aniston studied drama, dance and vocals from age 12. After finishing high school, she worked as a waitress and acted on the side, until she won the lead role in a Greenwich Village production of “Dancing on Checkers Grave,” a one-act drama about two lesbians.

“There was the chance that I could have been stereotyped and my career could have been hurt,” Aniston said. “But I think it’s silly to let prejudice deter you from doing a good project. Hopefully, people are aware enough today to know that actors for the most part are acting. That’s what our job is. If they don’t realize that, they that’s really not our problem. It’s theirs.

“One of the reasons I decided to become an actress was to move people. People may think, ‘Why is she doing two comedy series then?’ It’s funny, ’cause on a very basic level, comedy sometimes is more moving than heavy drama. I know that I’ve watched things that have just moved me so much, and I’m hoping that I’ll be able to have at least a little bit of that effect on some of our viewers.”





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