Even for Courteney Cox, it’s a chicken-or-egg question. “Everything about Monica was extreme—she was so competitive. But I couldn’t remember: Did the cleanliness come from me, or was that Monica?” the actor says over Zoom from her home in Malibu, looking back on the defining trait of her character on Friends. Monica Geller is, of course, TV’s neatnik par excellence. She cleans her vacuum with an even smaller vacuum, organizes her towels into 11 categories, and surreptitiously washes the dirty cars on her street. For her, maintaining order is as much a non-negotiable as it is an escapist release. “Should I help you clean up?” Rachel (Jennifer Aniston) asks in one episode, after a get-together at Monica’s. “No way!” she replies, eyes lighting up. “You had your party; now I have mine.”
So blurred is the line between art and life that Cox—in the lead-up to this week’s launch of her home-care brand, Homecourt—even texted her castmate Lisa Kudrow about those original 1994 scripts. “She said, ‘You definitely were organizing and cleaning during run-throughs or when we would be sitting around getting notes.’ So [maybe] they took a lot of that part of my personality and added it in,” says Cox, speaking with a loose freneticism familiar to Friends and to this long-running reality show we call the pandemic. After all, the actor explains, “I do spend a lot of time cleaning, and I want the fingerprints off the counter when everyone leaves—not that I’m going to be annoying you while you’re here! People are always going, ‘Is it okay if I, like, sit on this pillow?’ And I go, ‘I promise you, I’m not like that.” Cox’s cheerful insistence is part of the charm. “I’m not like that!”
Homecourt, arriving after the far side of a housebound stretch that saw a renewed interest in surface cleaners and self-care, positions itself as a new hybrid in the market. The initial trio—counter spray, hand wash, and dish soap, all of which sold out in a brisk eight hours, with a waitlist already forming—feature skin-safe ingredients unlikely to be found at the kitchen sink. (That means moisturizing glycerin to stave off cracked dish hands; the surface cleaner uses a gentler coconut-derived degreaser, for those who forget to don Monica’s rubber gloves.) “Because I love the way things look, we thought, why not come up with a beauty product for the home, something that you’d be proud to leave on your counter, something that smelled not like lemon or fig or just the usual scents?” says Cox, sharing a sofa with her in-the-know collaborators: Nécessaire cofounder Nick Axelrod-Welk, who oversees Homecourt’s creative and product development, and chief executive officer Sarah Jahnke, formerly head of marketing for Viktor & Rolf.
The resulting four scents—the vetiver-infused CeCe, which nods to Cox’s childhood nickname, along with takes on rose, neroli, and mint—were created with Givaudan and Robertet, by the same top-tier perfumers who have their noses in Byredo and Tom Ford. Hand lotion is due next month, followed by a room mist and candle. Even amid the proliferation of celebrity brands, this one feels preordained, much like Aniston’s hair-care line, LolaVie. Plus, given Cox’s reprised role in the latest Scream slasher and a new haunted-house Starz series, Shining Vale, premiering in March, it’s a good time to give the home a spiritual makeover. In the conversation below, the actor recalls an oddly satisfying cleaning trick, her own brush with spooky real estate, and the best of bad hair.
Vanity Fair: I want to start with a rewind. In 1984 you had a cameo in the video for “Dancing in the Dark.” What is the story behind that short haircut you had then?
Courteney Cox: It was just a bad choice. I had done a magazine cover—what was it called? I definitely did Tiger Beat, and this one may have been Young Miss. I’m not sure. I’m from Alabama, although they said I was from Kentucky. They changed my last name. And they gave me a haircut. It was a makeover. During the Bruce Springsteen video, that was a really boyish cut, but it just didn’t look right on me. I don’t want to go there again, I’ll tell you that!