Matthew Perry was one of the most recognisable faces in television history, launching to international stardom in his role as the charmingly sarcastic Chandler Bing on the landmark NBC sitcom Friends, which aired from 1994 to 2004.
Perry starred alongside the now-household names of Jennifer Aniston (Rachel Greene), Courtney Cox (Monica Geller), Lisa Kudrow (Phoebe Buffay), David Schwimmer (Ross Geller), and Matt LeBlanc (Joey Tribbiani), and was the last and youngest person to be casted out of the six. Speaking of his casting as Chandler Bing, Perry was instantly struck by how similar he was to the character. ‘It wasn’t that I thought I could play Chandler. I was Chandler.’ And of course, the rest is history.
His expertly crafted sarcasm, his occasional Freudian slips about his childhood trauma—all of this was displayed to me through the vessel of Matthew Perry
Nobody else could have portrayed Chandler Bing the way Matthew Perry did. He seemed to effortlessly slip into the role; every line delivery, every joke, every action, was expertly crafted. Perry and Chandler blurred the lines between comedy and drama, with the character having a multifaceted relationship with insecurity, sarcasm, commitment, and emotional intelligence. Perry claimed that his experiences dealing with abandonment following his parent’s divorce enabled him to play Chandler so well, allowing for a unique take on these very serious issues in an otherwise comedic programme.
The first time I watched Friends was during the Covid-19 pandemic, in the later stages of lockdown. All the characters, I thought, brought their own personalities to the table, but Chandler stood out to me as the most unique of the six. His expertly crafted sarcasm, his occasional Freudian slips about his childhood trauma—all of this was displayed to me through the vessel of Matthew Perry. I can only imagine the impact that he had when the show was still being released over twenty years ago.
At the show’s peak, Perry and his co-stars were earning over $1 million an episode, and over 52 million people tuned in to watch the series finale, but this fame and fortune brought with it a host of problems. Perry talked at length about his addiction issues with alcohol, Vicodin, methadone, and amphetamines, dominating much of his time on the show. So much so, in fact, that he once told the BBC that he couldn’t remember any details about filming from seasons 3-6. His co-stars, led by Aniston, supported him through these troubling years, and as a result, Perry was largely sober from 2001 onwards.
When I die, I don’t want Friends to be the first thing that’s mentioned. I want [helping people] to be the first thing that’s mentioned, and I’m gonna live the rest of my life proving that
His years of rehabilitation allowed him to lead an extraordinary life of raising awareness and supporting those who were affected by addiction; from lobbying to Congress for drug reform as a spokesperson for the National Association of Drug Court Professionals to opening up his own rehab centre, ‘Perry House’ in 2013. Perry often spoke candidly about his struggles with addiction and recovery, particularly in his recently released and highly successful autobiography titled Friends, Lovers, and The Big Terrible Thing.
Matthew Perry did not want his legacy to be Chandler Bing. Speaking to podcaster Tom Power in 2022, he claimed that the best thing about his life was his ability to help people recover from addiction, saying that it gave him a sense of spiritual purpose. He went on to say, ‘When I die, I don’t want Friends to be the first thing that’s mentioned. I want [helping people] to be the first thing that’s mentioned, and I’m gonna live the rest of my life proving that.’
The show that brought and continues to bring joy to millions of people across the world has lost one of its best stars. The world has lost a great advocate for drug awareness. And all of us, I think we can say, have lost a true Friend.
Thank you Matthew, for everything.