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Kudrow forges diverse post-‘Friends’ career

At 46, Lisa Kudrow isn't ditzy Phoebe Buffay any more. She has become a viable force as an actress and producer in television, Internet and independent film.
/ Source: Reuters

Actress Lisa Kudrow says she was never really cut out to play naive young women.

Luckily, she hasn't had to in a busy post "Friends" career that has seen her become a viable force as an actress and producer in television, Internet and independent film.

"Let's face it, I was never a great ingenue to begin with," said Kudrow, now 46. "I always knew I'd have to do either my own stuff or play interesting character roles."

Kudrow gained fame playing ditzy blonde Phoebe on "Friends" for 10 years. By the time the show ended in 2004, the cast was earning a $1 million dollars each per episode.

This paycheck made Kudrow and her co-stars Jennifer Aniston and Courteney Cox not only the highest paid TV actresses of all time but gave them the luxury of choice in the future.

"That show did nothing but afford us opportunity forever after," says a grateful Kudrow.

Kudrow's latest movie is alongside Jeff Daniels, Ryan Reynolds and Emma Stone in the independent movie "Paper Man," which opens in U.S. movie theaters on Friday.

Kudrow plays the surgeon wife to her failed novelist husband (Daniels). While she's off working, her husband develops a friendship with a teenage girl (Stone). At the same time, he also gets advice from an imaginary childhood superhero (Reynolds).

"This was a better version of the (traditional) wife character," says Kudrow. "I liked the idea of how one girl's charming guy is a wife's huge burden."

Finding familyFilm work is just one facet of Kudrow's busy professional life.

She recently executive produced and appeared in the genealogy TV reality series "Who Do You Think You Are?". The NBC network has already picked it up for a second season.

It is based on the long running British documentary series of the same name where celebrities journey to trace his or her family tree.

"I'm really proud to have brought the show to the U.S. and that it's my contribution to television," says the actress, whose own episode was not without trepidation.

Learning about her Jewish heritage involved visiting an Eastern European concentration camp where her great-grandparents and others family members were massacred. It's a trip she had avoided in the past, preferring to keep "an emotional distance because it's too overwhelming to know that that kind of horror exists."

The experience brought many feelings to the surface before Kudrow ultimately made peace with the reality of what happened to her family.

"What's important is that I survived it and I'm here to carry on," she said.

Power of the WebIn carrying on her family name and heritage, the actress has made her own history in the entertainment industry.

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During the "Friends" 10-year run, Kudrow got married, had a son, and starred in such films as "Analyze This," and "Romy and Michelle's High School Reunion" among others.

Today, her improvisational acting chops are showcased on-line in the web series, "Web Therapy," which is now in its third season. Kudrow plays a not-very-professional therapist who conducts sessions via web cam.

"The web is really important to me as a performer," says Kudrow. "In television there's no time anymore for a show to find an audience. It's no one's fault, it's just the economics. But on the web, you don't have those financial pressures."

As a testament to her star power and lasting friendships, Kudrow has enlisted many high profile actors to play her patients. Jane Lynch, Molly Shannon, Bob Balaban and Cox have all made appearances.

Earlier this year, Kudrow reunited with "Friends" co-star Cox as a guest on Cox's ABC television comedy "Cougar Town."

"At first I wondered what that would be like because it wasn't Monica and Phoebe anymore," she says. "But we didn't miss a beat."