Jennifer Aniston's 'Cake' & the Most Dramatic Roles of Every 'Friends' Star

The main appeal of Jennifer Aniston’s upcoming movie Cake is the opportunity to see the actress in a wholly new light. The first trailer for Cake, a film which debuted back in September at the Toronto International Film Festival, shows off a gritty, despondent, licentious Aniston — a far cry from the version of her to which we’re accustomed. In the movie, Aniston plays a chronically depressed woman who sparks up a sexual relationship with a man shortly after his wife, who was a fellow member of Aniston’s character’s support group, commits suicide. The late woman in question then begins appearing to Aniston via mental projection.

So ostensibly fresh is this view of the former Friends star's performing prowess that Oscar nomination talks have already begun. While festival reviews for the movie have been decidedly mixed, the thrill of seeing Rachel Green board altogether new terrain is an interesting prospect in its own right.

After all, it has always… or almost always… been interesting to see the Friends stars opt for dramatic or otherwise different kinds of material. Just as Cake is setting up to be Aniston’s critical breakout, what are some of the best, darkest, and overall least Friendsiest projects boarded by the Central Park sextet in the past?

DAVID SCHWIMMER

Although Schwimmer has spent considerably less noteworthy time on camera than his colleagues have in recent years, he’s got some of the best pieces under his belt. In 2001, the socially conscious multihyphenate starred in the acclaimed World War II miniseries Band of Brothers and the Holocaust TV movie Uprising, playing civil rights leader Icchak Cukierman in the latter.

LISA KUDROW

When you look at how much more theatrically comical her performance on Friends was than that of any of her counterparts (save, perhaps, for Schwimmer in the later, screechier days), it’s not very surprising that she hasn’t really strayed much from comedy. That said, she’s got a few critically esteemed laffers to her name, like the very ‘90s flick Clockwatchers, the Albert Brooks/Debbie Reynolds dramedy Mother, or the mobster farce Analyze This. She did play a schoolteacher who contracted an STD after cheating on her fiancé with a student in Easy A which, in earnest, is pretty dark. That said, Kudrow’s dramatic realm is far from vacant: notable entries include Powder Blue and The Other Woman.

COURTENEY COX

Cox is an interesting entry in this conversation, as her darkest and most dramatic roles are hardly the ones you’d call her best. During and since her run on Friends, Cox starred in heavier pictures like The Runner, 3000 Miles to Graceland, Get Well Soon, November, and The Tripper (in a smaller role), as well as in the short-lived, intensely gritty series Dirt. Even with all these dramas and thrillers on her résumé, Cox’s best cinematic exploit to date is that fan favorite satirical horror flick, the original Scream.

MATT LEBLANC

Yeah, he doesn’t really have much going on here.

MATTHEW PERRY

Perry has seen a lot of television series come and go since leaving Friends behind, none lasting more than a year. While most of his projects have been run-of-the-mill sitcom fodder, his first post-Friends stab was of remarkably higher caliber: the Aaron Sorkin TV industry drama Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. At only 22 episodes long, the show managed a breadth of dramatic quality that Perry never really got to tackle on Friends.

That said, I reserve a special piece of my heart for his 1997 romantic dramedy Fools Rush In. It’s not very good, but it was always playing on HBO when I was in high school, which is really the finest quality a movie can foster.

AND WHAT ABOUT ANISTON?

Although Cake is being touted as a whole new world for Rachel Karen Green, we’d be remiss to forget about The Good Girl, a weird, sinister, darkly comic turn for Aniston and Jake Gyllenhaal, directed by Miguel Arteta and written by Mike White. And hey, if we’re going for broke, there’s always that dramatic majesty that is The Iron Giant.

Images: Cinelou Films; NBC (6)