Reese Witherspoon may have an Oscar to her name, but she’s still vulnerable to the same fears as the rest of us; particularly one that prevented her from returning to Friends.
The Oscar-winning actor put in a guest cameo on the iconic show back in 2000, and famously stirred up trouble for her sibling when she set her sights on Rachel’s on-off love interest Ross (David Schwimmer). Fans will recall Rachel telling Jill she can’t date Ross, to which Jill hits back with the immortal line, “Can’t have? Can’t have? The only thing I can’t have is dairy.”
However, Witherspoon revealed this week that she turned down an invitation by producers to appear on the show again. Why? She was terrified at the prospect of having to perform another time in front of a live studio audience.
Friends was famously filmed live, but it was a format Witherspoon could not get on-board with as stage fright kicked in.
During an interview with AP Entertainment, Witherspoon and Aniston – who have now revived their working relationship on Apple TV+ series The Morning Show – are asked about what it’s like to perform live.
Witherspoon praises Aniston’s skills honed over a decade-long stint on Friends, and Aniston returns the compliment.
“You are [good] too. You forget it because you blacked out of fear,” Aniston tells Witherspoon, of her Friends performance. “But she was so good and you were flawless.”
Witherspoon admits she’s “never done it again”, adding: “Did you know they asked me back and I said, ‘No, I can’t do it.’ I was too scared.”
The confession appears to take Aniston by surprise, as she jokingly responds: “How dare you say this!”
“You got scared?” she adds. “What a shame. You would have started to love it.”
Aniston goes onto say that, while she’s fine with live performances, she struggles giving speeches in real life – and says her legs often end up shaking through nerves.
Stage fright is one aspect of public speaking phobia; one of the most common forms of fear. Research shows that over half the nation has, like Witherspoon, avoided taking certain jobs because of the very same feeling. One eye-opening study from 2013 found that people feared public speaking more than death itself.
Witherspoon’s rejection of another Friends stint is not the only surprise news to come out of the show this week.
On Thursday, Freddie Prinze Jr. revealed in an interview with Entertainment Tonight that he was never supposed to take on the guest star role as Sandy, Rachel and Ross’ “manny”.
“That [part] was originally offered to Tom Hanks but he wasn’t gonna make it back from his film on time,” Prinze Jr. said. “And so my agent called me and said, ‘Do you want to be on Friends? And I said, ‘Yeah, I’ll do an episode of Friends. That’ll be great.’ He said, ‘Yeah, it shoots tomorrow.’ and I was like, ‘What?’ He said, ‘Yes, tomorrow so I’ll send you the script.’”
The actor said Schwimmer soothed his nerves about performing live, telling him: “You’ll have a ton of fun, don’t worry about a thing.”