“If somebody says, ‘Hi Matthew, I love your work,’ that’s one thing. But if somebody goes ‘Yo, Chandler,’ I don’t like that. I’m tired of it,” said actor Matthew Perry in 2014. However, it’s not just typecasting that has hurt Perry during his career, but other things that go much deeper than that. His portrayal of Chandler Bing in Friends made him one of the most recognizable faces on our television screens during the ’90s and early ’00s. But behind the scenes his popularity with audiences did nothing to quell the pain that he was feeling inside. And that pain was brought on by a number of serious personal issues…
He may be best known today for his portrayal of Chandler Bing in Friends, but 48-year-old actor Matthew Perry was performing long before that iconic show started. Born in 1969 in Williamstown, Massachusetts, Perry gravitated towards two things early on in his life: tennis and acting.
But it was after his move to Los Angeles at age 15 that the ball really started rolling for the young Perry. As a student at high school he landed his first movie role in the 1988 coming-of-age flick A Night in the Life of Jimmy Reardon.
During the same period, Perry appeared in the short-lived sitcom Second Chance, scoring a part as the younger version of main character Charles Russell, played by Kiel Martin. Unfortunately, declining ratings and a dwindling fan base prompted the show’s cancellation in 1988.
Undeterred, Perry persevered and followed it up with other projects including Sydney and Home Free. Moreover, even though he was a high-ranking junior tennis player in his youth, it was becoming more and more apparent that his biggest successes were going to be in the world of acting. And in 1994 he finally made good on that potential.
Yes, Perry became an overnight sensation when he was cast in the hugely popular American sitcom Friends. First aired in 1994, the show captured the zeitgeist and went on to become one of the most successful programs ever made. Indeed, where Second Chance had been a very hit-and-miss affair, Friends was a hit with a capital H.
The sitcom focused on the lives of six tight-knit buddies living in Manhattan as they experienced relationship issues, work quandaries, and life’s ups and downs. Perry played the witty Chandler Bing, and he struck gold as audiences lapped up every minute of it.
During the show’s run, Perry also appeared in various other projects including Three to Tango and Serving Sara. All good things must come to an end, though, and Friends was no different. In 2004, after ten rollercoaster-ride seasons, the series finally reached its poignant conclusion.
Following the end of Friends, Perry branched out and appeared in the TV series Studio 60 on Sunset Strip and the films Birds of America and 17 Again. Sadly, though, he never quite reached the same level of popularity as he did during his stint on Friends. And while his stature in Hollywood inevitably waned as a consequence, life away from the screen had sometimes been tough for the star, too.
Because while everything looked rosy in front of the camera during his Friends years, matters were a whole lot greyer away from the film set. It all began in 1997 when Perry had a nasty jet-ski accident – an incident that to him taking painkillers to ease his discomfort.
Moreover, possessing something of an addictive personality, Perry’s reliance on painkillers then bled over into other forms of self-medication, including alcohol. Ultimately, this led to Perry checking himself into rehab and the first stab at getting himself clean. But it wasn’t entirely successful.
Indeed, in 2001, he found himself back in rehab to undergo treatment for his ever-expanding addictions. In addition to the painkiller Vicodin, Perry had become hooked on amphetamines, methadone and alcohol. And unsurprisingly, this started to affect his health. Perry’s weight yo-yoed and he was admitted to hospital suffering from pancreatitis.
In 2015 Perry spoke to The Hollywood Reporter about the pressure he felt appearing on Friends while simultaneously trying to cope with his addictions. “I’m a pretty private person but I was on a TV show that 30 million people were watching,” he said. “It was so public what was happening to me.”
Moreover, his dalliance with alcohol appears to have affected his memory. In a 2016 interview with the BBC, Perry was asked what his least favorite episode of Friends was. “I think the answer is, I don’t remember three years of it, so none of those,” he replied. “I was a little out of it at the time. Somewhere between seasons three and six.”
It’s possible that Perry never handled fame the way he thought he would, and this too may have contributed to his addictive personality. The limelight was something he actively chased, as he told The New York Times in 2002. “There was steam coming out of my ears,” he said. “I wanted to be famous so badly.”
That said, when Perry broke into show business, he quickly realized it wasn’t all that it was cracked up to be. “You want the attention, you want the bucks, and you want the best seat in the restaurant,” he went on. “I didn’t think what the repercussions would be.”
Thankfully, Perry managed to knock his substance abuse problems on the head and claims to have been sober since 2001. Knowing all too well what it feels like to be in the throes of addiction, the actor even set up his own home in Malibu to help those struggling with the same issues that had plagued him for so long.
Nowadays, Perry campaigns for drug users to be rehabilitated rather than prosecuted – something that he fiercely argued for during a 2013 BBC Newsnight debate with The Mail on Sunday columnist Peter Hitchens. However, Perry openly admits that addiction is a still an ongoing battle for him.
Indeed, in 2011 Perry raised a few eyebrows when he once again entered rehab, despite having been clean for a decade at that point. However, he claimed that it was simply a preventive measure rather than an indication that he was using again.
Meanwhile, in 2017 an adult film actress alleged that Perry had asked her to get hold of some painkillers. Maddy O’Reilly told the Daily Mail in November of that year, “I was really looking disappointed, it went from us making dinner plans to Matthew asking me for 40 to 50 pills.”
While his professional and personal life have been somewhat rocky, then, Perry still continues to act. From 2015 to 2017, he starred in a reboot of The Odd Couple, before going on to reprise his role as The Good Wife’s Mike Kresteva in The Good Fight. And although he hasn’t starred in a motion picture since 2009, don’t count him out just yet. As we’ve seen, Perry’s been knocked down on numerous occasions only to bounce straight back up again…