Marlo Thomas is the actress that played Jennifer Aniston’s mother on Friends, but are the two related in real life?
No, Jennifer Aniston and Marlo Thomas are not related by blood, but they are close in real life. Jennifer considers Marlo to be a family friend. Marlo worked with Jennifer’s father so she has known the family for a long time. Jennifer and Marlo do some charity work together at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
Read on to learn more about Jennifer and Marlo’s friendship!
Marlo Played Jennifer’s Mother on Friends
Marlo Thomas, or Margaret Julia Thomas – her birth name – is Lebanese-American. She has worked as an actress and a producer, but she has also made news an activist throughout her career. Marlo is most famous for her role on the sitcom That Girl, which aired in the late 1960s; and for playing Sandra Green – Rachel Green’s mother – on Friends, the show that launched Jennifer Aniston into fame as well.
When Jennifer felt discouraged because of starring in several unsuccessful shows in the 1980s, the head of NBC entertainment was the one who encouraged her to continue with acting and even helped her get an audition for Friends. Jennifer initially auditioned for the role of Monica Gellar, which went to Courtney Cox. Being cast as Rachel Green instead, Jennifer went on to play one of the most iconic female characters pop culture ever saw.
Jennifer even turned down a spot on SNL to play Rachel in Friends! She won quite a few awards for this role as well, such as a Golden Globe and a Primetime Emmy. She was nominated in other categories for the same awards as well. During the final season of Friends, Jennifer made a hefty $1 million per episode and was named the highest-paid TV actress in 2003.
Jennifer Considered Marlo a Family Friend before Friends
John Aniston played the Kiriakis family patriarch on the show Days of Our Lives for about 30 years, so Jennifer isn’t the only one with acting chops in the family! John knew Marlo Thomas before she ever starred on Friends; the two of them had previously done a play together and were already close friends. Jennifer thus spent quite a bit of time with Marlo as she was growing up. In fact, Jennifer was the one who recommended her to play her on-screen mom when Friends execs were looking to cast Sandra Green.
Marlo spoke to Variety about this, saying, “Her [Jennifer’s] father, John Aniston, and I had done a play together before Jennifer was born. We played brother and sister. When I got the call to play Jennifer’s mother, I said, ‘That’s funny — I already played her aunt!’ We had a great time. She was very excited to have me there because she’d remembered gifts I’d sent her and her brother when she was small.”
Marlo Convinced Jennifer to Work with St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital
Most of Marlo’s activism has been for the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, which was founded by her father – the actor Danny Thomas – in 1962, and for which she serves as National Hospital Director. Located in Memphis, Tennessee, the St. Jude Children’s Hospital is regarded as one of the best pediatric cancer research centers in the country. The hospital states its mission is to “find cures for children with cancer and other catastrophic diseases through research and treatment.”
St. Jude is a nonprofit hospital, but it still has large costs. The approximate $2 million needed for daily operations is largely funded through public donations. This is where celebrity support comes in, people like Jennifer help with fundraising and campaigning using their public platforms.
In the mid-2000s, Marlo asked Jennifer to appear in PSAs for St. Jude. Jennifer agreed and has been filming an annual PSA for St. Jude since 2006. In these ads, she sits next to young patients; talking to them and then asking the public to donate money to help them.
Marlo thought Jennifer would be able to form a strong bond with these children, which was why she asked for her help to begin with. Jennifer herself as spoken often about how much this work means to her. “I stay in contact with the families sometimes,” she has said. “Every year, I get this birthday card that St. Jude makes with all their faces on it. And each of them signs it. They are treated like the angels that they are.”