Courteney Cox on Nanci Ryder's Battle: "I'm Just Here — for Whatever She Wants"

Frazer Harrison/ Getty Images for Team Nanci at the Walk to Defeat ALS
From left: Courteney Cox, Reese Witherspoon, Nanci Ryder and Renee Zellweger

No longer a client but still a friend, the actress talks to THR about the time her former publicist refused to represent her, when the actress fired her and how the two spend time together now.

A version of this story first appeared in the Oct. 30 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

When did you first meet Nanci?

When I was on Family Ties. Nanci was Michael J. Fox's publicist and Justine Bateman's and basically everybody else's, too. She was just a powerhouse — a really strong woman — and I was desperate for her to represent me. I liked her right away. She said no because it was a conflict of interest to represent so many people on the show. Many years later when I was on Friends, we started working together. We worked together for many years, but always had been really close; we just had a very easy relationship. I love her honesty, her directness — and she makes me laugh.

What about her makes the friendship work so well?

What I like in a friendship and what I get from Nanci is that you always know where you stand. I used to think Nanci was a little bit of a — can I say this? — kind of flaky. But it’s never with any mal-intent. She’s honest; if she doesn’t want to do something, she doesn’t do it. You have to accept that part of her and she allows that same kind of grace. We’re accepting of each other. 

Nanci says you go to the lab with her, that you're very interested in the science of the disease. What's your perspective on it?

I love coming to the lab. The way they break it down is pretty simple. They've been doing so much research on the people who have ALS and how that's affecting their bodies. It's not necessarily something that will cure it, but they're working on something called "babysitters" to stop it from spreading.

What else are you doing with Nanci?

I'm the kind of person who doesn't give up on anything. So I have put her through a couple of crazy things that were probably annoying to her. We have done ozone treatments together. I just felt like there's got to be something out there. There just has to be. I know they're working really hard here at Cedars, and I'm sure something will happen really soon. But we also took a trip not that long ago to Napa, and we loved it.

You parted ways when you moved on to another publicist. It's not always common to remain friends after something like that.

When I did say, "This isn't working out," she was sad, but she knew we were going to be friends because we just have always have been from day one. Even when she wouldn't accept me at the beginning. I was rejected, and then later I had to fire her!

How do you handle the difficult moments? As a friend, how do you cope?

I love her. It's really hard and horrible what's happening, but she is lucky because she can walk and she can drive and she can go out. She just can't speak, and obviously she can't swallow — but she still shops. I mean, I'm just here — for whatever she wants. There's a lot of laughter after the tears.