If there is one industry where running into an ex can be considered a rampant professional hazard, then it is Hollywood. For Friends star Jennifer Aniston a real-life break-up made things visibly uncomfortable for all during the shoot. And if you thought it was Aniston’s most famous ex, Brad Pitt, who also guest starred on Friends, then think again.
Aniston dated Tate Donovan for quite some time before he guest-starred on the show as Rachel’s crush, Joshua. For Donovan, the prospect of working alongside his former flame on the iconic television show Friends proved to be a daunting ordeal. The real-life break-up that unfolded behind the scenes almost derailed the production, casting a shadow on what is now considered one of the most beloved sitcoms of all time.
On the show, Donovan portrayed Joshua, a recently divorced businessman who became the object of Rachel’s affection. The humorous twist in the storyline had Rachel coming on too strong, influenced by Ross and Emily’s whirlwind romance on the side, and ultimately scaring Joshua away.
Jennifer Aniston and Tate Donovan’s romance
Contrary to popular belief, Donovan and Aniston’s romantic entanglement began way before they set foot on the Friends set. The two had already been together for two years before their professional paths converged. When Donovan spoke to Us Weekly about his experience, he revealed his emotional turmoil while acting alongside Aniston, sharing that he was “dying inside” as they filmed each scene. The circumstances were, in his own words, “really tough.”
Their real-life relationship had crumbled by the time the cameras started rolling on Rachel’s budding but obviously doomed crush on Joshua. Donovan candidly admitted, “Jennifer and I were breaking up at the time.” This created an issue, as they had to portray characters who were falling in love while their own love was unravelling.
The actor’s stint on Friends was brief, consisting of only six episodes, primarily because the emotional toll of working with his ex-girlfriend became unbearable. Donovan also said, “That was tricky to sort of act, and act like we are just meeting each other, and falling in love, or whatever, interested in each other, when we’re sort of breaking up. That was just tough.”
Nonetheless, despite the personal dilemma, Donovan looks back on his time on the show with fondness. “It was good,” when he looked back on his time, as per Marie Claire. “It was really ultimately a great experience of how people can treat you really well, and you still do your job even though you’re sort of dying inside.”
The two first crossed paths in 1995 through a mutual friend. Although Donovan had reservations about entering another high-profile relationship after dating Sandra Bullock, the undeniable chemistry between the two led to a rekindled romance. Their love story culminated in an engagement in 1998, but the exact reasons for their ultimate separation have remained private.
At the time of their engagement, Aniston sang Donovan’s praises, calling him the “perfect guy.” She described him as “so real, so honest, so funny, so kind, and considerate.” But ultimately, as Donovan reflects, it got too much to continue working together, “We were like: ‘Hey, can we not keep doing this? Cause this is really painful and tough.’”