Courteney Cox Reflects on ‘Friends,’ Her Career, and Yes, Prince Harry Doing Mushrooms at Her House: ‘I Definitely Wasn’t Passing Them Out’
From the start, Courteney Cox was different. She was from Alabama — a place where, she recalls, people were steelworkers or doctors — and didn’t know anything about show business. So, she sought it out. Never in her wildest dreams did she think it’d lead her to a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, to be unveiled Feb. 27.
The summer after she graduated high school, Cox moved to New York City and began modelling.
“I got a job right away and I thought, that was easy,” she recalls. Then the changes came. “It was a makeover. They took the Alabama fresh face and made a little funky style and it was really fun. They changed everything about me — they said I was Kentucky-born and they changed my last name to Myles. I don’t know why! But I never thought that when I was 18 it would lead to a career that I love and have really learned so much … I just kept doing things that led me to something else and I just kept learning and learning and learning.”
She never imagined a time when she’d land a leading role on the biggest show on TV and star in all 236 episodes. She didn’t see a time when she’d be a seven-time Screen Actors Guild Award nominee, one of which she won. Cox wasn’t aware that when she took on the part of a horror movie “bitch,” as she describes it, she’d hold on to the role for nearly three decades.
But that all happened, thanks to her hard work.
“Courteney Cox has been part of the Warner Bros. Television family since she introduced us to the lovable and neurotic Monica Geller on ‘Friends,’ and now she shines as complex matriarch Pat Phelps on ‘Shining Vale,’” says Warner Bros. TV Group chairman and CEO Channing Dungey. “With an acting career that spans multiple genres and characters, there is no doubt that a star on the Walk of Fame is well-deserved. We at WBTV would like to congratulate our brilliant friend Courteney Cox on this incredible achievement.”
In 1987, Cox earned her first recurring role on “Family Ties.” She appeared as Lauren Miller in 19 episodes.
“I was so nervous. It’s so hard to go into a hit show,” she says. “I wasn’t a guest star, I was a recurring character, but every time I went it felt like I was starting from scratch! Being on a show and watching Michael J. Fox was the greatest lesson in acting and comedy that I’ve ever seen. He was able to take one line, break it up into three different parts and get three huge laughs. He’s just a master. It was a great experience — it was nerve-wracking!”
Today, she still gets nervous when she’s joining someone else’s world. However, she says, one of the positive parts of being older is pulling from the past.
“I know how important preparation is and it’s not just relying on your instincts and what you’ve been doing forever. I just keep wanting to better myself and have more layers, more things to draw from. But also, experience changes things,” says Cox. “I mean, it’s crazy how you can be so close to your emotions when you get older because you’ve been through so many more things.”
Getting the Walk of Fame star is also a bit intense: “Speaking in public is the hardest thing for me. It’s why a lot of times I don’t present things because it’s like almost not worth it in my heart rate!”
That didn’t stop her from appearing at dozens of awards shows over the years, as “Friends” was nominated for 62 Primetime Emmy Awards. It helped that the people around her — both the cast and the creative team on the NBC comedy, were a family.
“‘Friends’ taught me the importance of camaraderie and really sticking together. These friendships were at the most important time in my life, and we went through so many things together,” she says. “And it just taught me about being there for each other — I know, that’s the song: ‘I’ll be there for you.’ But it’s true. It was so nice to work with people that could bounce ideas off each other. Everybody wanted the best for everybody. There was no jealousy, it was only, ‘Let’s make the best show we can, and let’s support each other in this.’”
Jennifer Aniston, who refers to “loyal” Cox as her sister, echoes that. “We just have fun when we’re working together. It also helped that we were on one of the funniest-written shows at the time,” says Aniston.
When thinking about her favorite memories working alongside Cox, Aniston struggles to narrow it down. “There’s almost too many to choose just one, but when we did the flashback episodes as young pre-nose-job-Rachel and Monica in high school in the ’80s holds fond memories,” she says.
By the time “Friends” ended, Cox was excited to dive deeper into the industry and be part of what was happening behind the scenes, too. Not only did she lead six seasons of “Cougar Town,” but she also worked as an executive producer; she now serves as an executive producer on “Shining Vale,” which is in production on Season 2.
“I do think that ‘Friends’ was such a unique experience and I’m on a show now that is too. I really love the cast. I think that was really lucky,” she says. “The casting is so important and doing a little research about whether a person has reputation. I think it’s so much about putting together the right kind of people.”
That luck hasn’t just been on TV; two years into “Friends,” Cox landed a role in “Scream.” Little did she know, she’d portray quippy newswoman Gale Weathers for nearly three decades.
“That’s a really fun character, especially at the very beginning when she was so ruthless. I was known from ‘Friends’ and ‘Family Ties,’ known as the girl next door and sweet. I had to talk to [director] Wes Craven and write him a letter and say, ‘I know that you don’t think of me as this person, but trust me, I really can be an absolute bitch,’” she says with a laugh. “It was over the top in the perfect way. You really care about the characters because they were unique, and you don’t laugh at them, you laugh with them because they’re smart. If they were dumb, they were supposed to be and they’re endearing.”
In 2022, the “Scream” franchise relaunched with its fifth movie. In the sixth, which comes out next month, Cox is the only original star returning; last year, Neve Campbell, the face of the franchise, announced she wouldn’t return after her salary offer came in at less than she thought she deserved.
“I missed working with her, but I’m going to support whatever she feels is right,” Cox says. “I have a really good scene with Ghostface and it was amazing. I’ve obviously been stabbed many times and all that, but this time, to work with Ghostface and not know who’s under the mask, it was a really fun. Usually by the time I’m getting stabbed, I know who it is.”
Careful not to give spoilers, Cox can’t share much about where Gale is in the sixth movie, but we couldn’t help but try.
“She still lives in New York, which is great because now the killer’s in New York, just as Sam and Tara have moved there. It kind of fell right into her lap. She wrote a book afterward. She told Sam that she wouldn’t and then of course she did because I mean, someone was going to do it. So, she had to,” Cox says. “Kirby comes — Hayden Panettiere. It’s so interesting how people came back. I have to remember. I thought she died! I get so confused. There’s been so many. I’m just so excited to be a part of something this long.”
She just saw a cut without an audience and her reaction was everything she hoped for: “Wow.”
“I was excited, I was scared. Even if I know every single person and what’s gonna happen and why and when, I won’t look. It’s so realistic. And I laughed! I cared.”
Currently, she’s continuing her love of comedy and horror combined with “Shining Vale.” One of the main storylines in the show is about getting older and how things change — something she’s proud to be experiencing.
“The place I am in right now is the happiest I’ve ever been. There’s a lot of things that are not great about getting older, but there’s a lot of great things and that is being in a place where I love working. I try harder now at things. I care more. I love directing. I love acting. I love producing,” she explains. “I feel like I’ve been doing it long enough that I actually know what I’m doing and then I can excel. I can be better. I take more chances. There’s just something about the confidence of time, of doing something so long, I probably love it more now than I ever have.”
As for what she still wants to do, the options are limitless. Right now, she’s fascinated with anything based on a factual story — she can’t get enough of true crime — and is hopeful that a script she recently read will get made.
“Her name is Courtney Myles, which is weird because that was my name when I started! She did the second season of ‘Mind Hunter,’ and she wrote a script that we got the rights to,” says Cox. “She wrote an incredible script. We have great producers, and I’m really hoping that this happens because that would be my next project — directing something that I’m so passionate about that’s based on a true story.”
With anyone who’s been in the business this long, there’s also always the option of writing a book — something her co-star Matthew Perry recently did. But he wasn’t the only one who wrote about Cox.
There was another best-seller that she was mentioned in that made even more headlines: Prince Harry’s “Spare.” In the memoir, he recalled once spontaneously partying at Cox’s home and finding “a box of black diamond mushroom chocolates” in her fridge.
“He did stay here for a couple of days — probably two or three. He’s a really nice person,” she says with a laugh. She also recently saw him at a birthday party and wanted to say hi, but kept to herself since he was talking to others. “I haven’t read the book. I do want to hear it, because I’ve heard it’s really entertaining. But yes, it’s gotten back to me about it. I’m not saying there were mushrooms! I definitely wasn’t passing them out.”