Fifteen years ago, Matthew Perry’s face was still splashed across TV screens and newspapers almost every week. At that time, in 2004, he starred as one of the six lead characters on the hit series, Friends. Now, though, he’s hardly ever seen in public at all, and the reasons why are heartbreaking.
It may be hard to believe that a star from Friends would disappear from the public eye so easily. For the show remains one of the most popular in television history and racked up 62 Emmy nominations during its decade-long run. On top of that, Perry’s co-stars – Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc and David Schwimmer – continue to lead public-facing lives, at least in comparison to his.
As it turns out, that’s because Perry’s life has diverged from his former Friends’ castmates in a number of ways. The actor has continued to work since the show ended – but perhaps in more sparse, niche productions with a smaller reach. And that hasn’t exactly kept the paparazzi shooting him or the tabloids covering him. But there are other reasons, too.
As a kid, Matthew Perry’s interests fell far from the Hollywood career of his future. The Williamstown, Massachusetts, native had a journalist for a mother and an actor for a father. But Perry didn’t initially dream of following in his dad’s footsteps. Instead, he took an interest in lawn tennis and became a highly ranked junior player.
By the time Perry reached his teenage years, though, his focus turned to a career in acting. Yes, he left Ottawa, Ontario – where he lived with his mother – for Los Angeles. And, before he even graduated from the Buckley School in Sherman Oaks, he had started taking improv comedy classes.
Now, Perry’s first big role came on the TV sitcom called Second Chance, in which he played Chazz Russell. Thirteen episodes later, in 1987, the show’s name changed to Boys Will Be Boys, with Perry’s character becoming the lead. And it was perhaps a sign of things to come in the comedy sphere for the actor.
Mind you, Boys Will Be Boys ended shortly thereafter, but Perry’s time in Hollywood had just begun. One year after graduating from high school,he made his film debut in 1988’s A Night in the Life of Jimmy Reardon. Next came a guest-starring role on the then-hit series Growing Pains. And this marked the start of a stretch of similar castings for the young actor.
For instance, Perry landed a few parts on sitcoms that didn’t quite take off. In 1990 he played Valerie Bertinelli’s younger brother on Sydney. And in 1993 he starred in the series Home Free, as well as the pilot for LAX 2194 come 1994. But there was something fresh around the corner.
Indeed, a twist of fate allowed Perry to audition for yet another pilot, this time for a show called Six to One. At first, he couldn’t get in because of his commitment to shoot the pilot for LAX 2194. Somehow, though, he got in front of Six to One’s casting directors and got the part. Later, they’d rename the series – they’d call it Friends.
On Friends, Perry starred as Chandler Bing, who became iconic for his dry, sarcastic delivery and self-deprecating sense of humor. Later on, he revealed that his own personality helped series creators David Crane and Marta Kauffman to crystallize the character.
As Perry explained to Dateline in 2004, “[The Friends creators] took all of us out to lunch separately and said, ‘Tell us about yourself’.” Subsequently, the actor gave Crane and Kauffman two very distinct insights into who he was. And furthermore, Friends fans will recognize them as the foundations of Chandler Bing’s personality.
Perry went on, “I remember saying, […] ‘I’m not an unattractive man, but I’m just awful with women… that’s a character you haven’t seen before. And I also am not comfortable with any silence at all. I have to break any awkward moment or silence with a joke.’ And what better character for a sitcom is that? It’s a built-in excuse for him to be funny.”
Indeed, Perry’s portrayal of Chandler Bing helped Friends become the hit series – and cultural phenomenon – that it was. In fact, psychologists have investigated the impact of the sitcom. In Perry’s case, the way he delivered his lines – particularly Chandler’s sarcastic sentences – influenced audiences to do the same.
In its ten seasons, Friends racked up 62 Primetime Emmy Award nominations. Also, it won the trophy for Outstanding Comedy Series in 2002. Today, it stands as one of TV’s most popular shows ever, and many lists of the “best series of all time” have Friends high up in the order.
And sometimes, the thought of Friends’ success left Perry feeling nostalgic. In 2013, he told CNN, “I found myself reminiscing [about] how much fun the show was, the hours that we worked, how much we laughed and everything. I found myself saying if we had a time machine, I would like to go back to 2004 and not have stopped.”
But Friends gave Perry a great starting point for moves into more notable TV work, as well as movies and directorial opportunities. For instance, during the run of Friends he also starred in films including Fools Rush In, which co-starred Salma Hayek. And then there was The Whole Nine Yards, alongside Bruce Willis.
What’s more, Perry also hopped into a dramatic guest-starring role on the popular Aaron Sorkin-helmed drama, The West Wing. Now, he’d only appeared in three episodes over two seasons, but Perry’s work earned him a pair of Emmy nominations for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series, both in 2003 and 2004.
Next up, Perry marked his directorial debut on an episode of the comedy series Scrubs. Then came a string of castings in ill-fated sitcoms. For example, he worked with Sorkin once again on Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. Sadly, that show got cancelled after a single season – the first time a Sorkin series had ended so abruptly.
After that, Perry’s idea for a sitcom came to fruition in Mr. Sunshine. Now, this had him starring as a middle-aged man going through an identity crisis. But that series ended after nine episodes. His next show, Go On, would have better luck after its premiere in the summer of 2012.
Yes, in Go On, Perry played a man forced into mandatory therapy sessions after the death of his wife. This show had better luck than others – it got a full 22-episode season, but it didn’t last past its first run. However, Perry’s most recent series, The Odd Couple, fared best of all, lasting for three seasons on CBS.
Eventually, The Odd Couple ended in early 2017, as did a play Perry wrote and starred in The End of Longing in summer 2017. He had one final role that year, playing politician Ted Kennedy in a mini-series about the famous American family. But, since then, he’s spent roughly two years out of the public eye, with no sighting of him under a paparazzi’s lense until 2019.
Perhaps fans of Perry’s have an inkling as to one of the reasons why he fell out of the limelight. For one thing, the actor has had a noted struggle with addiction. For instance, in 1997 he entered rehab for the first time, trying to control his use of the painkiller Vicodin.
And Perry’s time in rehab didn’t end his battle against addiction. For four years later he entered treatment once again for Vicodin, as well as for methadone, amphetamines and alcohol. What’s more, his appearance hinted that he was in trouble – his weight had fluctuated wildly between his two rehab stays. But the second go-round seemed to stick for Perry.
Yes, because in 2003, he appeared on an episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show and explained why. He said, “What saved me was finally getting a little bit of clarity in my life and realizing that this was it. If I keep living my life this way, there isn’t going to be any life. So you ultimately, I think the key word is ‘surrender’.”
You see, Perry’s tendency to fall into addiction had a lot to do with the spotlight, he told People in 2013. He explained, “I was on Friends from age 24 to 34. I was in the white-hot flame of fame. The six of us were just everywhere all the time. From an outsider’s perspective, it would seem like I had it all. It was actually a very lonely time for me.”
Luckily, though, Perry did succeed in his second round of rehab, and reportedly he’s been sober since 2001. Still, the actor has faced further hardships that have pushed him further from the spotlight. On top of his history with addiction, Perry has also struggled with his personal health. And it was something that unintentionally put him back into the public eye in 2018, at least in words.
That’s correct, in June of that year Perry checked in for a three-month hospital stay after suffering a ruptured bowel. In his classic, comedic way, Perry shared the news to his Twitter followers in September by writing, “Three months in a hospital bed. Check.”
Of course, when Perry tweeted that, his fans previously had had no idea he had been having such prolonged medical care. This forced one of the star’s representatives to issue a statement, which confirmed he had undergone surgery. The spokesman said, “He is grateful for the concern and asks for continued privacy as he heals.” But there was more to come.
Indeed, Perry’s tweets got his fans into a tizzy once again in February 2019, when he fired off a shorter message. He wrote, “I got kicked out of therapy today.” And without any further explanation from the Friends star, his followers began to worry about his mental and physical health.
As such, many reached out to give Perry words of encouragement, thinking he might be going through a tough time. One replied to his tweet, saying, “I don’t know what is going on, but I hope you are alright and have people to support you.” And many more got involved too after the ambiguous post.
Yes, one fan tweeted to Perry, “I hope you’re okay. You deserve love and happiness. You made me laugh when I was having rough times and always got me through it. You’re a brilliant, talented man and some day I believe you’ll see light in life. Addiction and depression will not rule you.”
On that note, Perry has also struggled with depression alongside his addiction issues. Once he saw his fans’ response to his ominous tweet about therapy, though, he reassured them that he hadn’t relapsed. Instead, the actor replied, “Easy guys, it was just one session. I’m back in therapy where I belong.”
Although Perry claimed then that he was fine, rumors have swirled that he might not be in the best place. For example, RadarOnline claimed that the Emmy nominee had stationed himself in a New York hotel since his 2018 surgery. And it quoted a source who mentioned that Perry had started to drink again.
The source claimed, “[Perry] doesn’t like to be disturbed and would go into private areas of the hotel where only VIPs are allowed. […] Hardly anybody recognizes him because he’s such a mess compared to what people remember. He kept to himself and would hardly leave his room until after dark except for a cigarette or a hospital appointment.”
These rumors about Perry came from an undisclosed source, though, so it would be difficult to confirm them. Nevertheless, some new evidence has emerged that he might not be in the best state. In June 2019, photographers snapped Perry for the first time in nearly two years, and he didn’t look his best.
According to the DailyMail.com, Perry’s appearance seemed “disheveled,” and his body looked “bloated.” On top of that, the website noted that the actor’s fingernails were long and unsightly. This could be a sign that he had let his health fall by the wayside once more, it claimed. “Also cause for alarm were Perry’s swollen hands,” the website added as he was spotted in Manhattan.
However, newer photos seem to confirm that Perry’s doing better. For one thing, his Friends co-star Jennifer Aniston joined Instagram, and her debut post roused the show’s fans. Indeed, she posted a photo of all six of the show’s main cast members together, Perry grinning in the blurry shot. Then, almost a month later, another Friends star shared a Perry-related update.
That’s right, this time, it was Courteney Cox, and she posted a sweet photo of her and her on-screen husband. Furthermore, fans of the show will know that she laced the picture’s caption with an iconic line. Cox wrote in the November 2019 post, “Guess who I had lunch with today… I KNOW!! Could I BE any happier?”
And with so much time spent together, the Friends cast have sparked rumors of a reboot of the beloved series. For her part, Aniston has had a change of heart. Although she once rejected the idea, she said on The Ellen DeGeneres Show in June 2019 that she’d be open to it. At that time, however, she claimed no plan was actually in the pipeline.
Since then, though, Friends fans been given a glimmer of hope. In November 2019, The Hollywood Reporter revealed that the show’s cast, including Perry, would reunite with Friends creators for a televised chat on HBO Max, set for 2020. And a one-off would certainly be more to Perry’s taste following his 2017 comments to Vanity Fair. Back then he said, “I have this nightmare that we do Friends again and nobody cares… we ended on such a high. We can’t beat it. Why would we go and do it again?” Well, why wouldn’t you if you wanted to get back in the limelight?