Tate Donovan Recalls 'Painful' Time Working With Jennifer Aniston on 'Friends' After Split

Tate Donovan, Jennifer Aniston
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Imagine falling hard for someone, then breaking up just when you’re asked to fall for that same person all over again – while on camera.

That was the dilemma that Tate Donovan faced when he was cast as Rachel’s (Jennifer Aniston) new boyfriend on Friends in 1998, just as the pair’s real-life romance was coming to an end.

“I was just happy to be on the team. The only bummer was Jennifer and I were breaking up at the time,” the now 54-year-old actor tells Us Weekly while recalling the situation. “And so 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.”

Diehard fans will remember that Donovan was cast as Joshua, Rachel’s personal shopping client at Bloomingdale’s. She soon developed a thing for him and endeavored to get his attention, which included giving him Knicks tickets in the hopes that he would take her. She even donned a high school cheerleading outfit to catch his eye! However, Donovan now admits that, off camera, the entire experience was an ordeal.

Jennifer Aniston, Tate Donovan, Friends
Alice S. Hall/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

“It was just six episodes. I mean, only because we were breaking up. We were like, ‘Hey, can we not keep doing this? ‘Cause this is really painful and tough,’” he says. “The people that know that we dated think that we met on Friends. But in fact, we had dated for two years before then, and it was over by the time we were on Friends together.”

Despite the rocky circumstances, the MacGyver star says he felt extremely welcome during his short time on the legendary show.

“Those six people were amazing to me. They were fantastic. It wasn’t cliquey for me at all. I was lucky,” he admits. “The good thing that came out of it was that everyone was really cool about it, and really as helpful as they could be. In other words, they were just compassionate, very compassionate about the whole breakup. It was sort of like I proved that, hey, I guess I’m a pro. If you can go through a tough breakup, and still do your job, then you’re a pro. It was good. 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.”

In fact, when he first joined the cast, they played a particularly clever prank on him.

“They had all of these beautiful dressing rooms behind the stage, and a lot of times guest stars would get the dressing rooms,” he recalls. “But [I was taken on] a 15-minute walk through the back alleys of Warner Brothers Studios. And finally I get to this dumpy wooden trailer from the ’30s. I swear to God. It had carpet that smelled and old fruit that was lying around. It was disgusting — and flies.

“Then they came back for rehearsal. They all were looking at me, the whole cast,” he adds. “And I was like, ‘Hey, what’s up guys? How are you doing?’ And they were like, ‘You’re the worst, man. Of course that’s not your trailer.’” It turns out his nonchalant response foiled their hijinks.

Friends fans know that ultimately Rachel ended up with Ross (David Schwimmer), but Donovan guesses that Joshua is doing just fine as well.

“Joshua is happily married and has an 18 year-old-kid who is about to go to college,” he muses. “He’s doing well. He’s doing good.”

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