Tate Donovan Thought ‘Friends’ Would Make His Breakup With Jennifer Aniston Easier: ‘I Was Totally Wrong’

Tate Donovan and Jennifer Aniston dated from 1995 until 1998. Despite their breakup, the actor went on to play Aniston’s love interest, Joshua, in Friends, a decision he thought would help make their separation easier. However, that was not the case. As Donovan recalls to The Office star Brian Baumgartner, he was “totally wrong.” Find out why Donovan thought doing Friends with Aniston was a good idea.

Rachel (Jennifer Aniston) and Joshua (Tate Donovan) in season 4 of
Jennifer Aniston as Rachel Green, Tate Donovan as Joshua Bergen | Alice S. Hall/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images

Tate Donovan said the ‘Friends’ set was ‘like a family’

During their three-year relationship, Donovan would frequently visit the set of Friends. “I would go to the taping and it was so much fun to watch those guys go,” Donovan told Baumgartner on his podcast Off the Beat. “They were such an amazing team and to be behind the scenes and see them work was so much fun.”


Donovan visited so frequently, he knew many of the people working behind the scenes of Friends, including the directors and assistant directors. “[It was] like a family,” Donovan admitted.

Tate and Jennifer kept their breakup a secret from the ‘Friends’ cast

Going through a breakup is difficult no matter who you are, but it’s especially tough when you have to pretend you’re falling in love with the other person for the sake of a show. That’s what happened to Donovan when he agreed to play the Bloomingdale customer Rachel Green falls for in season 4 of Friends.

“Jen and I are breaking up … – nobody knew we were breaking up — we were living together and I decided I was going to move out,” Donovan recalled to Baumgartner. “I found a new place, it’s heartbreaking and awful and miserable, but no one knew. We sort of kept it close to the vest.”

Tate Donovan guest-starring on ‘Friends’ was supposed to ‘ease the breakup’

Shortly after their relationship ended, Friends producers contacted Tate about doing the show. “We would love to have you on the show for a five-episode arc,” Donovan recalls them saying. “Then I thought, mistakingly, maybe if we work together, maybe it’ll sort of ease the breakup.”

He continued: “We’ll still get to see each other. Maybe this will be a good thing to work together. And I was totally wrong. It was very difficult to work and be in a comedic scene with somebody you were breaking up with.”

Despite their breakup, Donovan was still glad to be part of Friends, however briefly. “I was just happy to be on the team,” Donovan told US Weekly in 2018. “The only bummer was Jennifer and I were breaking up at the time…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.”

Tate Donovan’s other famous exes

Before dating Aniston, Donovan was in a relationship with Sandra Bullock from 1990 until 1994 (via Vanity Fair). He later married writer Corinne Kingsbury in 2005, but they divorced in 2008 (via People).

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