With Cake, Jennifer Aniston appears to be following in the footsteps of fellow rom-com star Matthew McConaughey. After a career filled with lighthearted roles and the occasional dramatic turn, Aniston has received widespread acclaim and awards nominations for portraying a woman in a chronic pain support group facing deep personal problems in the film. In an interview with The New York Times, Aniston speaks about the challenges she faced while filming Cake and the difficulties she even had in getting cast in the film.
Aniston admits that it wasn’t easy to get the chance to appear in this film. When asked how she got involved, she replies, “By begging and pleading and saying, ‘Trust me, please, I can do this.’ I was reading things and they weren’t exciting to me. I wanted something to just be a sucker punch. I read it in about an hour and a half, it was so beautifully written. It happened to be out with some other wonderful actress at the time, and I just said, ‘If that does not work out please let me throw my hat in the ring.’ And [the director Daniel Barnz] — there’s always that risk of someone saying ‘This isn’t a Jennifer Aniston thing’ — but he just thought ‘That would be interesting and unexpected and I enjoyed The Good Girl.'”
The Friends actress was particularly focused on working with material that was different from her usual films. She explains, “It was just so many things that I wanted to explore because it rang some bell with me. The hardest part was trying to step in the shoes of somebody who was this dark and not knowing how to get up and move through the day and whether she wants to even continue getting up and moving through the days.”
Besides preparing herself mentally for the position, Aniston had to tone down her famous looks that regularly land her on “Most Beautiful People” lists. She reveals, “It was all about there can be no muscle definition. I basically let myself go for the five and a half weeks that I gave myself to do the preparation, to be in that head space and live in pajamas. I didn’t hate it. It’s pretty nice to take a break. But it was hard at times because being physical to me helps me through my day, it helps me sleep, so it really lent itself to the character to just not pay attention.”
Because Aniston’s character suffers from chronic pain, she did some research to discover the effects pain medication would have on her character. She reveals, “I went straight to a psychopharmacologist, and I said, ‘Read the script,’ because I didn’t know what the effect was of Oxycontin mixed with an Ambien, mixed with booze… I made these little flashcards because we were shooting out of order, just so that I could say, ‘On drugs,’ ‘Not on drugs,’ ‘Mid-drugs.'” In fact, she received assistance on set to remind her what state of mind her character was in, adding, “My script supervisor would be like [mock yells] ‘Stoned!’ ‘Am I drunk?’ ‘No Vicodin? Yes Vicodin?’ ‘How many Vicodins?'”
As for working outside of her wheelhouse, Aniston confesses that Cake provided the professional challenge she expected that having a challenging role would provide. She says, “I’ve never had this experience creatively. And honestly, it checked all the boxes of what a complete actor experience would be in my mind.“